Harry Gregg was the manager for the first Shrewsbury Town games I saw. I remember the shock that he resigned over the sales of Alf Wood to Millwall and then Alan Groves to Bournemouth.
Remembered of course for his big achievements with Northern Ireland and Manchester United. On tragedy, worth reflecting upon how he lost his first wife very early, and a daughter. And on his role in the aftermath (saving 2 players, and expectant mother and her 1 year old baby of the aeroplane coach at Munich Airport) George Best remarked that not only was it the act of bravery, but also an act of goodness.
Liverpool’s Under-23s beat Salop and it emphasises again how clubs like Liverpool have 70 time Salop’s turnover. So Klopp could comfortably decide not to use the first team, or even there reserves. Salop’s manager didn’t defend the players after the game, so why should I? But there was a period after Udoh coming on when we finally looked like we could be a threat. And the build-up to the disallowed goal was pacy, skilful, imaginative and high-impact – Udoh making the telling penetration. And now having seen VAR in action, it is the shock when you realise the goal is even being checked when none of the Liverpool’s players had appealed. But the video frame shows a full-back, running back to knock the ball back before the lob to Udoh, had his right foot in offside position. Yep, unlucky. Unfortunate too, that Salop’s keeper, who’d been excellent came for a cross way out when the centre-half (being shadowed by a forward) just had to deal with it. The resultant own goal was embarrassing.
I predicted a dismal occasion expecting even a Liverpool Reserves side to outmatch us. And was correct for 46 minutes. So what did we learn? 01. Bill Shankley said, all those years ago, that there were only 2 teams in Liverpool – Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves; 02. the Liverpool Reserves did contain a number of first team players, either out of favour or recovering from injury; 03. (Post-match, we now know) Wolves shared the tactics they’d tried to use against Liverpool the previous Thursday, based on taking advantage of Liverpool’s use of a “high line”; but Salop missed a number of the resulting first-half chances; 04. when Salop conceded a second goal in the first minute of the second half, the expected soulless thrashing seemed on the cards; 05. Liverpool’s defence started playing around with the ball along their back line; 06. Lang had made some great runs, and the decision to replace him with Jason Cummings was booed; 07. Laurent’s runs were getting stronger and one of them led to him being chopped own in the box; Jason Cummings scored the penalty; 08. Salop’s on-loan keeper made an extraordinary save to both stop, and then pick-up, an on target long range shot, before booting a long ball down the field when … 09. Liverpool’s tall and experienced no. 32, Joel Matip, was outjumped by our much shorter winger, Whalley, and The Joker latched onto the flicked on header to beat 2 defenders and score the second; 10. the excitement saw Salop players run to the BBC studio, where Joe Hart was a guest and was picked out by Dave Edwards, acting team captain; 11. Liverpool brought on 3 first team players from the subs bench; 12. both sides had chances to win, and after the match the Salop manager chastised the players cos he sensed they’d wanted the reply rather than the win; 13. the on the pitch invasion was regretted by Joe Hart, but it was seen as harmless and highlight was an 8-year-old in bright Salop goalkeeper kit skipping off the field, head lolling from side to side, in exhausted exhilaration.
It was so much more of an occasion that I could have ever imagined, cos even though it was their reserves, their wage bill would still have been. much higher than for our players and we had gone 2-0 down. Like last season, the FA Cup ties are likely to have been our highlights of the season. We know one of only 6 clubs will win the FA Cup, but knock-out football can bring something extra out from teams. Watching the unedited football on TV afterwards, you can relate to the players so much more, and the character of Jason Cummings shone. Good humoured – and calming explaining that the Old Firm Derby had been a bigger experience for him. Happy too to explain calmly that he was a sub cos he’s coming back from injury. And he has this thing about The Joker – the Heath Ledger version is tattooed on his thigh, and a smile on the V of the back of his hand which he put across his mouth when he scored. Fans had a banner proclaiming The Joker at the match, and he featured in 2 Guardian cartoons in the following days.
My sister met the President of Grenada FA just before his half-time interview with BBCtv. My nephew saw the special relationship developing before many and bought the Grenada flag to show at Shrewsbury matches some time ago. I made a point of displaying it during Salop’s attacks towards our end in the second half.
Here are the results from the forthcoming 4th round – Shrewsbury Town £6.5m, Liverpool £455m. Our respective turnovers. (A factor of 70.) Ah yes, but it’s 11 v 11 on the pitch and anything can happen. Hmmm.
Liverpool came weeks late to the Gay Meadows in the nineties – our pitch had been waterlogged. Bob Paisley had just died and the ceremony on the pitch in a cold wind was poor. We were thrashed 4-0, which our manager described as a bit naughty.
Against these monsters of modern football, there is more a sense of dread than anticipation. And to win the Cup, we were kinda hoping that someone else would knock Liverpool out before us.
I have previously tried to explain how Salop have ended up with 4 Grenadan internationals (‘tho note, Wiki cite only 3 – Omar Beckles, Ollie Norburn and Aaron Pierre; others include Ro-Shawn Williams)). And that some time ago, my nephew, Thomas Miles Corbett, had bought their flag, which I was displaying at the Peterborough game. It now turns out that the President of the Grenadan FA is coming to the Liverpool match (FA Cup 4th round) and we’re meeting him before the match. Joy indeed. He calls Grenadan players the SpiceBoyz. The game is on the BBC on Sunday at teatime and we’ll be in the safe standing section (to the top left of the right hand goal as the TV cameras show it).
Friends keep suggesting a possible giant-killing. We have caused genuine shocks. Vs Everton, when we were fourth tier – the Gay Meadows was cold and muddy. Vs Manchester City, (“and what a revelation Shrewsbury have been”), when we were third tier but doing very well – the Gay Meadow was cold and hard underfoot. Vs Ipswich Town, in ’82 and ’84, when we had developed Fortress Meadows and they were regular top half of the top tier. More recently, knocking out second tier – notably Cardiff City (away), Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke City (away) and Bristol City, but not “giant-killing”. Clashes with Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool have been less pretty. So don’t bet on Salop winning – a scoreless draw is the best you might get.
Jimmy Sirrel, upon Notts County winning 1-0 at Aston Villa on the opening day of 1981-82, said to start the season, you want your first goal, your first point and your first win. He perhaps should have added your first clean sheet. Whatever, I’ve repeated the homily many times, and always think of him on the opening day. – which is too early (which I also always repeat). Salop’s 1-0 win against promotion-fancied Portsmouth – who’d bought 2 of our players – is a great result. But welcome to the word “streaky” a la football. Our on-loan-for-a-season full-back had never hit one like that before; all the match stats were against Salop (except the red card; and a last kick of the game that seemed a certain equaliser hit a crouching Portsmouth player and ballooned away. The full-back actually said how their determination had been to defend. My hunch – another season of struggle and of 54 points is the target – but hey, nice kit.