D3D4 Shrewsbury Town Correspondent Ian Evans looks ahead to what he hopes will be a less stressful season….
A WORK IN PROGRESS
Shrewsbury Town have had a transformation over the summer. Manager Paul Hurst has overhauled the squad after a nail biting campaign in 2016/17.
I don’t think any Shrewsbury supporter would disagree with the gaffer stamping his seal on the squad. Last season was nearly a disaster. Mickey Mellon started the season in the hot seat, but his promise of having signed “League One ready players” failed to materialise on the pitch and he was sacked on 6th October after winning only two of the opening eleven games. Paul Hurst arrived after eighteen long days of searching and slowly turned the club’s form around. A run of six games without defeat in January and February saw the club pull clear of the relegation places, but they were slowly sucked back into the dog fight with four straight defeats at the end of March and early April. Survival was all but confirmed in the penultimate game of the season when Junior Brown’s header against Southend condemned rivals Port Vale to an almost certain relegation. Hurst I think was disappointed not to get the job done sooner than the penultimate game having transformed the squad in January shipping out three players and bringing in three on permanent deals and five on loan until the end of the season. All arrivals added a youthful, energetic and talented flavour to the squad that eventually saw us to safety.
Outgoings from the squad Hurst inherited during the close season have been numerous. Young Strikers Kaiman Anderson & Ethan Jones have joined Southport along with Goalkeeper Mark Halstead. Centre Midfielders Gary Deegan and Jim O’Brien moved to Cambridge and Ross County respectively. Centre Back Adam El-Abd moved to League Two Wycombe and defensive partner Olly Lancashire left for Swindon. Young Goalkeeping prospect Callum Burton made the move to Championship Hull City for an undisclosed fee and youngster Callum Grogan was released. Most recently Jayson Leutwiler was signed by League One heavy weights Blackburn for an undisclosed fee.
Hurst has generally stuck with the philosophy of bringing in younger players hungry to prove themselves in league football, some have even arrived for a fee which as a change in direction from the clubs recruitment policy of the past. Centre Back Zak Jules arrived from Reading U23s, Arthur Gnahoua a Striker joined from Kidderminster, Right Back James Bolton arrived from Gateshead and Jon Nolan a Centre Midfielder from Chesterfield all came in for undisclosed fees. Targetman Striker Lenell John-Lewis moved on a free from Newport County. Goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray arrived from Walsall after having his contract mutually terminated and on the loan front, Goalkeeper Dean Henderson arrived from Manchester United, Midfielder Ebou Adams and Striker Carlton Morris joined from Norwich, Left Winger Daniel James arrived from Swansea & Striker Niall Ennis joined from local rivals Wolves.
Pre season saw the squad head to Portugal for “warm weather training” where they played and beat Ebbsfleet 2-0 on the final day of the trip. The players then gave Hurst a bit of a jolt losing 2-1 to Brackley on their return to the cooler shores of the UK with the manager saying “for me it comes down to a little bit of desire and it was lacking in my opinion”. Town turned the corner though with impressive victories over full strength Championship sides Aston Villa, Wolves, Cardiff and Burton. The only blip was a second string side losing to AFC Telford the night after the Cardiff victory.
I think most supporters are happy with the direction Paul Hurst has moved the club over the summer and are hoping for a mid table finish this time around. Unsurprisingly the bookies have us down as one of the favourites for relegation on the back of last seasons showing. Jon Nolan, Zak Jules and Dean Henderson have all impressed from the batch of new arrivals and all that is left to see now is how the younger players adapt to League One football.
words Ian Evans