LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Shrewsbury Town

Stability, academy and New Meadow keep Shrews afloat

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

In 2018, Shrewsbury Town came closest to accession to the second tier for the first time since the 1980s. Although the Shrews lost the play-off final after extra-time to Rotherham, they hit the headlines again two years later with a dramatic comeback to hold Liverpool to a 2-2 draw in a cup tie at New Meadow.

This new-build stadium, opened in 2007, signifies the progress the club has made since regaining League status in 2004. Long-term chairman Roland Wycherley, now an MBE, has also overseen the building of an academy complex as Shrewsbury look to the future. 

Shrewsbury Town have spent only half of their history in the Football League, admission granted with the expansion to 92 clubs in 1950. Before then, the Shrews were a top club in the Midland League, and before then, the Birmingham & District League.

Prince of Wales/Andrew Jowett

Founded shortly after the dissolution of formerly dominant local club Shropshire Wanderers, the Shrews quickly made most impression in the Welsh Cup, famously becoming the English club with the most wins, six, from 1891 right up to 1985.

The last, one of two in a row, coincided with the club’s decade-long stint in the old Second Division, the Shrews’ most successful run.

League life had started in the former Third Division North, then South, the Shrews initially struggling with the step up from lower ranks. The Shrews already had a loyal fan base and a unique ground in Gay Meadow, a bucolic spot set by the Severn.

What they needed was a top goalscorer and a manager with long-term league experience. In Arthur Rowley, they got both – in fact, the highest goalscorer in Football League history and hired as player-manager.

In his first season, 1958-59, Rowley bagged 38 goals in 43 games, gaining the Shrews promotion from the former Fourth Division. Another 32 from Rowley then pushed Shrewsbury within one place of immediate promotion to the Second.

Prince of Wales/Andrew Jowett

Even after Rowley’s last game in 1965, close to his 40th birthday, his managerial savvy brought the Shrews within one point of promotion out of the Third in 1968.

Harry Gregg and Alan Durban both put in creditable stints as manager but it was the club’s long-term midfielder-cum-centre-back Graham Turner who at last brought Second Division football to Gay Meadow in the tumultuous campaign of 1978-79. As Turner took over from Richie Barker, Shrewsbury caught up with a backlog of league fixtures, a dashing run in the FA Cup taking the Shrews to the quarter-finals. More than 16,000 packed Gay Meadow for the replayed tie against local rivals Wolves in mid-March, a 3-1 defeat.

Two months later, another bumper crowd witnessed Shrewsbury’s 4-1 win over Exeter to seal promotion. While Turner kept the Shrews afloat in the second flight, he led them to another rollercoaster cup run in 1982, beating Ipswich in the fifth round then falling to Leicester in a 5-2 thriller in the quarters.

Turner’s departure for Aston Villa in 1984 signalled a slow return back to the Third, in 1989, then the Fourth in 1992.

Despite the emergence of prolific, popular young striker Luke Rodgers, tenacious midfield play of Peter (‘Pete the Feet’) Wilding and that season’s memorable cup win over Everton, Shrewsbury dropped out of the League in 2003.

Shrewsbury Town club shop/Andrew Jowett

Amid fan anger, manager Kevin Ratcliffe gave way to 44-year-old Jimmy Quinn, a former Northern Ireland international who belied his age as player-manager, leading the Shrews out of the Conference in one season. In the play-off shoot-out with Aldershot, Shrewsbury were carried back to the League by Scott Howie’s three penalty saves – Rodgers, of all players, missed his.

Another keeper, Shrewsbury-born Joe Hart, a squad member that season at 15, superseded Howie as the Shrews stayed in League Two under Gary Peters. In May 2007, despite an early goal from Stewart Drummond, Shrewsbury succumbed to a 3-1 play-off defeat to Bristol Rovers in front of 61,500 at Wembley.

Six weeks later, Gianfranco Zola led an all-star XI in a curtain-raising friendly with Shrewsbury to open the New Meadow, the club’s out-of-town stadium that replaced the much-loved but flood-prone Gay Meadow.

Shrewsbury sparked to life again with the return, after 26 years, of Graham Turner in 2010. First leading the Shrews to a promotion play-off then achieving long-awaited accession to the third flight a year later, a single Jim Collins’ goal against Dagenham & Redbridge sealing the deal.

Shrewsbury Town tickets/Andrew Jowett

After one season up, the legendary boss failed to sustain form and Shrewsbury sank back to the fourth flight in 2014. Retaining his replacement, former Shrews defender Michael Jackson, the club took on Micky Mellon for the 2014-15 campaign. 

Bringing in players from his former clubs, Mellon gained results quickly, Collins and ex-Fleetwood’s Andrew Mangan banging in the goals to take Shrewsbury back to League One. Chelsea and Manchester United also paid visits to Shrewsbury in each domestic cup. Honoured with an ale brewed in his name at a pre-match pub, Mellon stayed until a poor run in 2016.

His eventual replacement, Paul Hurst, proved a wise choice, saving Shrewsbury’s third-tier status in 2016-17 then nearly taking them up to the Championship a season later. Unbeaten until the end of October, the Shrews led the division for several weeks before having to settle for a play-off place. Overcoming Charlton in the semi-final, Town took Rotherham to extra-time at Wembley but then wilted in the heat. Hurst’s achievements over his two-season tenure granted him a move to Ipswich.

Though league form has since been patchy, Shrewsbury continued to pull out plum ties in the cup. The visit of Liverpool in 2020 proved a memorable occasion at New Meadow, the Shrews clawing back a 2-0 deficit thanks to a quick brace from Scots substitute Jason Cummings. With Jürgen Klopp fielding a side of teenagers, Shrewsbury nearly upset the Reds at the Anfield replay when boyhood Liverpool fan Shaun Whalley put the visitors ahead only for the goal to be cancelled out by a controversial VAR ruling. A late own goal then settled the tie.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Opened in 2007, New Meadow has proved a happy new hunting ground for Shrewsbury Town, with long unbeaten league runs and the visits of Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United in the cups.

Many still mourn the loss of Gay Meadow, the Shrews’ home from 1910 onwards, set so close to the Severn overhit balls had to be fished out of the water by coracle on match days.

But access and expansion possibilities were limited and flooding far too regular.

Located on Shrewsbury’s southern outskirts, the new 10,000-all seater stadium was long in the planning stage, given protests from fans and, down in Meole Brace, residents – but on July 14, 2007, Gianfranco Zola and an all-star team opened proceedings at New Meadow.

Gaining the sponsored name of Greenhous, a local car dealer, in 2010, the club-owned ground saw a record 10,200 crowd for the visit of Chelsea in 2014, temporary seating raising capacity. Permanent expansion could be raised to nearly 12,000 – with the right success and demand. The sponsor’s name later changed to give the ground the official title of Montgomery Waters Meadow.

Home fans gather in the Salop Leisure Stand, behind the south goal, and towards the north side of the sideline West Stand. Away fans are allocated the north goal, the North Stand. The main stand is the Roland Wycherley, named after the current chairman.

getting there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

A match-day Express Bus service runs at 1.20pm and 2.20pm (6.15pm/7pm midweek) from Shrewsbury bus station in town via Shirehall/Abbey Foregate (1.30pm/2.30pm, 6.30pm/7.15pm) to the stadium, located on the far southern outskirts of town, too far for a comfortable walk. Journey time is 20mins and 10mins from each setting-off point, single tickets £3, return £5, children £1/£1.50. Buses leave New Meadow 10mins after the final whistle from behind Lidl.

From Shrewsbury bus station, three Arriva services run towards New Meadow, Mon-Sat only. Bus 8 (every 30mins up to late afternoon) heads to Sutton Farm Charles Darwin by the pub, bus 27 (every 20mins) goes to Meole Brace Stapleton Road Junction slightly closer to the ground and infrequent bus 544 stops closest, at Meole Brace Sainsbury’s, but you’ll have to get the 1.05pm for a Saturday kick-off and the 4.05pm for an evening game. Journey time is 10-15mins.

Note also that the Prince of Wales pub (see Where to drink), about a mile from the ground, also lays on match-day travel (£2.50 return). Buses leave 30mins before kick-off from Scott Street, just over the railway bridge from the pub, and your seat must be booked at the pub 30mins before departure. Away fans and neutrals can also use the service but only if space allows – phone 07889 347 373 ahead of time.

The sat nav code for New Meadow is SY2 6ST. There’s no parking at the stadium on match days and the club advises against using the nearby Meole Brace retail park. There is a Meole Brace P&R site (£5, SY3 9BN) by the A5/A5112 roundabout about a 10min walk from the stadium, plus parking on a first-come-first-served basis at the Brooklands Hotel (£5, SY3 9JT) on Mill Road and nearby Pritchards Garage (SY3 7QZ) at Meole Brace Island.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets are distributed from the office (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, match day Sat 10am-kick-off, non-match day Sat 10am-1pm) by the club shop behind the main stand at the stadium, by phone (Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat-Sun 8am-6pm) on 01743 273 943, and online

On match days, two offices operate, the main one behind the Roland Wycherley Stand and another in the south-west corner of the ground. Even if purchasing in person, first-time buyers need to receive a supporter number, so staff have to create an account for you. For most matches, away fans need to buy tickets in advance from their own club, although for some games, an outlet is set up behind the North Stand. Contact the club at tickets@shrewsburytown.co.uk.

Prices are set in two categories, depending on the opposition: an across-the-board £20-22 for adults, £15-£17 for over-65s and 19-23s, £8-£10 for 12-18s and free for under-12s.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Behind the Roland Wycherley Stand, the club shop (Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, match-day Sat 10am-kick-off) stocks first-team tops of blue-and-yellow stripes and away shirts of pink-and-black hoops. 

The club’s old ground of Gay Meadow is depicted on coffee mugs and Town’s various badges down the years plastered across beach towels.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The excellent Prince of Wales on Bynner Street, is an ideal spot pre- and post-match. Decked out in rare memorabilia – a pre-war match poster, a framed photo of a Gay Meadow half-buried underwater – the Prince has won regular awards for its ales and offers TV football and decent pub food with occasional guest chefs. It also lays on match-day buses (£2.50 return) to and from New Meadow.

Another favourite, particularly but not exclusively for home fans, the Charles Darwin is a friendly estate pub under new management. Pub games and TV football complement a decent range of ales, include one brewed in honour of the former Shrewsbury manager, Micky Mellon’s Barmy Army. There’s food too, although there’s a chippie next door. It’s on Sutton Road, a 10min walk to the ground.

Closer is Brooklands, on Mill Road just the other side of the Meole Brace roundabout. Usually away-friendly except for derby games, it puts up a big screen on match days. Parking (£5) is also available. Note that this was once the Wild Pig, and Brooklands before and after then. 

At the ground, a fan zone is set up from 1pm on match days, behind the Salop Leisure Stand, dotted with food and drink outlets, sensible away fans welcome.

CITY

AWAY DAYS