I was born and grew up in Shrewsbury and attended Meole Brace School before moving to Ellesmere College, then going to university. Growing up watching the mighty Shrews of the “eighties” I used to gaze across from the Riverside at the Directors Box dreaming that one day I’ll be in there, never really believing it was possible. Some 25 years on here I am dreams fulfilled, so what did I find?
Well the Club is unrecognisable from that of the 80’s/90’s. Having talked at some length with Mal Starkey, Club President, I never truly appreciated how the club existed on such a knife edge trying and largely failing to balance the books, and how the club were really struggling with debts alone in excess of £750,000 in 1996 when Roland stepped in as Chairman.
The metamorphosis that Roland has over seen is massive. The difficult decisions that were taken to cut costs and tighten budgets in the late “nineties” and early “noughties” did protect the club. Without doubt had these measures not been taken STFC could easily have been playing in the non-league pyramid. With hind sight I would now say that our relegation to the Conference was painful at the time, and we were certainly a little lucky to bounce back at the first attempt, but boy have we bounced back!
Within two years of our return to the League we were in the Playoff final at Wembley…. a year later the real catapult, the move to the new Stadium at last. This is the real key to the metamorphosis. Since the move to the 10,000 seat Greenhous Meadow all our expectations and aspirations have changed immeasurably. Our average gates since the move have been approached 6,000, with some near capacity matches.
The new income streams that the stadium brings, along with the increased gates, have, in the past 5 years particularly, allowed larger budgets for the playing squad and support team, the net result is that our expectations are no longer to survive or thrive on being an underdog, we now crave success and I believe that we haven’t attained our peak yet. With the infrastructure in place (and at this point I have to mention Graham, in my opinion the best of managers) Championship football is very much our goal.
The incredible fact is that all of this change has taken place in a completely sustainable manner, we own our stadium 100%, the club has financial resources to back Graham when he needs it, but the mantra for any spending is sustainability. So many other clubs have and are jeopardising their long term future by gambling money they don’t have on short term success, they are the play things of Chairmen who all too frequently walk away when things go awry or when they lose interest. I had the privilege of meeting Lord Mawhinney (former Chairman of the Football League) last season and he stated that Shrewsbury is in his opinion one of the best run Football League Clubs.
So from looking over at the Director’s box as a child in the “80’s” the Director’s box that I walked into was incomparable. My role as a director is not quite what I expected, I assumed that I had to be involved on a day to day far more than I am and I am very much a non-executive Director. The club runs pretty well, and is improving, it has to, Roland doesn’t accept second best. As for Roland, he is just about the best Chairman you will find. He really cares. I speak to him on a daily basis about all aspects of the club. We have in depth discussions, sometimes arguments about all topics STFC, but at the end of the day the decisions we make are what we believe to be best for the good of the club. We are both life-long supporters of Shrewsbury Town, that is why we have invested in the club and do our utmost to ensure its financial stability and positive growth going forward.