Bob Davies looks back at the life of Brian Perry
Brian Perry, I think most Shrewsbury Town fans would agree, often worked a minor miracle at the grand old Gay Meadow.
He was the groundsman for 26 years at the club’s much revered stadium before the move to the present-day Montgomery Waters Meadow and it was the bane of Brian’s life that it was often covered to a depth of a couple of feet when the nearby River Severn broke its banks.
But Brian knew what to expect and, more importantly, how to deal with it, and there was noone more knowledgeable when it came to restoring the pitch to the point where it was fit to play upon again - often within only a few hours of the water subsiding..
He must have lost count of the number of times during his tenure that the flood waters crept up high enough to invade the changing rooms but he took it all in his stride.
Sadly, Brian has passed away at the age of 74 after a long fight against illness, leaving behind a legacy of a formidable amateur sportsman who graced the cricket and football pitches of Shropshire over very many years.
Fittingly, tributes have been paid to him by the many people whose lives he touched in his distinguished sporting career.
Town chairman Roland Wycherley led the tributes by saying “Our thoughts and condolences go out to Brian’s family and friends at this sad time.
“Brian was a big part of Shrewsbury Town’s history and a familiar face at the Gay Meadow for many years.
“The condition of the Gay Meadow meant the pitch was a challenge but Brian’s hard work and dedication meant that games would go ahead despite those challenges.”
“He continued to work on match days at the new stadium and he will be greatly missed.”
Football and cricket played a huge part of Brian’s life in his younger days and he definitely made his mark in both around the county.
Legend is a term to be used sparingly, but that is exactly what Bridgnorth Cricket Club tweeted in a message which read: “Such sad news of Briian’s passing. A great character and a fantastic cricketer. A legend.”
That was just one of the dozens of messages from cricket clubs around the county and beyond as Brian starred at the game for Wem and was an important member of the Shropshire Minor Counties winning side in 1973.
A fast bowler – described to me by one of his former opponents as “very fast” – he claimed the wicket of former England hero Ian Botham in a Natwest Trophy match against Somerset at Wellington in 1983.
And to make it a memorable double he also caught and bowled the indominable Geoffrey Boycott 12 months later in Shropshire’s unforgettable victory over mighty Yorkshire in the same competition at Wellington.
As a footballer Brian built up a reputation of being a pretty tough handful as a centre forward playing for a team from Oswestry and later Wem Town Colts in the Whitchurch and District League.
One of his opponents, recalling his many battles with Brian, told me: “He was like a little tank running around the pitch. He had a low centre of gravity and was pretty good, which made him tough to play against.
“I played at centre half and he was centre forward so he always gave me a bit of a run around!”
Brian’s funeral will be held on Wednesday 29th November, starting at 12:30pm at Church of the Holy Spirit Church, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury followed by an internment at Shrewsbury cemetery.