This season we have been reflecting on 10 Years at Oteley Road - to celebrate this we will be bringing you an exclusive interview with a player from the last decade. Today it is Ian Sharps!
A true leader of men, Ian Sharps became a firm fans favourite during his two seasons at the Meadow.
After arriving from Rotherham in 2010, Ian went onto make nearly 100 appearances for the club in all competitions and was Skipper when Town finished second in League Two in 2012.
Prior to joining Town Sharps had enjoyed four successful seasons with the Millers, making over 160 appearances for the club, but when Shrewsbury came calling he jumped at the opportunity.
“I wanted a change and for some reason I’d always had a feeling about going to Shrewsbury”, Ian told Town Talk.
“Two years prior to joining from Rotherham I had a conversation with Paul Simpson and it was very close to being done and just never happened. Then fortunately two years later it happened.
“Financially it wasn’t much different but I just wanted a change and I wanted to come to this side of the country to be closer to family.
“I knew Jacko (Mike Jackson) from my early playing days and he spoke so highly about the club and everything just pointed in the right direction.”
When Sharps joined the club on the 14th June 2010 he became one of Graham Turner’s first signings as Town boss and he still remembers his first few weeks at the club.
“When I first joined there were only about 10 of us”, joked Sharps.
“Graham Turner had come in and obviously they’d had a massive change from the year before and I think the youth team made up quite a lot of the squad.
“I remember we went on tour to Devon and Connor Goldson, Jon Taylor and Danny Taylor had to come down because that’s how young the squad was at the time, but we played some good football down there and it just felt right.”
It wasn’t long into his time at the club that he was announced as the skipper for the 2010/11 campaign. He admitted it was an honour to take the armband and a role he enjoyed taking on.
“We trained for about two weeks and then one Friday I was walking across the training ground and Graham Turner pulled me to one side and said that he was going to make me Captain”, Ian remembered.
“I was a little bit taken aback but I was very honoured and very grateful for it. I liked doing it as well which helped and I was made up to get it.
“I’d done it at Rotherham quite a bit under Mark Robins and then under Ronnie Moore a little bit. It just felt natural to be a bit of a go-between between the staff and the players and there were quite a lot of young lads at Shrewsbury, so it was something I had to take on boards.”
One player that Sharps didn’t have to mentor was Shane Cansdell-Sherriff. The Aussie and the Liverpudlian became Town’s solid defensive base for the next two seasons and Ian admitted the partnership just clicked.
“A lefty and a righty always seems to work and also we were both quite laid back characters”, Sharps continued.
“We both got on with each other off the pitch, we socialised together with our families as well and we just had a click where we settled down really quickly.
“Danny O’Donnell started the first few games and then Shane just knuckled down and by halfway through the season it was me and him playing the majority of the games together and it just felt right.
“Partnerships upfront just seem to click sometimes and you don’t always talk about it with centre-halves, but that definitely did.”
The 2010/11 season would eventually end in disappointment for Town as they finished fourth in the league and were beaten in the Play-Offs by Torquay. Ian remembers the final few weeks of that season clearly.
“The ghost goal is still in the memory”, Sharps admitted.
“Wycombe beat us by a point and every time we would win Wycombe would win as well, so we just couldn’t quite get there. I think that probably had an effect going into the play-offs because all the momentum was with Torquay.
“I remember going down there and I got injured after about half-an-hour and I was just sitting there watching. We didn’t play very well and then at home they just sat and blocked us out.
“There was quite a lot of anger in the dressing room after the play-offs against Torquay because we knew we’d missed a great chance to get promoted, but that anger turned into great motivation for the next season.”
With that motivation now heightened further there was no doubt that automatic promotion was the aim for the 2011/12 season. Sharps has fond memories of that campaign and the people involved.
“The signings the Gaffer got in were really good”, the former Tranmere man said.
“Marvin (Morgan) came in, we’d got James Collins in the Christmas before, so we knew we had the firepower with Wrighty (Mark Wright) as well. We brought Reuben Hazell in as well for a bit of experience, so we fancied our chances.
“There’s quite a few of the lads that I still keep in contact with now. They were a good bunch of lads and a good changing room at the time, and if you can get together a group that have a bit of talent and a bond as well then it works well.
“It was my first promotion, which made it even more special for me. I’ve still got all the memorabilia stuck up in my house of the day. I’ve got the shirt signed and it’s something that I will cherish forever.”
Despite the promotion, Sharps decided to head back to his former club Rotherham. Looking back he admits that it was a mistake, but explains the reasoning behind the decision.
“At the time I wanted a longer contract and the club obviously saw me as a seasoned veteran by then”, Ian said.
“They only wanted to give me a one-year contract and I thought I deserved two. Looking back it was a bad decision and I wish I’d stayed, but you make your decisions and you have to live by them. That’s one of the few decisions that I regret in football, but that’s life and you have to get on with it.”
Although he joined Rotherham, Ian’s family remained in Shropshire, setting up home in Baschurch. He still lives in the village now and admits that the County really feels like home.
“My last child was born here and there’s no chance of us moving in the near future”, said Sharps.
“My Mrs loves the place and the kids do as well. They are set for high school and going forward, so we love it. We’ve got a great community where we live in Baschurch, everyone looks after each other and it reminds me of the club itself.
“Everyone looks after each other, if anyone’s in trouble they help each other out. They celebrate together and they commiserate together, and it’s just the kind of atmosphere you want to bring your kids up in.”
The club and the community have clearly had a big impact on Sharps. He may now work for our local rivals Walsall as a coach, but admits that he time with Shrewsbury Town are some of the best years of his life.
“It was two of the best years of my career”, admitted Ian.
“It felt more than two years to be honest and with doing all the coaching at Shrewsbury as well, I’ve always felt a connection there. I did two or three years with the junior lads as well, so I’ve been back numerous times to watch the games and it feels like home now, more so than anywhere else in the country.”