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 Kelvin Langmead!
From striking misfit to defensive heartbeat, Kelvin Langmead’s career changed forever at Shrewsbury Town.
When he arrived at Shrewsbury as a 19-year-old striker in 2004, I’m not sure many would have guessed that Kelvin Langmead would leave as a Centre-Half with over 250 appearances at the club, but that’s exactly what he did.
In that period he played in two Wembley Play-Off Finals and was part of the squad which made the transition from the Gay Meadow to what is now called the Montgomery Waters Meadow.
It’s a transition that Kelvin recalls well.
“At the time it was exciting”, Langmead told Town Talk.
“Don’t get me wrong, I loved Gay Meadow – I absolutely loved it. It was a real eye-opener and a learning curve for me. I was very young and I was just starting out in the men’s game and the ground had all the character and the history.
“But, when you get the opportunity to move to a new ground, it’s exciting. The club had unfortunately just missed out in the play-offs, but it was an exciting time and it was great to be involved in.
“We had trips round the new ground prior to its completion, so we saw it taking shape and where I was living at the time was bang in the middle of both as it was happening, so it was an exciting time.”
The season before the move Town had reached the play-off final, losing to Bristol Rovers at Wembley. Langmead remembers the optimism at the time of the stadium change.
“It would have been perfect to have won at Wembley and started League One in the new stadium, but it wasn’t meant to be”,
“The club had gone from just escaping relegation to making a play-off final, so quite rightly the fans and the town were quite excited by what the football club were going to do and obviously the new stadium came along with that.
“It was different because you get used to home comforts and I’d only ever really known Gay Meadow as my home team ground. I remember the first game being a really exciting day and everyone was very optimistic.
“The club needed it because as much as the Gay Meadow was a great place to play, it was warn, it has had its day and the old ground was kind of past the point of repair. I was lucky that I was there at that time and it was a great privilege to make the crossover into the new ground.”
The move to the new stadium didn’t quite go to plan on the pitch and Gary Peters ended up leaving the club towards the end of the first season. That was hard for Kelvin to take, because it had been Peters that had brought him to the club.
“For me personally, it was hard”, Langmead explains.
“He had been that father figure for me in football really. I was aware of him when I was at Preston in the youth set-up and obviously he saw something that he felt he could work with.
“It was sort of the beginning for me at Shrewsbury in terms of my adult career and he was part of that. He guided me, showed me the ropes and I learnt an awful lot about management, about football and about life in general.
“It was difficult for me. We were a young squad at the time and there were a few of us in a similar boat, like Ben Herd and Neil Ashton, who had all come through with him, so when he left it was a bit different, but that’s football.”
In his time at Shrewsbury, Kelvin made the big leap from being a striker to a centre-half. It is a change that a few players have made over the years, but Langmead praised his defensive partners for their help over the years.
“I was lucky”, Kelvin admits.
“In my first season, when I made the transition to defence, I had Richard Hope and Sagi Burton who were really experienced guys and had played higher.
“Moving across to the new ground I had the likes of Colin Murdoch, Graham Coughlan, Michael Jackson, all of whom had had well established careers, so who better to learn around?
“It was a learn-as-you-go situation for me and it was great to have those guys to teach me the ropes and when it wasn’t going so well, to have them beside me trying to drag me through that.”
Two years after Town had tasted defeat to Bristol Rovers they were back at Wembley again, this time facing Gillingham. Town lost 1-0 and it was heartbreak for Kelvin, who was desperate to achieve a promotion with the club.
“They hurt for different reasons”, Langmead reminisces.
“Still now I find it difficult to watch the Bristol Rovers game. I remember watching it back the morning after and I was just so upset about it.
“Then you get the second bite of the cherry. You get to go again and put all the demons of the past behind you, so to lose it in the 91st minute – when it wasn’t a corner – hurts.
“For you to come close twice at a club that you’ve spent such a long time at was hard because it would have been the perfect way for things to have gone for the club and for me, but it wasn’t to be.
“You dust yourself, you have to move on and I’m sure at some point I will look back and be really proud that I managed to play at the National Stadium several times.”
A year on from that Wembley heartbreak, Langmead made the tough decision to leave Shrewsbury. By this time he had made 130 appearances at the new ground and was Town’s longest serving play. He admits that it was a difficult decision to leave.
“It was a real head and heart situation”, Kelvin confessed.
“Peterborough had just come down from the Championship and things like that don’t normally happen to me. I’d had an okay season and the option to go there and play higher was a really difficult decision because my heart was at Shrewsbury.
“Me and my then girlfriend, now wife, had only just bought a house and we planned to make roots, but I just felt I couldn’t say no to that opportunity and I’m not going to say I regret it, but I would have loved to have stayed on at Shrewsbury.
“I tried to be an adult and look at it sensibly. The squad they had at the time was amazing – Aaron McLean, Craig MacKail-Smith, George Boyd – so I couldn’t say no to it and then obviously Hibbo signed at the same time, so it was great to go there with someone that I already knew really well.”
It’s now over seven years since Kelvin pulled on a blue and amber shirt for the final time, but he still looks back on his time with happy memories.
“I’ve got really fond memories of Shrewsbury”, smiled Langmead.
“I had a fantastic time and a lot happened. We had the Wembley appearances, the change of ground, the change of managers, I bought my first house, I lived by myself for the first time and from the age of 19 to 25 is a big chunk of your life.
“I probably spent half my career there, so they are very fond memories. I’ve got all the shirts still, all the signatures, all the mementos and they mean a great deal for me.”