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 Matt Richards!
A promotion winner and a former Skipper, Matt Richards made almost 100 appearances for the club in his two year stint at the Meadow.
A cultured midfielder with an eye for a goal, Matt had initially joined Shrewsbury on a trial, but after a couple of pre-season games he had done enough to persuade Graham Turner to snap him up permanently.
Richards had spent the previous two seasons with Walsall, but after making the drive down the M54 he was impressed with what he found at Shrewsbury and was delighted to join.
“I was impressed by the professional set-up, the stadium was brand new and it just looked really nice and attracted me straight away”, Matt told Town Talk.
“The lads and the coaches were really nice and welcoming. It felt like they were ahead of their time and they made me feel at home. It felt like the club was going places and they wanted to improve even more.
“Shrewsbury definitely felt like they had more ambition than Walsall. There was an eagerness to climb the leagues. I had a good time at Walsall as well, but with the brand new stadium at Shrewsbury everyone seemed eager to make something of the place and progress.”
Matt joined a side that had just missed out on promotion in the play-offs the previous season and he remembers there being a hungry group of players.
“I think everyone was really eager to have a good go again”, Richards said.
“Obviously there was a lot of disappointment because the club had been trying to get out of League Two for a number of years, but I think everyone was still as determined as ever to do that and everyone was very focussed from day one.
“There was a very good team spirit the first year I got there and you could feel that straight away. The team was very together, socialised together and were ready to fight for each other on the pitch.”
Richards scored 12 goals in his Town career, but none were better than his thunderbolt against Oxford United in the 2011/12 season. It’s a goal he remembers fondly.
“On the actual night I remember thinking that time was almost up and it something needed to be done now”, Matt said.
“I picked up the ball in a half-decent position, about 30 yards out and I remember seeing Sharpy in the corner of my eye frantically waving for me to knock it into the box for him, but I thought ‘No, I’m going to have a shot here’ and luckily it’s flown in.
“I like to think I’ve had a few decent ones, but that’s definitely up there. The importance of it, keeping that record, last minute and it wasn’t a bad finish was it.”
During his time with the Town, Richards struck up a good partnership with fellow central midfielder Nicky Wroe and Matt believes it was their relationship off the pitch which made it such a successful partnership on it.
“I think the balance worked really well”, said Richards.
“We both had an understanding where we knew what each other was going to do and if he went forward then I was there to fill in for him and vice-versa. There was just a very good balance between us and we were good friends on and off the pitch.
“I think that helps. The whole squad socialised together and I think that showed on the pitch by how willing we were to fight for each other. I felt like that with Nicky because we socialised off it and we were there for each other on the pitch.”
The 2011/12 season ended up being a very successful one for the club and Richards admitted that the players always had promotion on their minds.
“You could tell from the day I got there that the team was willing to work for each other and there was a determination”, Matt remembered.
“There was good banter going around, but everyone knew what our goal was and there was this very realistic thing at the end of it that we could achieve and everyone had that in the back of their mind every single training session.
“I felt like we didn’t even really need to be coached because everyone knew there role in the team and in the squad as well and thankfully that worked out for us in the end.
“To be at home and achieve our promotion there was fantastic, not only for ourselves, but for the whole town and the club, it was brilliant.”
Town were now in League One, but the squad that had got them promoted was dented with the departures of a number of key players. Matt was disappointed to see the team split up.
“I was a little bit disappointed to be honest”, Richards said.
“A few core players didn’t stay. Whether that was down to themselves or not I don’t know, but I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t keep that group together.
“A few important players moved on and I think that showed a little bit. Nicky Wroe, James Collins, Shane, Sharpy, they were all very important players and it was disappointing that we didn’t keep them together because we had just achieved the promotion together.”
With Ian Sharps moving on, Graham Turner was on the lookout for a new Captain. He decided to choose Richards and the midfielder was honoured.
“I felt really privileged to be asked to be Captain”, Matt admitted.
“I thought I’d had a really good season in the promotion season and I was full of confidence going into the next season after being asked to be Captain. It was a big honour to be Captain of Shrewsbury to be honest.”
The 2012/13 season perhaps didn’t go as well as some fans would have liked, but Town picked up 55 points and Matt was just pleased to keep the club up.
“It was an up and down season”, Richards continued.
“We struggled at times, but we had some good results as well. Looking back on it, if you’d have said prior to that season that we would maintain our status in League One then I think the club would have taken that and you can progress on from there.
“So, even though it was a frustrating season and there were ups and downs, and good and bad performances, at the end of the day we stayed in the league and that’s what we set out to do, so it was job done.”
Unfortunately for Richards survival wasn’t enough and he was released at the end of that season. He admitted that he was disappointed to be leaving a club that he had enjoyed great times with.
“I’d had two seasons there and in the first one we’d won promotion”, said Matt
“Then I’d been made Captain and I think I was top goalscorer in the second season, so to then not be offered a new contract was a bit gutting to be honest.
“I’d had a brilliant time at Shrewsbury, my family were there with me and they’d settled in brilliantly there, so everything about the place was positive and I was really enjoying it, so I was a bit disappointed to move on.”
“It’s definitely one of my best times, on and off the pitch. The promotion, the team, the togetherness, the town, I had great times there and I’ve got nothing bad to say about my time at Shrewsbury. It was brilliant and I just wish I could have stayed their longer really.”