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 Nat Knight-Percival!
The doom and gloom around the Meadow at the end of the 2013/14 season was palpable. Town had been relegated and there were real worries about what the future might hold.
However, Micky Mellon’s appointment reenergised the club. He brought in a host of new faces, including a certain Nathanial Knight-Percival from today’s opponents Peterborough United.
NKP, as he became known, went onto become a vital cog in Town’s 2014/15 promotion season and he fondly remembers meeting that group of players for the first time.
“At the time I think the whole team was going through quite a big change, so I think a lot of people were going into the same boat really”, Nathanial told Town Talk.
“I think we had about 14 new signings on the first day, so it think everyone was just turning up in the same situation to play in a completely new team, a new manager, new staff, so it was quite an easy way to join because you knew other people were in the same situation as you.
“When we got all the signings done and we looked at our squad we had a really good team, and I think we all knew within ourselves that we were capable of getting promotion that year.”
Town’s success that season was built on a strong defence as the club broke their record for the number of clean-sheets kept in the season with 23. Natty has fond memories of playing alongside the likes of Connor Goldson and Jermaine Grandison.
“It was brilliant”, said Knight-Percival.
“You look at where Connor is now and he was a great leader for us in the back three. You look at Jermaine as well and they were both big, strong, athletic, but also really good on the ball as well, so it made it very easy to play alongside those two.
“I think we all had a lot of confidence in ourselves and if one of us three did go forward we would be okay to deal with it because we had players in front of us and we had someone else alongside us. When we did go forward we always balanced it out well and we were always confident in each other’s abilities to be able to cover for them.
“The whole team had a really strong team bond and we all played for one another, which led to our clean-sheets, good performances and scoring goals as well.”
During Knight-Percival’s time at the club Goldson moved to Brighton and NKP isn’t surprised by how well he had gone onto do.
“You saw how Connor improved throughout the whole season and he just liked playing football”, said Nat.
“He used to spend a lot of extra time out on the training ground before training and after training ground just to practice and better himself, and he deserves all the success he’s enjoyed so far and hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”
Everything was going perfectly for Nathanial, who had been nicknamed Rolls Royce by his fellow players. Town were up to second in League Two, but then disaster struck on the 7th February in a home game against Southend United. Natty had torn his cruciate knee ligaments and was out for the season.
“I was really happy with how I was playing and then to get injured was really disappointing for me”, said Knight-Percival.
“It’s one of those things that happens in football and you just have to get on with it really. It was frustrating at the time but because it happened at a similar time to James Wesoloski I think we both had the same sort of attitude and I think that did help because we both tried to look at it from a positive point of view that we can come back stronger.
“Skitty’s a great physio and the whole time we were both injured he was ringing us, asking us how we were and he was just a good friend to us both. He worked us really hard some of the time, but it was all to our benefit and he let us rest as well.
“I think me and Weso both went through some pretty low times when we were injured, which is going to happen, but Skitty would always pull us out of it and get us going again, so a lot of the credit goes to him.
“Obviously being injured was terrible for both of us, but I think we both still tried to help the team out, stay positive, be around the guys and keep pushing them, because we knew that we weren’t going to be involved on the football field, so we had to find other ways to help out the team.”
Despite being injured, Nat and James Wesoloski cycled alongside fans to the final away game of the season at Cheltenham as Town were promoted thanks to a 1-0 win.
“It was brilliant to be part of the promotion party”, said NKP.
“I think over the course of the season we really did deserve it. We played really well throughout and we really were very consistent throughout the whole season. It was a bit of a shame to miss out on top spot, but just to get promoted is a fantastic feeling and something we won’t forget.”
Knight-Percival returned from his injury on the 1st September 2015 in an EFL Trophy game against Oldham Athletic. It brought to an end a period of seven months on the side-lines for the defender.
“It was nice to get back on the pitch”, admitted Natty.
“I think I missed the first few games still coming back from my knee injury, but to be playing again was brilliant.
“The step-up was obviously a challenge for us and we did find it tough throughout the first few games, but eventually we started getting into it, started getting some points on the board and it was nice to escape the drop.
“I think that was our main aim. We were aware of how the season was going halfway through and we knew what we had to do, so it was good to be able to achieve what we wanted to do.”
The second season was slightly disappointing but one bright point was the FA Cup run that saw Shrewsbury make it to the Fifth Round. Nathanial feels it was an important achievement for the whole town.
“To get that far in the FA Cup and to get a draw like that was very special, not only for the players but also for the fans as well”, the former Wrexham man said.
“A big team like Manchester United coming to Shrewsbury is a massive deal, so at the time it was great for us and you get all the media attention before and after the game, which was a nice experience to have.”
At the end of the 2015/16 season Knight-Percival made the decision to move to Bradford City, but he has fond memories of his time with the Town.
“After the season we had I think it was time for me to move on and for me and my family to look for a new challenge”, said Nat.
“I made some really good friends at Shrewsbury who I still speak to to this day, so it’s definitely a club that I hold close to my heart and I thoroughly enjoyed playing there a lot.”