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 Stewart Drummond!
Not many players are able to make a big impression when they only spend 18-months at a club, but Drummond’s 67 games and 7 goals made him a popular figure at both the Gay Meadow and the New Meadow.
When he joined Shrewsbury from Chester in 2006, the club were just a year away from moving to the new stadium and Drummond admits that it was an exciting club to join at that time.
“It wasn’t necessarily the major pull that made me go there in the first place, but it was a nice surprise to see it going up”, Stewart told Town Talk.
“I think the first time I came to have a look round was when Gary Peters was in charge and he took us onto the old training ground and took us to where the new ground was being built and that was the first time that I really saw it.”
Stewart’s 18-months at Shrewsbury were spent under the tutelage of Gary Peters and he admits that he enjoyed working under the former Preston North End boss.
“Gary was great”, said Drummond.
“You learn off every type of manager, everyone’s got strengths and weaknesses, but Gary’s motivation, how he got the work rate into the lads, the team spirit, that was his strength at that stage.
“We obviously had a good squad. We had Dave Edwards, Ben Davies and one or two others, so on paper we probably should have been battling for the play-offs and it all worked out really well in that last season at the Gay Meadow.”
At the end of Drummond’s first season at the club, Shrewsbury reached the first play-off final to be played at the New Wembley and Drummond would etch his name into football history when he scored a third minute opener.
“People ask me about my best memories in football and I would have to say that it would be right up there”, Stewart admitted.
“I think we were lucky with the size of the crowd because they brought a few and we brought a few, so it was a great atmosphere and it just gives you a little taste of what things might have been like if you were a Premier League player.
“Obviously things didn’t work out in the end but it was a wonderful day for the lads and for the supporters.
“It was a shame because I think we had the basis of a really good squad. Obviously, Dave Edwards was moving on but had we gone up that season I think we would have made an impression in League One the following season.”
After losing in the play-off final expectations increased. Stewart was made Club Captain as Richard Hope left the club and the signings of Dave Hibbert and Marc Pugh added to the excitement. He admits that he finds it hard to put his finger on where it all went wrong.
“It was a strange old year the second year at Shrewsbury”, continued Drummond.
“We’d obviously had the disappointment of us getting beaten in the play-off final but then I thought we’d made a few good signings on paper. We were being tipped as one of the favourites to go up the following year but for some reason it didn’t quite pan out that way.
“I think we tended to get a little bit desperate and a little bit twitchy a bit too early in the season and at the end of the day it certainly didn’t work out the way everyone had hoped it would and presumed it would that season.”
Town ended that first season at the new stadium in 18th position after flirting with the relegation zone at one stage. Drummond believed that the team struggled at first to make the new ground feel like home.
“It was a shift in mentality for the players”, Stewart admitted.
“The Gay Meadow was always a bit of a fortress. The pitch was terrible and whenever a bit of rain came down it was knee high in mud. The changing rooms weren’t the best and it was always an intimidating atmosphere for players to come into.
“The problem teams have when they move into new stadiums is that it turns out to be a much nicer experience for the opposition and sometimes it can go against you.
“It indicates the ambition of the club and the expectations increased on the squad itself, which then transmitted to the fans, so that first year at the New Meadow the pressure turned out to be too much for the players and management.
“It invites other teams to come down and express themselves. I remember the first couple of League Cup games and the pitch was perfect and tailor-made for these better clubs from higher leagues, whereas at the Gay Meadow, with six inches of mud, we fancied our chances against those sorts of teams.”
Midway through that season rumours started to fly that Morecambe were interested in bringing Stewart back to the club he had started his career with. At the time Stewart was happy to stay at Shrewsbury but in January they accepted a bid of £15,000 and he moved on. It proved to be a good move for Stewart who would play professional football for another seven years.
“If I’d have stayed at Shrewsbury I might have got two or three more years out of it, but would I still be playing at Shrewsbury at the age of 36, 37? Maybe not”, Drummond questioned.
“I ended up going back to Morecambe and I played until I was 39, so if you look at it in that way then it was a positive move. Life goes in certain directions at certain times and would that have happened if I’d stayed at Shrewsbury? You never know.”
In those seven years, Drummond would face Shrewsbury on no less than 11 occasions and admits that he always enjoyed returning to a club that he holds in high regard.
“I always enjoyed coming back to Shrewsbury”, said Stewart.
“The games were always quite good if I remember rightly, always close games and we won a few and lost a few. Whenever you’ve played somewhere you don’t want to come back and get booed off the fans.
“You want to try and make a good impression for those who came through the turnstiles and paid your wages while you were there and you hope that whilst time goes by they appreciate the effort and the work that you put in while you were there.
“Shrewsbury’s a great club. I was just talking about them today because I’ve linked-up with John McMahon (Former Shrewsbury Assistant Manager) as Head of Coaching here at Morecambe and we were just chatting today about Shrewsbury and the progress that they’ve made.
“They always had a good fan base and if Shrewsbury were doing well they would always come through in good numbers, as you are seeing this season with Shrewsbury’s gates. So, once you moved to the new stadium it was tailor-made for promotion and to start building.”