Connor Goldson talks through his Town academy experience and life in Shropshire.
Connor Goldson is one of the higher profile players to have come through the Shrewsbury Town academy, having gone on to play in the Premier League for Brighton & Hove Albion and in the Europa League for Rangers.
The defender joined the Shropshire club as a youngster a short time after his release from Wolverhampton Wanderers and became a key figure in the dressing room in Town’s promotion season.
The defender’s move to the club didn’t come with ease, as the Wolverhampton native had questions over joining the club but hails the persistence of his former coach, Nigel Vaughan, for making the process easier.
“I remember going down to train at the Shrewsbury Leisure Centre on the 4G pitches outside,” Connor told TownTalk. “I remember having to train with the younger group as my year used to be able to get day release from school and I couldn’t. On Tuesday and Thursday nights my mom used to drive me up there.
“The move came about after I played for the Shropshire district. Nigel Vaughan was at one of the games, he came up to me after a game and asked me if I wanted to sign but I wasn’t sure at the time.
“Nigel said to just come down and see if I enjoy it and I said yeah. I came down for a trial and Nigel said to me ‘You can sign if you want to’. After about four weeks I signed my first scholarship.
“Nigel was massive for me and he still speaks to me to this day and talks to me about games I’m playing in - he was huge for me. I remember he used to drop me back and forth to Wolverhampton when my mom couldn’t.
“He did everything he could to make sure I was happy in Shrewsbury. He wanted me to be successful.”
“Nigel always pushed me and David Hughes always pushed me. I remember playing for the reserves about two weeks after signing as a scholar. I was always pushed on by Shrewsbury to reach higher levels – I feel like that has always made a big difference.
“I had left Wolves a year before and was just playing with my fiends really and didn’t want to join a professional team because I had come out of Wolves and wanted to just enjoy playing football.
“I was getting towards 14 and I knew that I had to make a decision. Shrewsbury came along and I thought it would be a good step for me to take. With Nigel being so persuasive and keen – it made me feel like I was really wanted.”
Connor was one of many Town academy graduates who spent time at Walford College living in the clubs accommodation amongst his other Town teammates.
The current Rangers centre-half hailed this experience as a key time in his personal and footballing development and feels his time there helped with his progression into Town’s first-team and then into the Premier League.
“It was an amazing time in the Town academy,” said Connor. “Walford was carnage. There were two-year groups of players there, 20 boys all 16 to 18 living in one block. At the same time I just remember working hard.
“Walford College helped us all develop as people. Just being around so many people from so many backgrounds and being all together was great. We would train a few hours a day and then just see what we could do to pass time away.
“It was probably the best few years of my life. It was fun having no cares in the world and just enjoying yourself. Playing football every day and training every day really helped. I was training with the first-team most days by the age of 16. It was time to become a man.
“Nigel and Dave always told me to make sure I enjoyed it and express my self. I tried to do that throughout my whole time there and have taken that on into my career.
“The coaches were great at the time and the club gave people a chance to progress. I remember the year I signed my professional contract a lot of other boys did too. At least three of them are now playing in the Championship. I’m now at Rangers and that’s all down to Shrewsbury giving us a chance.
“An academy can be really important for a club like Shrewsbury. We understood that when we got to a certain age, and the club could make money on us, they would move us on.
“The summer that me and Ryan Woods moved on was the year they built the new training ground. A few years later they nearly got into the Championship – that’s what we all want. I still always look out for them and hope they do well.
“My final season with the promotion was brilliant. Being a main figure in that team and getting promoted is something I will always remember. Getting a move to Brighton after that is something I will always be grateful to Shrewsbury for.
“I always said the season before, when we got relegated, I wanted to give the club something back for the amount of time and effort they put into me. For me to be able to get promoted and leave the club on a high was something that I always wanted to do.
“I was sad to leave. I will always be grateful to Shrewsbury and I will always look out for the results because they are the club that gave me the opportunity to be a professional footballer. I have kept in contact with people at the club and I will always be grateful.
“We never know, maybe one day I will come back. I don’t know where my career will take me. Maybe one day I can end up back at Shrewsbury and back saying Salop.
“My piece of advice for a Shrews youth player would be to enjoy yourself every day and work hard. Don’t let the opportunity to pass you by. You have the chance to become something you’ve always wanted to be.”