Marcus Braddock takes his usual weekly look at all things Shrewsbury Town
With the exception of the start of the football season, it's been a relatively quiet week for news at Shrewsbury Town. There were some interesting bits though and as there are less of them, maybe I can give them a bit more space. The first news of the week was that Shrewsbury Sports Village will become the new home of the club's Academy. The football club has had youth teams play there regularly over the years but now it's going to move the under 18's there to train as well as play.
I know it quite well through watching different youth team games over the years. I can remember watching Ryan Woods and Conor Goldson develop there amongst others, it's a great little venue with plenty of space, facilities and even a pitch with a small stand. It's also incredibly handy for access to the first team's Sundorne Castle training base. The under 18's will still be attending the London Road campus for their academic work but with the facilities at the Sports Village seeing regular improvements and additions, the move makes a lot of sense.
Speaking of the Academy, they kick off their EFL Youth Alliance campaign on Friday when they face Blackpool away at 1300 hours.
Still with our young players, last week saw a couple of our youngsters go out on loan to gain experience of being part of a first-team squad. Lifumpa Mwandwe goes out on loan to JD Welsh Premier side Newtown AFC and Cameron Gregory is off to the Vanarama National League with Kidderminster. These sorts of moves are vital for young players who are good enough to be professionals but aren't quite ready to play in Skybet League One.
I notice that the club has produced a Junior Passport for our younger fans, which looks like a lot of fun. For every home game attended, the passport owner will receive a sticker (Stickers will be available from the Community Hub and Football Hub). When I was a kid, the stickers would have been enough but there's more to this than stickery fun! Once the young fan has collected enough stickers, their loyalty is rewarded with a series of awards. It looks like a great way to strengthen the relationship between the club and the fans of tomorrow and I would have loved it back in the day. Pick up your passport from the ticket office along with your match-day tickets.
Friday brought news of changes to the design for this seasons programme with Reech Marketing designing this season’s edition. There's also a change in printers with local company WPG taking over that duty. When I got my programme on Saturday I had a quick flick through and it certainly looks the part, which is nice because I'm back on programme article duty this season.
Saturday was obviously the big day with Portsmouth popping down for the beginning of the Skybet League One season. I was more than a little apprehensive before this one because Portsmouth came very close to promotion last season and had just spent a couple of million quid for a striker. Kenny Jackett always puts a competent team together and he did so again with Pompey making all the early running. They probed, tried to go around, through and over us but nothing they threw perplexed our back three, who are looking like a hard-working unit already. Max O'Leary looked in good shape, tidying anything that sneaked through. He looks a really competent keeper for such a young player, it's early days but he looked very comfortable and I wonder if Joe Murphy might have a difficult job forcing his way in after unluckily breaking a bone in his foot.
David Edwards looked fit as a fiddle and gave his customary 110 %; I noticed that he tweeted his pride at captaining his hometown club, such a class act. Romain Vincelot also deserves credit for his hard work at the heart of the midfield, doing much of the less glamorous but all-important work of snuffing out midfield threats as they happened. Obviously, there are areas that need a bit of work, but when you play a team with the quality that Portsmouth have, you will find yourself tested and will find areas for improvement. On the whole, it was an impressive display against the most expensive strike force in the division (probably). A win would have been enough but a clean sheet is a great way to start the season. It set's an early standard to keep to throughout the season and gives everybody that little bit of extra confidence.
Someone else who gave a little bit extra was Ryan Giles who was making his football league debut against Pompey. He fitted in really well as the other loan players have but the little extra he gave was a goal that was just incredible. I worry sometimes about the expectation we have for young players but I cant help but hep praise on him. It was one of the best goals I've seen from anybody on the first day of the season, let alone a lad on his debut. I was still in the stadium when he gave his post-match interview and it was a privilege to see him talk about what must have been one of the best days of his short career. He looked a bit amazed at what he'd done and said that he wasn't sure he could do it again but if he can do it once, we know he has that potential.
Next week we have just one game, placed appropriately on Saturday afternoon at 3 pm. It's the first game of the season for Milton Keynes with their game at Bury being cancelled because of the on-going financial situation there. This could give us an advantage in that we're closer to full match fitness than they may be but we haven't been able to see them play which makes them a slightly more unknown quantity than if they'd have played Bury and we'd been able to get a look at them. They were promoted as the third-placed team in League Two and will want to hit the ground running with a good performance. So a potentially difficult game in Buckinghamshire next week but I thought Portsmouth would be difficult and we prevailed!