Following his off season sabbatical Marcus is back with his look at all things Shrewsbury Town
After a bit of a break our pre-season started a week or so ago with a few new faces added. With the squad now away at a training camp in Portugal, it feels like the right time to have a look at the new recruits, who currently number 7. In no particular order, I've had a look at their stats and any online snippets of action I could find on a well known streaming website.
Steve Morison on loan from Millwall. Steve is a hugely experienced striker who's joined us on loan for a season. He's had a long career and along with his experience he brings the ability to score a wide range of goals from tap ins to sublime lobs from outside the box. There is a tribute video on a well known streaming website from a Millwall supporter showing just how versatile he is in the final quarter of the pitch. Although he's got a little pace, his game doesn't appear to rely on it and one of the things I noticed is his composure in front of goal. This could be as a result of his excellent positioning that puts him in the right place with enough time to select the right finish. Another thing I liked was how he's capable of hitting a first time ball without the need for a touch to set the shot up. He also looks to be a good header of the ball, particularly from set pieces. So Morison has a great range of attributes and will be a great example to our younger strikers.
Speaking of younger strikers, Sam has also brought in 22-year-old Daniel Udoh from Telford who's been scoring goals for them with a pleasing consistency. He's another striker with a good range of skills and already knows Fejiri Okenabirhie from playing youth football for Stevenage. Having played league football with Crewe for a season, Nigerian Udoh dropped below the football league on loan and eventually signed for Telford, scoring 26 goals in his season at the Bucks Head. He's stepped up three divisions from the National League North where he was obviously head and shoulders above most but it's still a big jump and may need a little time to shine. The video of his best bits on a well known streaming website suggests that if he can adapt, we may have an exciting player who may well have defences rather worried.
Defender Ethan Ebanks-Landell is a central defender who has experience of promotion from this division with both Wolves and Sheffield United. He also has experience of playing in the Championship following promotion with Wolves in 2013-4. The 26 year old is no stranger to the other end of the pitch having scored a few for Milton Keynes, Sheffield United, Wolves and Rochdale. He spent the second half of last season with Rochdale, who finished with two more points than we did. He looked strong and combative for them last season when we played there and was also part of the Sheffield United team that beat us 3-0 at the Montgomery Waters Meadow in 2016.
Aaron Pierre a well-rated central defender from Northampton Town who had was voted their most player of the season last term. He's a product of the Fulham youth set up but moved on to forge successful careers with Wycombe and Northampton Town. In his two seasons with the Cobblers, the 26 year old scored 6 times in 60 appearances in League one. So he can obviously shine at this level given his award for last season and his goalscoring ability should come in handy. He's not the only goalscoring defender we have amongst our ranks which seems to bode well for next season’s set pieces.
At 37, goalkeeper Joe Murphy has a wealth of experience at this level and higher. He's been described as “the best keeper in League two last seasons” by our new goalkeeping coach Brian Jensen and he would know, he was goalkeeper coach at Bury where Murphy spent last season. I think signing an experienced keeper is wise move from Sam Rickets, particularly one who has tasted success on multiple occasions and played at a higher level. You only have to look at some of the world class keepers in their mid to late 30's around Europe to realise the value they add. Unlike outfield players, keepers’ skills don't rely on such an intense physical routine, which means a longer career is possible at the highest of levels. Murphy is another player who I hope to see mentor our younger goalkeepers
Our next signing was a younger goalkeeper, this time Max O'Leary, a promising shot stopper with experience of playing in the Championship. The 2018-19 season was a significant one for Max who made 16 appearances as City pushed for a play-off position. Ultimately they were a few points short but it was invaluable experience for the 22 year old who also received his first call up for the Republic of Ireland this year.
Our second loan signing was Ryan Giles from Wolves. The 19-year-old left sided wingback is a Telford lad and this is his second loan spell with a Shropshire based club having spent a little time with Telford in 2018. He scored twice in nine games for the Lilywhites, which is a strike rate I think I'd like him to emulate in Skybet League One over a longer period this season. Rob Edwards from Wolves Academy said this
“Pace and fantastic crossing ability on the move. I think his defensive game has improved massively over the last 12 months. He’s had his exposure with the first-team, he’s made his debut, so he’s progressing really well” as ever I went to a well known video streaming service to have a look at the lad and he's more than a little rapid and he's already scored a few goals for the Wolves under 21 team against League opposition and for Telford on loan.
My first impressions are that these are quite canny signings. With the exception of the goalkeepers, all of them are capable of adding goals, which is something you'd expect of strikers but three of the above players are defenders. There is also plenty of experience of winning seasons; three of our new signings have experience of promotion from this division and others. They say winning is habitual and at over 50% of the new signings have had that habit for prolonged periods. This adds something extra to the squad that isn't something that can be coached because it's a mentality you only acquire from winning. There are likely to be other signings as more players find newer pastures to play upon but so far I'm looking at the coming season with an anticipation of good things. If all of Sam's signings are as good on paper as these look, I'm going to be a little over excited by the time the season starts!