Marcus Braddock gives his views on all things Shrewsbury Town
Last week was quite a busy one for Shrewsbury Town and one which saw us play our first game on British turf after the training camp. It was against Newport County in Ludlow on Wednesday and it looked to be a decent first test for Sam Ricketts' new Squad. The result didn't quite go our way but the result is the least important thing in these sorts of games.
The next day Town announced the signing of 20-year-old midfielder Luke McCormick from Europa League winners Chelsea. Signed on a season-long loan, McCormick looks to be a quick, combative player who's performances for Chelsea's development teams have been impressive. He's not played any first-team football yet but he did start for Town against Aston Villa.
The squad numbers for the coming season were also announced during midweek and I see that we don't have a number 9 yet or a number 18 so maybe Sam has somebody in mind. It's good to see so many of our own ex-youth players in the squad with Kian Taylor, Cameron Gregory, Lifumpa Mwandwe, James Rowland, Ryan Barnett and Ryan Sears all coming through our youth system. We've produced some excellent footballers at Shrewsbury Town in recent years and Steven Gerrard thinks we're getting it right if his recent comments about Greg Docherty are anything to go by. The Rangers manager said "Shrewsbury did a fantastic job with him. From what I've seen since day one of pre-season, he looks a different player and a different person. So we are delighted." in the Daily Record on Saturday.
The dates for this seasons Checkatrade Trophy fixtures were announced last week and we play Port Vale away on September 3rd, Newcastle United at home on September 24th and Macclesfield at home on November 12th.
The planned “meet the players” event at Montgomery Waters Meadow took place on Saturday and by all accounts was a resounding success. Sadly I was otherwise engaged but it's quite an important event for younger fans who support their local team rather than some distant millionaires that they don't have a hope of meeting. I remember the excitement I got from collecting autographs when I was a young Town fan and my autograph book still sits on my football shelf. I can actually remember getting some of them, Town legends like Graham Turner, Steve Biggins and Steve Cross afforded the same space as legends like Bobby Robson and Jack Charlton and remembered more fondly. That sort of connection just isn't there for most top-flight football fans and I'm so glad it's the route I took into supporting. But enough of days gone by, I'm starting to get misty-eyed with the nostalgia.
We finished the week off at home to Premier League new boys Aston Villa, a game played in front of a packed house of over 9000. That first pre-season game is always a pleasant feeling as you see some of the same faces, interspersed with a few new ones. The pitch looking verdant and vibrant after whatever magic the grounds people have cast upon it. Most of all it's the hope that always gets hold you, no matter where you ended up last season you still have hope. There are fans out there that may not see their team fulfill all of their games but even they have hope.
I thought the team played well against a very strong team full of multi-million-pound players. Villa made almost wholesale changes at half time so we had to face a completely different team in the second half. We still gave as good as we got but as the difference in fatigue levels kicked in a small mistake was made and villa scored. I was impressed by how motivated we looked so early on in pre-season and considering how many new faces there are, we looked like we knew what the manager expected of them. I thought we looked particularly good when we pressed Villa in their own half, something that was a hallmark of the Ajax team that went so far in the Champions League last season. Whilst I don't expect quite the same level of play, getting in peoples faces makes them uncomfortable and forces mistakes.
It's always a little unfair to focus on individuals, especially when we've played so well as a team but I thought Luke McCormick looked ready to step up to first-team football and hopefully he'll keep it up. The back three looked big, strong and more than capable, all three made key contributions and were a little unfortunate to concede. Thankfully pre-season result's makes no real difference to how we'll do when the proper football starts in August. If anything, I'd like us to get our defeats out of the way early on. It's a cliché but you learn more from defeat than victory, I just hope we learn quickly.
Next week sees us play away at Cheltenham on Tuesday and Dundee United at home to on Saturday afternoon. Cheltenham finished 16th in League Two last season and will be hoping for a better finish this time. They've made a few signings so far with Reuben Reid the most eye-catching. He's a player who I've always thought was a good forward who brings more than just goals to the table. I'm particularly looking forward to the Dundee game because I've never seen them play before. I remember the Terrors team from the 1980s with top quality players like Paul Sturrock, Maurice Malpas and David Narey who I remember scoring an absolute cracker in the 1982 world cup against Brazil! United were second in last seasons Scottish Championship which means they stay in that division but they have been joined by local rivals Dundee, who were relegated from the SPL.
The coming week will no doubt bring some exciting or hopeful news of new players and recoveries from injury. You can keep up to date with it all, here at Shrewsweb or if you're too busy, I'll cover it next Monday.