Former Captain Ben Davies talks to Shrewsbury about his spell with the club.
With nearly 130 appearances and 31 goals, Ben Davies was a crucial figure in Town’s transition from old stadium to new a decade ago.
He joined Shrewsbury from Chester City in 2006 and a soon became a fan favourite thanks to his wonderful set-pieces.
Later becoming Captain of the club, Ben was managed by both Paul Simpson and Gary Peters at Shrewsbury and it was Peters who enticed him to the club in the first place.
“The ambition Gary Peters was showing at the time”, Davies said, when asked why he joined Shrewsbury.
“To be honest I’d had a couple of clubs contacting me from a higher level and I’d more or less agreed to sign for one of them, but Gary Peters kept pursuing it and pursuing it and as I was on my way to sign for a League One club he phoned again and I changed my mind in the car.
“I knew how good a club it was, I knew the area and when I came up and spoke with him I knew within a couple of minutes that it would be a case of me signing there.
“It says volumes that I still keep in touch with him now and still speak to him. There’s not many managers you do that with, probably one or two, and after all those years I still speak to him now and he still comes up to watch some of our games.
“The Chairman was a very ambitious Chairman. The set-up and the ambition of the club fitted in with where I was with my career and I wanted to take it to the next level and I wanted to do that with Shrewsbury.”
Part of that ambition was moving to a new purpose-built stadium on the south side and whilst Davies admits that he liked Gay Meadow, he feels that the move was needed to help push the club forward.
“At the old stadium I thought the atmosphere was great”, said Ben.
“I think a lot of teams were beaten before they’d even turned up there, but it was a no brainer to move really. Roland got it spot on with moving there and the setup there is geared to play even higher than the league they are in now.
“It’s a Championship setup and obviously there’s scope to extend it.
“I think it did take us a season to get used to the new stadium, but it really is a fantastic setup and Roland should be extremely proud of everything he has done and achieved with the club.”
Ben’s injury, which had seen him miss the play-off final with Bristol Rovers, carried on into the first-half of the 2007-08 season and he found it difficult to watch on from the sidelines as Gary Peters’ side struggled to adjust to life in their new stadium.
“Missing Wembley was bad, it was probably the worst moment of my career, but the next few months were tough”, Davies said.
“The team went through a bad patch and the Gaffer was under pressure. It was hard to see because I wasn’t able to be involved and wasn’t able to help, which killed me really because I could see how much it was hurting him after defeats.
“I’ve never really come across a manager with so much drive and so much enthusiasm as the Gaffer and obviously when he went it was disappointing. A lot of the lads were close to him and would have run through brick wall for him, so to see him leave was disappointing but it’s one of those things.”
Paul Simpson took over from Gary Peters and in their second season at the new stadium Town decided to push the boat out. They signed a number of big-name players but in the end, they came up short, losing in the play-off final to Gillingham. Davies admits he finds it difficult to put his finger on what went wrong that season.
“Some big players came in on some big deals for the division we were in”, said Ben.
“We probably should have got out of the league that year. There were some big characters there, some good players and looking back we won 7-0 a couple of times and handed out a lot of beatings, but we were either hot or cold and if we had found a bit more consistency we’d have walked the league.
“There were quite a few new players coming into the club and it does take time. It’s not one of those things where you can just click your fingers and we all gel together, it does take time and then obviously I left in the summer and Holty did as well, so it started a bit of cycle.
“It was disappointing to say the least at Wembley. In the last 10 minutes, I just thought they’d gone a little bit and we were getting a couple of chances, so I thought if worst comes to worst we can take it to extra time and beat them in extra time, but it wasn’t to be.
“It was disappointing because we had beaten them 7-0 earlier on in the season and we did fancy ourselves, but we just didn’t turn up as a team and we were very poor on the day.”
After Town were beaten at Wembley, Ben had a decision to make, should he stay at Shrewsbury or look for a new journey. He chose the latter and an exciting project at Notts County.
“The Notts County thing was all a bit last minute”, Davies continued.
“I went in and saw Simmo the day after the Shrewsbury lads had got back in and I came away from that meeting scratching my head and then I got the call from Notts and with the way it was going there I couldn’t really turn it down.
“I’d have loved to have stayed at Shrewsbury, but when you speak to Sven (Goran Eriksson) and hear that he’s going in there and with everything else that was going I think it was time to move on.”
It’s now 10 years since Davies left Shrewsbury and he has gone onto enjoy a stellar career, including a long spell in the Championship with Derby County, but he still looks back fondly on his time in Shropshire.
“I loved living there, I loved the club and I loved everything about it”, said Ben.
“It was a family club and it was friendly club. It was the first time that I’d lived with my wife, so that was a bit of a fiasco. I got my dog there, who we still have now, and some of my best mates still live in Shrewsbury, so it was really enjoyable.
“I absolutely loved playing for the club and the biggest disappointment is that we didn’t get promoted while I was there, which with the squad we had we probably should have done, but it wasn’t to be.
“I absolutely loved playing in front of the fans and it was one of those clubs that I really wanted to do well for.”