Bob Davies sat down with Russ Newman - the man who leads our in-house medical team - to discuss the role Russ and his team play at the club.
Shrewsbury Town are one of the very few football clubs in the EFL who have an in-house medical team, something Ross Newman prides himself and his club on.
Ross Newman had a twinkle in his eye, accompanied by a chuckle, as he talked with obvious pride about the team he leads at Montgomery Waters Meadow.
“My job is to see that they have cake or biscuits and coffee at half-time,” he quipped. “They are an easy bunch to keep happy, especially if they get their biscuits and coffee!”
But he very quickly had a more serious look on his face when he praised his team to the hilt by declaring: “they do what they do, not for the pay, but because they are passionate about it.”
He leads the medical response team which is always on duty on matchdays, and there was clearly a great deal of admiration in his voice when he commented that he understood Shrewsbury Town are one of only three clubs in the EFL who have an in-house medical team whose sole purpose is the welfare of the crowd during matches.
Ross explained that he and other members of the British Red Cross Society carried out duties at the old Gay Meadow ground and the new stadium until the Society announced that it had been decided to discontinue coverage of events.
He, his deputy Helen Thompson and other members of the team got together and agreed that they were in an ideal position to carry on providing medical cover.
“After all, we knew what was involved, we knew our way around the ground, how everything worked and the protocols involved,” he said.
“Helen and I approached Lawrence Ellerby, the stadium manager, and told him all the guys were happy to carry on doing the work providing we were employed by the club and not the Red Cross.”
That was in October 2019, and various meetings were held with the CEO Brian Caldwell about the cost of setting up the arrangements and it turned out to be cheaper for the club than under their contract with the Red Cross.
So, in January 2020, the team took over the medical care of the crowd at the ground. But after only three matches, covid arrived on the scene and, with football eventually allowed behind closed doors, everything stopped.
When they returned to duty all members of the team went on a training course and now everyone was “on the same page” with the same qualifications and skillset.
“As far as football club medical teams go, I think we have the highest trained members and the best kit available at any ground in the country,” said Russ.
“It always has been, and always will be, that the only thing which matters to us is the welfare of the crowd.”
To illustrate his point, he said that over the past five years they had had to deal with four cardiac arrests at the ground. “In every case, we got that person back and they were actually talking when they left the ground.”
“Our record with the Red Cross was good and we wanted to carry that across under the Shrewsbury Town umbrella.”
Apart from his team, he explained, there was always a doctor and two paramedics from the West Midlands Ambulance Service specifically on duty at the ground to deal with any incidents in the crowd as the players had their own medical cover.
Russ explained that all members of his 13-strong team, with the exception of two newcomers who were being trained, had a vast amount of experience in providing medical cover at events.
“We have covered the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Great North run at Newcastle, marathons at Birmingham and Manchester, Helen and I spent several months at the Sheffield arena covering big concerts, such as Little Mix and that sort of thing,” he said.
“Everyone who works for us at Shrewsbury Town has experience of major events,” he said, “to the level of taking care of hundreds of thousands of people coming through the gates at Silverstone.”
His passion, he repeated, was the care of people and that was certainly the case as far as those in the team at Shrewsbury Town were concerned.
Ross said as the team leader it was his job to arrange rotas, direct members to their positions in the ground, and check that all the equipment, including three defibrillators, were in working order.
And he concluded, “My main priority is to see that the guys have their cakes or biscuits and coffee at half-time. Then they are a happy bunch!
“They love their toys and we have all the latest equipment. The club has been great by purchasing all our kit at the top of the range.”