From the Shrewsbury player who missed an A-Level exam to go on a lads holiday to the footballer who feared he may never see again, these are just some of the stories you’ll hear on a brand new BBC Sounds podcast, dedicated to all things Salop.
BBC Radio Shropshire has teamed up with Shrewsbury Town Football Club to create ‘The Coracle.’
The title is a nod of respect to Fred Davies, the man who would launch his coracle into the River Severn to retrieve stray footballs kicked over the stands at the old Gay Meadow.
It’s hosted by yours truly (Nick Southall) and includes the car-school of captain Luke Leahy, Marko Marosi, Jordan Shipley and Tom Bayliss.
We meet at Cooper’s Café, a local café in Harlescott in Shrewsbury, and the challenge is simple – the players are handed a brown envelope that contains a secret topic.
The players have no idea what they’re about to discuss and the results are both entertaining and enlightening.
Chatting over a cup of coffee, or in Tom Bayliss’ case a hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows, the players believe it’s a great way for fans to find out what they’re really like away from the football pitch. My tea buddy is Marko Marosi - we both opt for a good old builder’s tea.
And it’s no holds barred!
‘The Coracle’ brings you the inside story of what happened to Marko when he was subjected to vile racist abuse during a Town game at Charlton.
“It was a couple of blokes and there was some outrageous stuff that was said towards me. I was kind of ignoring it at first, you just get on with it, you get used to it as a keeper, it just comes with the job. But some of the stuff that was said - I reported it to the referee and there was an investigation. Police were interviewing me as to what was said and provided all the details. They’re literally sat around with kids and I was like there’s no way they can carry on like that,” Marosi said.
Liverpool fan Luke Leahy reflects on the magical FA Cup game against his boyhood club at Anfield. ‘The referees usually ring a bell and we were out in the tunnel way before that! We’re just waiting and Van Dijk comes out, Konate, and you’re just like here we go, it’s starting to feel real.
‘We usually do a huddle before a game and I remember saying to Benno (Elliott Bennett) and said I’m not going to be in the huddle, I’m going to stand next to the centre circle and listen to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ It’s a moment I might not get again so I just thought I’d take the opportunity to experience it.’
Jordan Shipley describes his obsession with Crocs. “I had a pair for my birthday. I wear them every day.”
Pressed on his Crocs obsession, Shipley stressed, “All the other boys have got them, they just haven’t worn them today, it’s not just me!”
Tom Bayliss reveals his teammate’s mystery sleep-talking. “I didn’t know his partner was expecting their third child. He was randomly spouting out names in his sleep and I woke up and I thought he was talking to me. I was going ‘Ships what’s going on?!’ Then we woke up and he told me about the pregnancy and that’s when it clicked about the names.”
As well as the banter, there are stories that literally make you stop in your tracks.
The one that stands out for me was the horrific facial injury suffered by goalkeeper Marko Marosi when he was at Coventry. He was playing against Cardiff City when a challenge by Cardiff centre-back Sean Morrison left him with a fractured cheekbone. The injury was bad enough. It’s left him with a metal plate in his cheek and permanent nerve damage. In many ways, he was very lucky not to have lost his sight. But the biggest challenge he faced was when he started playing again.
Being the team man he is, he probably came back too quickly as the Sky Blues desperately needed him back between the sticks. But Marko reflects on the moment during his comeback when he stood frozen on the spot. Whether it was nerves or anxiety or both, he just didn’t feel like he could move to catch the ball from crosses. Luckily that anxiety soon passed, but it just goes to show the psychological impact injuries can have on footballers and how a certain amount of luck is needed to make a career of it.
It's this level of insight that makes ‘The Coracle,’ stand out from other podcasts. And that’s just episode one!
There are no cliches, no media-trained responses, it’s literally no holds barred.
It’s a privilege and a pleasure spending time with Luke, Marko, Jordan and Tom and we hope it’s the start of a successful podcast that will run and run and run. We have some exciting plans in the months ahead!
We’d love you to get involved. If you have a topic you want us to discuss in the brown envelope challenge then email us at email@example.com and you never know we could be choosing your secret subject!
‘The Coracle,’ is now live on BBC Sounds.
New episodes drop weekly on a Tuesday on BBC Sounds, so make sure you subscribe and turn on notifications.
We hope you enjoy listening to it, just as much as we enjoy making it!