Ahead of Saturday’s home fixture at the Stadium of Light, @MattyCrichton spoke to Shrewsbury fan Glyn Price from @B_and_A_Fanzine and @Salopcast , who answered our questions on our upcoming League One opponents.
After a brilliant campaign last year in which saw you finish third in League One, losing the playoff final lead to you losing your manager and several of your best players – with the team currently sitting in 18th are you disappointed with how this year has panned out so far?
Last year was so unexpected to be honest, to be at the top all last season with our budget and size of club was just magic. The season of a generation only spoiled by two sad endings at Wembley. The summer was a nightmare, first losing a well-loved manager in Hurst under not ideal circumstances, then having players fans liked not wanting to stay another year or getting poached near the end of the window. Askey came in but never really impressed and left sharpish which was likely the right call. So disappointed yes, but the aim would be to stay another year in league 1 and that’s more than achievable if Ricketts get “his” team together in the new year.
Are there any specific Shrewsbury players who you think will cause Sunderland problems on Saturday?
Fejiri “Fey” Okenabirhie is one to watch with his pacey direct style and clinical ability in front of goal. In recent weeks he scored in 5 back to back league games and almost broke the club record with a 6th but could not quite do it. His introduction to the team and form has been a big part of our recovery after the dark Askey days. Likely to go onto better than us if he keeps progressing like he has. I would also add in Greg Docherty on loan from Rangers. A dynamic midfielder with drive to get forward, take players on but also strong as an Ox. Praying he does not get recalled in Jan!
Sam Ricketts has now been in charge nearly one month, was he a surprise appointment given the fact he had only been at Wrexham since May?
It’s a weird one from the outside but from inside out club there was some thought behind it. As a club we like to take up and coming mangers from the non-league and give them a chance to progress. Hurst it went like a dream, Askey not so much. Ricketts, we wait to see. Add this to the fact that he had connections with the existing back room staff (Danny Coyne played with him at Wales, and Eric Ramsey is a Welsh FS Coach he did his badges with) so that made a lot off sense. The last one is club legend Dave Edwards (now at Reading) is Ricketts big mate and went in to recommend him to the chairman! Word is Edwards will join as a player/coach in Jan if the payoff with Reading can be sorted. That would be amazing!
Has Ricketts made any significant changes that have improved how Shrewsbury play?
Not yet, we had a good run under the caretakers with a 442 Diamond midfield and he’s not gone away from him. A touch more long ball maybe but it is still too early to tell what kind of stamp he’s going to put on the team. The January window is big for him.
In Fejiri Okenabirhie you appeared to have a hidden gem from the non-league system, how good has he been this season, and do you think you will be able to hold onto him?
He is great. Askey didn’t play him at the start of the season for a long time, which looks foolish now looking back as we were crying out for someone who knows where the back of the net is. Like managers we also try to bring through non-league stars and give them a chance and he has taken it with both hands since getting in the team. Could get 20 goals in all competitions for us this season which is rare as hen’s teeth! If he does I expect bids in the summer and expect them to be accepted!
Sunderland were heavily linked with Greg Docherty in the summer who ended up signing for yourselves on loan from Rangers, how has he fared this season?
Brilliantly, scored some important goals, dominated games at times and with Antony Grant and Fey has been one of the stand out players in the first half of the season. Your loss was our gain, the only question is for how long. With Rangers needing some midfield drive he might have a chance of going back in January and getting some time for them.
You reached the final of the EFL Trophy last year losing 1-0 to Lincoln, do you feel your progression in that tournament was beneficial to your successful league campaign?
No. It likely along with the moves to get Hirst to Ipswich before anything was formally agreed unsettled us just a bit, particularly with fitness as the season wound on to 60+ games we just didn’t have the legs to get over the line. With B teams in it, it’s a farce anyway. We regularly see low crowds for the opening games, well below what they were before the change as many fans boycott. It’s a reserve game for us and who ever we play normally.
Sunderland broke the League One attendance record on Boxing Day with 46,000 fans turning up at the Stadium of Light, is this away fixture one you have been looking forward to?
Yes, as it’s a ground that many have never been to for us, but no because its bloody miles away! Should be a good trip and by the sounds of it another bumper attendance, could be the most fans we have EVER played in front of in the league in the history of the club so that’s something. But it is going to be a massive challenge and one we might not get up for as a team which is a worry.
Club allegiances aside, what do you think the score will be at full-time?
We have taken 6 points on the road all season and are the WORST away team in the division, to predict anything under than a Sunderland win would be foolish. Suspect Ricketts might go ultra-defensive to avoid a cricket score and you sneak it just the 2 or 3 nil! Not confident. If we won, it would be one of the best results we have had for a long time as it would be so unexpected!