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Predictions 2008-9 - 1st Shrewsbury Town
Predictions 2008-9 - 1st Shrewsbury Town
Wednesday, 6th Aug 2008 11:49

And here we are then. Our predictions for 2008-9 finish off with our tip for the Champions - Shrewsbury Town.

Shrewsbury Town
last season at a glance

Last season for Shrewsbury was the sort of season that we'll be hoping to avoid during this forthcoming season, as they went into it as losing Play Off finalists from the season before. It all started so well for them, and they were riding high in their lovely new soulless stadium (can we please go back to GM?), and then they played Dale, started celebrating a last minute 3-3 draw, and then along came Alfie. And that last minute goal pretty much killed off their season.

They had a brief decent spell at Xmas, but after that point it went as downhill as it's possible to get, with just two wins in the whole of 2008.

The gaffer - Paul Simpson

It's very difficult to judge what sort of a manager that Paul Simpson is. We know from his time at Spotland that he failed to get the best out of the squad that he had to work with, but the job he did with Carlisle was remarkable and can only ever be applauded. You can point to the fact that he had a massive budget to work with comparatively but there's been many managers at this level who have been handed the Queen Jewels and still done nothing with it.

His time at PNE was mixed, ultimately leading to his sacking. But in all fairness to Simpson, North End had over achieved for a good few years and when you lose the services of a England international stiker, it's one hell of a hole to fill, especially when you're given bugger all of the money to play with.

Which brings us on to Shrewsbury. If we're being cynical, Simmo has shown himself to very astute in heading to Shrewsbury. He arrived a club, knowing full well that he'll be gifted the sort of budget that he was handed at Carlisle, which would allow him to rebuild his reputation in the game after the damage it took at Preston. A bit like if you were to go on Championship Manager now, you'd take over at Leeds United because you'd know you'd have plenty of money to play with and promotion should therefore be very easy.

It's not started well for him so far after his arrivals sparked a drop in form which had already seen off Gary Peters. However, the Summer signings should sufficiently ensure that all of last season's doom and gloom are forgotten and that this August will be like a complete fresh start for him.

Reasons for a better season


I know it's very easy to sit here and write off a team as being a moneybags side, but let's be honest here. We wouldn't be here tipping Shrewsbury to be Champions if they'd have kept the same side as last season or operated on a budget like every other side in the division has done. They are this year's Peterborough, and we full expect them to enjoy the same level of success that Peterborough did last year.

The Shrews had a decent squad in the first place. Not a perfect one by any stretch of the imagination. But one which was good enough to reach Wembley in 2007, without any major departures from it since then.

And since coming in over the Summer, it's been fantasy football for Simmo as he's chucked money about left, right and centre. It's not so much about the transfer fees that have been given out, but more to do with the wages that are being offered about.

Holt from Forest, Jackson from Blackpool, Cansdell-Sherriff from Tranmere, Murray from Gretna, Coughlan from Rotherham, Walker from Bristol Rovers...... the list goes on and one. Everyone of those signings are established players, many of whom played regular football at a higher level last season, leaving existing contracts or the offer of one to come and play for Shrewsbury.

In bringing in those players, Simpson has pretty much signed a whole new spine of a side, two central defenders, two central midfielders, two new forwards. and a new keeper on loan from the Premiership too.

What will work to their advantage is that many of the players that Simpson has brought in are players who are known for their work ethic. Big money may well have been thrown about, but it's been thrown at players who will give value for money.

Reasons for a worse season

We'd be lying if we said this season was going to be a formality for Shrewsbury Town.

There are clearly issues within the Shrewsbury camp where all is not well. You don't go from a team that goes to Wembley one season to another which wins just two games in five months in short space of time (we hope!). It would have been very easy for the blame to be placed at the door of Gary Peters, and I'm sure it was by many, but since Simpson's appointment, he's hardly turned it round. In fact, he's still waiting for his honeymoon period. Shrewsbury were actually worse under Simpson than they were under Peters, as seen by the way they held on for a draw against our reserve team in May.

Will signing all these new players be enough to rid the club of its bad influences / dressing room discontent / whatever you want to call it? It might seem like it, but Simpson has not signed a complete new team, and the team will need to be filled with players from last season's squad. How will it go down with the current squad that so many new players have come through the door? Will there be a "them and us" mentality between the existing players and the new signings. Any discontent within last season's squad can only have been intensified by the number of them who have been pushed out by the new signings.

Season depends on - Ben Davies

I'm sure you'd have assumed that we'd have gone for Grant Holt in this section here, but aside from it being too obvious, we kinda think we know what sort of season that Holty will have regardless of how Shrewsbury, and as such, we don't see the Shrewsbury season depending on it.

So we've opted for Ben Davies. Davies is a terrifically talented footballer, and undoubtedly one of the best in the division. On his day, he can be unplayable and if he can set up any type of partnership with some of the similarly talented players around him, then the Shrews will without a doubt be challenging for the title.

But I'd have to say that there are question marks hanging over Davies. No doubting his talents, but he only seems to have performed throughout his career in bad sides. Chester never did much at this level when he was there, and the Shrews have underperformed since he arrived. Looking back at last season, you could argue that their early season form when he was out through injury was far more impressive than how they performed when he returned. Clearly that slump wasn't purely down to Davies (I remember some Shrews fans blaming us for their demise), but you'd have expected the return of a better player to make the team better.

I've not seen enough of Davies to slate him as not being a team player, and the concerns raised above may be purely coincidental. I've seen enough of him to know how talented that he is and what a joy he can be to watch at times. Giving him the captaincy, despite all the strong characters through the door could be an absolute masterstroke by Simpson. If Simpson can get this Davies performing to his best, for the good of the team, then the Shrews will be unstoppable. Prediction

1st - Champions

Reasons for our prediction
This is not a prediction we are 100% confident about. There are issues at the New Meadow or Porn Star stadium or whatever its called these days, and the first month of the season is potentially the most important month in the recent history of the club. This is certainly a season which could go wrong for the Shrews.

If they can get off to a decent start, then they should be alright. If not, and it could just take a couple of bad results early on, then the question marks will be out in force from both the supporters and the players.

There's no doubting that traditionally Shrewsbury are not a set of supporters who get on the back of their players and manager easily, but on the back of last season's disappointment, they will be well aware that they have probably never had a season before in their history where they have had such a significantly bigger budget than all of their rivals. If there appears to be no improvements from last season, the fans will want to know why.

They won't be the only ones. I'm sure overall that the new signings have given the club a massive lift, and any disappointments from last season have been put to one side by the feeling that the Shrews can really do something this season. But if they don't get off to a decent start, that whispering will start and last year's under achievers will begin to think "here we go again". Turning a "lost dressing room" around is one of the toughest jobs to do, and whilst it wasn't Simpson who lost them in the first place, it certainly didn't appear like he had them onside last year.

But looking overall, they have a fantastic opportunity to leave this division and for every reason to think it could go wrong, there's another 5/6 to suggest that it'll work out perfectly.

They've got a striker in Grant Holt who is the perfect striker for this division. You take the rough with the smooth, and you put up with the yellow cards because he brings to you a striker who can bully opposition defences for ninety minutes, and come up with those moments of magic which are the difference between winning and drawing.

Whilst we all have our favourite Holty memories, but one which typifies him was an away game at Grimsby where he was played as alone front man and was given no change at all out of Justin Whittle all afternoon. And with ten minutes to go, a long ball from our keeper saw Holt shrug off Whittle for his first shot all afternoon. A 1-0 victory. That's what Holt will give Shrewsbury. That victory out of nothing.

It was no surprise to Dale supporters to see the odds for Shrewsbury to win the title drop to the extent that most bookies now make them favourites, with many Dale supporters taking advantage of odds of 16-1 and higher, and Simmo did go on about making money for Dale. Perhaps its the fans' turn this time to be the beneficiaries.

Photo: Action Images

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