Record Last Season + Quick Summary:
League One - 18th; W 13 / D 12 / L 21 / F 46 / A 63 / Pts 51
Previous manager Micky Mellon promised an improved squad for the 2016/2017 campaign but it was clear early on that some of his signings weren’t of the sufficient standard to maintain their lowly predicted position in the third tier, let alone improve it. Two wins in the first 16 games had the Shrews in a desperate situation and in the midst of this woeful run of form, Mellon jumped ship to Conference National side Tranmere Rovers. That was also the division from which they appointed Paul Hurst, plucking him from Grimsby Town in late October. Results didn’t immediately take a turn for the better but once the January transfer window opened and with a huge turnover of personnel, the new-look squad were able to snatch some excellent results quite quickly, particularly against Bradford City and Scunthorpe United.
The purple patch continued until mid-March, where four successive defeats threatened to end the great escape Hurst and his charges had hatched under his management. However, by gaining eight points from the last five encounters meant they had done just enough to survive before the final day (barring a very unlikely combination of scorelines elsewhere).
Off the pitch in the close season, the club launched a crowdfunding campaign to install safe standing areas at the New Meadow with the help of Tifosy, which if successful, will be the first of its kind in England and is well worth your support if you can.
Top Goalscorer: Louis Dodds (8 goals in 29 starts/2,570 minutes)
Top Creator: Shaun Whalley (6 assists in 23 starts/2,084 minutes)
Manager/Head Coach: Paul Hurst; an uncompromising person when it comes to the sport, he’ll well up for the scrap that League One is bound to be in 2017/2018. Possesses an excellent managerial record to date – his first three posts were shared with Rob Scott before he took over at Blundell Park in sole charge. Led Grimsby back into the EFL with a play-off final victory against Forest Green Rovers in 2016 and further enhanced his reputation with how he went about the mammoth task of keeping Salop in the third tier.
Ins: Niall Ennis (Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan), Arthur Gnahoua (Kidderminster Harriers), Craig MacGillivray (Walsall), Daniel James (Swansea City U23s on loan), Lenell John-Lewis (Newport County), Ebou Adams (Norwich City U23s on loan), Dean Henderson (Manchester United U23s on loan), Zak Jules (Reading U23s), James Bolton (Gateshead), Jon Nolan (Chesterfield) & Carlton Morris (Norwich City U23s on loan).
Outs: Mark Halstead (Southport), Adam El-Abd (Wycombe Wanderers), Olly Lancashire (Swindon Town), Gary Deegan (Cambridge United), Jim O’Brien (Ross County), Callum Burton (Hull City U23s on loan), Dominic Smith (Southport on loan), Jayson Leutwiler (Blackburn Rovers), Kaiman Anderson (free agent), Ethan Jones (free agent) & Callum Grogan (free agent).
Predicted First XI & Shape:
Tactics: An attempt to have equilibrium between defence and attack will be made by Hurst, which means either two up front with one dropping deeper or five in midfield with the emphasis on winning the ball back quickly to set up the wide men and stride forward once more. Much will depend on Junior Brown’s consistency in the attacking full-back role. When on form, he is a menacing threat to the other team and will have the run of the left-wing. On the right, new signing James Bolton will also rove up and down and his positioning will be key to maintaining some semblance of shape to the back four. Captain Mat Sadler will cover a portion of the space behind Brown when required. Aristote Nsiala is very aggressive in the tackle and will need to be careful that his efforts to win back the ball don’t go overboard and make his team concede free kicks in dangerous areas.
Bryn Morris will be fairly static in front of the defensive line, shielding them from overloads on the counter. Abu Ogogo will be just in front of him and help out almost as much when the opposition are attacking; his strength and aerial ability, coupled with his engine, will be a big weapon in the midfield battle. Jon Nolan could be handed a free role with much fewer responsibilities involving travelling back to his own goal. He’s very agile and has a strong left foot, so he can pop up either side of Carlton Morris and still be effective when trying to play him in.
Shaun Whalley’s rapid forays, along with Arthur Gnahoua performing a withdrawn role in the half-space on the left, will ensure a stream of support is available to the target man. Whalley’s dribbling will allow him to get to the byline and ping crosses in for the Norwich City loanee whilst Gnahoua will feed off him and gobble up the second ball scraps in that come his way from set pieces or in open play.
Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Circling the relegation drain. Hurst has certainly improved the atmosphere at the New Meadow but even with his skills, can he envisage a season free of struggle? Whilst Jayson Leutweiler’s recent move to Blackburn Rovers is not the damaging blow that some pundits might believe it is but there are still major concerns in defence and uncertainty in attack. the Shrews must get more goals than last term to have any hope of avoiding relegation and there are plenty of choices up top to do just that but only if the supply lies can be maintained. After two seasons surviving by small margins, this might just be third time unlucky.