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Monday, June 21, 2010

Shrewsbury's Re-Turner

With Graham Turner's re-appointment as Shrewsbury Town boss, Nobes looks at whether he can bring about the same success in his second spell.

Graham Turner previously managed Shrewsbury from 1978 to 1984

He's been around long enough to have heard the phrase. "Never go back in football," they say. Now back as boss at Shrewsbury though, Graham Turner obviously doesn't agree.

After a quarter of a century away, the 62-year-old has returned to where he began his managerial career in the '70s. Spells at Wolves and Aston Villa followed before a 14-year tenure at Hereford United - a club where he was both manager and owner.

Now things have come full circle. It's an appointment that conjures up a distinct feeling of old meets new in this corner of rural Shropshire. New ground, but the same club and the same ambition.
This forward thinking club are hoping to go back in time.

Turner took Salop into the second tier of English football in 1979 as the old Third Division Champions. Despite his departure to Villa in 1984, Town remained punching above their weight with the big boys for a decade.

However, they were eventually relegated in 1989 - and haven't been back since. Indeed, three years later, they had been demoted down to the basement division.

Since then, only three years have been spent higher than League Two level, and the club even endured one year in the Conference following relegation from the Football League in 2003.

For fans brought up in the '80s on league victories over the likes of Chelsea, Blackburn, and Middlesbrough - as well as reaching the last eight of the FA Cup in 1982 - the recent years have been dark days indeed.

Painful ones too. Twice in the past four seasons, Shrewsbury have ended up losing in the play-off final. First, under Gary Peters, they were defeated by Bristol Rovers in 2007.

Then, two years later, Paul Simpson's Town team suffered last minute heartbreak against Gillingham at Wembley. A disappointing campaign last term, coupled with public outbursts against players and supporters, saw Simpson dismissed.

Now they have put their faith in the man who, despite his long connection with local rivals Hereford, is still considered a legend by Salop supporters.

After the turmoil of the latter stages of Simpson's reign, it is an appointment guaranteed to please even the most disillusioned supporters. More importantly, it is a move Shrewsbury hope will help recapture former glories.

This is a club who believe that promotion to the third tier can be the springboard to launching them back towards the heady heights of the '80s.

Shrewsbury's New Meadow is worthy of a higher stage than League Two

Can Turner repeat the same trick second time around though?

Certainly off the pitch, Town are arguably better prepared than they were 30 years ago. Their 10,000 New Meadow ground gives them the kind of facility which can generate revenue outside of match days.

Turner has also already pointed to the example of clubs like Scunthorpe - who secured a second consecutive season in the Championship next term after winning their relegation battle.

The question is - if Scunthorpe can do it, why can't they? It's difficult to argue that if the Lincolnshire club can compete with the likes of Leeds, Nottingham Forest, and Sheffield United next season, then Shrewsbury can't do, too, sometime in the future.

There should be no fears either that Turner, at 62, is past his best, or his methods outdated. A strict believer in playing the game the right way, Turner's principles have proved successful in the lower leagues.

After consistently finishing in the top echelons of the Conference, he eventually took Hereford back into the Football League in 2006. Just two years later, they were back in League One.

Although their spell in the third tier lasted just one season, it was a promotion against all the odds for a club who punched above their weight. It was also achieved with the use of young loan players from clubs higher up the pyramid.

Turner was well aware the Bulls couldn't compete financially with other clubs in the division, so used the loan market to his advantage. It was a ploy that paid off - much to the annoyance of other managers, particularly then Shrewsbury boss Gary Peters.

It also showed a man who has not lost his an eye for young talent. During his first spell at Shrewsbury, Turner brought in the likes of midfielder Bernard McNally - who played for Northern Ireland at the 1986 World Cup and later transferred to West Brom.

He also spotted the talent of goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic, who was later sold to Coventry City and went on to become a key member of the Sky Blues team in the top flight of English football.

He will not be forced to work within the tight financial constrictions he was used to at Hereford in his new job though. Shrewsbury have a more than competitive budget for the basement division.

Now they hope they've the manager to use it wisely and end their exile in League Two. After all, they also say history repeats itself.

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