Graham Turner: Shrewsbury Town's Past, Present And Future

With Shrewsbury Town promoted after 15 years in the basement division, I pay tribute to Graham Turner, the man who's come to save us again.
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With Shrewsbury Town promoted after 15 years in the basement division, I pay tribute to Graham Turner, the man who's come to save us again.

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Graham Turner: Shrewsbury Town's Past, Present And Future

“Turner! Give us a wave. Turner, Turner, Give us a wave”.

The Shrewsbury fans packed around the Riverside buffet are exhorting the veteran manager on the far touchline to acknowledge them. He raises his hand in a warm, if fleeting gesture, and they roar their approval.

It’s a familiar terrace routine you could probably see played out at any number of grounds on any given weekend.

What’s strange about this, though, is that Graham Turner isn’t Shrewsbury’s manager – hasn’t been for over 20 years. He’s at Gay Meadow with Hereford United, Shrewsbury’s local(ish) rivals, where he is both manager and chairman.

If anything sums up Turner’s relationship with Shrewsbury Town Football Club, it’s this scene from a vital Conference game during the 2003/04 season, where both clubs were desperately vying for promotion back to the Football League.

We’ve never stopped thinking of Turner as one of our own.

He may have left us for Villa and enjoyed success with Wolves (whose fans hold him with a similar degree of reverence and affection as ourselves), but we’ve never stopped thinking of Turner as one of our own.

That touchline wave one November afternoon in 2003 strongly suggested the feeling has always been mutual. No doubt to the chagrin of many a Bulls fan.

His legendary status at Salop is rooted in the Division Three Championship he led us to 33 years ago - and what would turn out to be a decade long stay in the second tier of English football.

This week Turner again basks in the glory of promotion with the club with whom he cut his managerial teeth, having returned to the helm last season after 26 years away.

Promotion will bring an end to an arduous and at times troubled stint in the basement division, which has also included a one season dip in the ignominious waters of the Conference.

Since our return to the League, we’ve also moved to a new ground. But the transition from the ramshackle charm of Gay Meadow to the corporate out-of-town environs of our new stadium (currently named ‘Greenhouse Meadow’) wasn’t always a happy one.

Gary Peters and then Paul Simpson both failed to capitalise on the advantages the new ground was meant to provide, while many fans felt alienated by the club’s new corporate, ‘revenue stream’ fixated mentality.

Some said it felt like supporting an entirely different club, while others went as far as to stop going altogether (although, in fairness, the healthy attendances sustained since the move suggest the new fans attracted by the more modern ‘facility’ –shudder - outnumber those who found it too much of a wrench).

The replacing of our traditional ‘loggerheads’ club badge with a piece of clipart with no relevance to either our club or town seemed to epitomise the club’s negligent attitude to our history and identity in the wake of the move from Gay Meadow.

It’s ironic , then, that with fans growing frustrated with the lack of on-the-pitch progress, chairman Roland Wycherley should turn to one of the most celebrated managers of our past in order to hasten the birth of a promised ‘new era’ that was stubbornly refusing to arrive.

We’ve finally got a team the whole town can get excited about

In honour of Turner’s return as manager a group of fans invested in a banner featuring the image of him triumphantly chomping a cigar in Churchillian fashion bearing the slogan ‘Spirit of 79’.

Jermaine Grandison’s crashing home the winner against Southend, Matty Richards unleashing a last minute equaliser from seemingly impossible range and Marvin Morgan coming off the bench to score the winner against the loathed Steve Evans’ Crawley side, will surely all live as long in the collective Salopian memory as the heroics of King, Maguire, Atkins et al back in ’79.

We’ve finally got a team the whole town can get excited about.

Not how many people are coming to the ground for their Sunday lunch or whether a new sponsor has been found for the West Stand, or who the Commercial Manager is this week.

It’s begun to feel like our club again.

Perhaps it was always going to need a manager inextricably linked with our past to bring us into the future.

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A Guide To Promotion With Charlton’s Chris Powell & Reading’s Brian McDermott

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