Flashback to October 2001

This wasn't how it was meant to be.

Andy Shaw at the New Bucks Head.
Andy Shaw at the New Bucks Head.

A brand spanking new stadium. Ambitions to join the Football League. The eve of what was hoped would prove a vital and lucrative run in the FA Cup.

And then, on October 25, 2001, Telford United players found themselves put up for sale. All of them.

Just 18 months after many had given up jobs to go full time as club chairman Andy Shaw pursued the dream of taking the Bucks from the Conference into the Football League, the club was reverting to being run on a part-time basis in the next season as a cash crisis deepened.

The mass sale of the players was one of the most sensational developments in the proud history of the club. And they did not know it on that day 20 years ago, but it foreshadowed worse to come.

The move came just days before Telford United, under boss Jake King, were to play a crunch fourth round qualifying tie in the FA Cup with Northwich.

“The players are devastated – I’ve never seen a reaction like it,” lamented the Scot.

“We’ve got to carry on as normal and make the best of it.”

And our Star Sport man Sam Turner wrote: "The news is sure to throw into doubt the future of the Bucks as a full-time club just 18 months after Telford joined the Conference’s full-time ranks.

"Uncertainty also surrounds the careers of the nine Telford players out of contract in the summer with none of whom – including sought-after skipper Neil Moore – likely to be offered a new contract.

"The astonishing revelations will send shockwaves throughout non-league football."

Former Burnley centre half Moore said it had come as a massive shock.

He said: "It's the chairman's money and he can do with it what he wants, but a lot of players were lured to Telford by the promise of a 'five year plan' so it's obviously disappointing when that's been blown out of the water."

Weeks previously outspoken Telford owner Shaw was promising to go "hammer and tongs" for Third Division football if a move to introduce two promotion places from the Conference had been given the green light.

But the Football Association’s refusal to sanction the plans led to a major rethink from the businessman who had made no secret that Telford United were on target to lose £750,000 in 2001.

Shaw had assumed control of the club three years previously and immediately outlined a five-year plan designed to achieve the dream of bringing League football to the Bucks Head.

Andy Shaw at the New Bucks Head.

But despite finishing sixth in the Conference in the 2000-2001 season, their best placing in a decade, the vision of Third Division football was as distant as ever.

Successive years of financial loss had seen Shaw bail out the crisis-hit club to the tune of over £1.5 million.

Owner of Hednesford-based Miras Contracts, he had taken over Telford from previous chairman Tony Esp and had immediately predicted that the Bucks would become the biggest club in Shropshire.

The self-made millionaire businessman had set about transforming the old Bucks Head into a new £12 million state-of-the-art stadium, complete with hotel, leisure facilities, and gymnasium.

Shaw had given months of warnings and ultimatums to Telford’s stay-away fans.

The 36-year-old first spoke of a refusal to cover all of Telford’s losses in March 2001 when he pleaded with the Bucks' faithful to fill the new stadium.

In a statement released after his shock move, Andy Shaw said the overheads continued to far exceed income.

"The club's aspirations still remain to become a league club, with a full time, professional squad, but the immediate reality is that the club will not survive another season on the current basis," it added.

Ironically the move to put the entire squad up for sale came a month into the launch by the supporters' association of a "buy a player fund" which already had £4,000 in the kitty.

Telford drew 1-1 in the FA Cup encounter with Northwich, and lost the away replay 2-1.

Andy Shaw, in sunglasses, watches from the directors' box as defender Ashley Wooliscroft prepares to take a thrown-in in the October 2001 FA Cup encounter against Northwich.

As for the sale, a number of players attracted interest, including from Chester City whose bids for Jim Bentley and Gary Fitzpatrick were rejected – how many players were actually sold, we don't know (if you know, do feel free to get in touch).

Telford were actually able to carry on until 2004 when the financial troubles caught up with them and they went bust, and a new club, AFC Telford, was created from the ashes by the supporters.

It never rains... Steve Palmer sums up the mood after defeat in the FA Cup replay, October 30, 2001.
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