The Grenadian national team and Shrewsbury Town’s partnership is a romantic fairytale, at least according to the man at the helm, Cheney Joseph.
Joseph, a former Grenada footballer, is now president of the island’s Football Association and has used his online presence to grow a big following of Shrewsbury fans.
When Grenada international defender Aaron Pierre joined from Northampton in the summer, few Town fans would have predicted as many as three would be called up by the Spice Boys for crucial November internationals.
But the sight of the red, green and gold flag of Grenada proudly hung in the safe standing section at Montgomery Waters Meadow is a sign that this fairytale is coming true – with Ollie Norburn the latest to join Pierre and Omar Beckles on the Spice Boys’ adventure.
Joseph, who won 71 caps, told the Shropshire Star how the presence of the Shrewsbury defenders, who have helped his nation on to a six-match unbeaten run in qualifying for the prestigious Gold Cup, is inspiring a nation.
“This is the truth. As much as Aaron and Omar are impact players on our team, I doubt no more than a dozen persons in Grenada knew about Shrewsbury Town since they were formed in 1886,” Joseph said. “Now all of a sudden you may recognise because of these two players the club will have some followers previously not aware.
“What Aaron and Omar and others are doing now is creating the appetite for our youth players, under-13 up, to fire.
“I have fallen in love with Shrewsbury. I’m serious. I believe they can become a dream story, a Cinderella story.
“As much as they’re not right now in the top three in the division, I have the feeling that the inspiration provided by the fans and the motivation by players now that they are capped is something that will inspire the rest of the team.”
Speaking before Shrewsbury captain Norburn’s call-up was confirmed over the weekend, Joseph continued: “I saw someone jokingly said (online) ‘Who else from Shrewsbury is Grenadian?’
“We have someone from Germany doing all our investigations. Ollie Norburn is definitely eligible by his grandparents and I met Ro-Shaun Williams in Dubai when I was match commissioner five years ago.
“It was an England under-17 team and I jokingly asked ‘Is there anyone of Caribbean connection?’ Six raised their hands, I asked ‘Any from Grenada?’ and Ro-Shaun raised his hand.
“I remember us taking the photo. I didn’t think he would ever end up at this club, at the time he was parading with Man U.
“I’ve been trying to lure him since and I’m hopeful he might one day see it’s a greater possibility to be a star for us. But I understand his desire to play at the higher level.
“I want to tell both of them that the president sends his personal regards and wishes them a healthy season for Shrewsbury to reach a higher level.
“And we look forward to seeing them in red, green and gold.”
Joseph revealed that Grenada’s prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell has been keeping up with developments between Shrewsbury and their internationals through Shropshire Star reports.
He also extended an invitation for Shrewsbury to become official partners with the Spice Isle’s Football Association and said he hopes the UK-based Grenadian councillor general Lakisha Grant can attend a Town fixture at the Meadow.
Pierre, who captains Grenada, was already capped before joining Town and is close to president Joseph. He now has nine caps, defensive team-mate Beckles has three while Bolton-born Norburn can make his debut in St Kitts & Nevis on Thursday – where a win would seal Gold Cup 2021 qualification.
The FA president revealed how the duo’s input has helped create the best Grenada team in their history, better than the sides that achieved qualification in 2009 and 2011. The likes of former West Brom pair Jason Roberts and Delroy Facey have represented the island.
Grenada, under head coach Shalrie Joseph, are ranked 160th in the world but recent results have caused in a huge hike in the rankings.
Other UK-based players in the squad play for Oxford, Dagenham & Redbridge, Hemel Hempstead, Dover and Coalville.
Joseph added on Pierre: “What I think he needs to be is more forceful with his leadership qualities.
“I think he’s a major influence without even knowing it.
“I’m telling you this, I had a conversation with Omar about four years ago and he pretty much snubbed me back then! He wasn’t interested.
“But he came here for his wedding in the summer and had the privilege in going where his father came from and apparently there was an emotional connection because his father was from a rural area.
“It’s in the middle of the country, a place called Birch Grove, an agricultural area, there’s nothing happening there.
“It’s the coolest part of Grenada because it’s close to the highest peak on the island. There is absolutely no playing field.
“For him to touch base with those people and now represent the country, he now regrets the fact it took him four years and his dad wasn’t alive.
“When he reached out a second time I was more than happy to say ‘Hey – come on’ and he’s feeling the connection.”
It certainly feels like something special is growing between Shrewsbury and this small island with a population some way smaller than the town of Telford.
Joseph, who has visited England a dozen times, added: “I feel the warmness of your fans. I can only tell you without going on an official visit I feel a connection.
“These things don’t happen often.”