Ryan Jervis OBE, public address announcer at Montgomery Waters Meadow, is remembering the first time his voice addressed a Shrewsbury Town home fixture. He had been teaching just shy of 10 years and following Town for around the same period of time.
“It was Autumn ‘78. I was on yard duty at a school in Oswestry, I remember it being a Monday. There was a colleague I didn’t know particularly well, a chap called Mark Walton,” Jervis says.
“I saw him coming over to me, almost certainly on morning break, he said ‘you go to Shrewsbury Town matches don’t you? Are you going next Saturday?’
“I was. Chris Chambers was the assistant commercial manager and his boss told him he couldn’t do the PA anymore because he’s busy selling programmes and counting money. Mark said he’d been asked to do the PA and asked me to help.
“I said ‘OK, all right I will’. I remember on the Saturday going up to this tiny little place, no bigger than a phone box, there was a great pile of single records and a turntable and a microphone on some cable.
“We stood there and he said do I want to do the music or talking? He decided he’d do the music and I’d talk. So we did that.
“People ask if I get nervous, I do, even now after God knows how many years. It’s not a job. I’ve never got paid for it. I used to get a bottle of whisky every year but that stopped.
“People would say in the close season ‘are you back in August?’ and I didn’t know. I was never asked to do it, I’ve just turned up and done the job.
“I will continue doing it, I think, until I either drop dead or the chairman comes down and says ‘I think that’s enough Ryan’.
“How can you not enjoy it? Of course I do.
“Mark Walton went to teach abroad, another colleague, Frank O’Brian, came to help me and has been for 20-plus years.
“If somebody was to come along and showed a real, genuine interest, that would make me think perhaps it’s time to hand over the baton.
“There is a selfish streak about me, because it does give me some purpose!”
Unbeknown to Jervis at the time, his first season reeling off line-ups and announcing goalscorers at Gay Meadow would become arguably the greatest in Shrewsbury’s history as they were crowned champions of the old Third Division.
He added: “I always said that season was down to the PA box! It was a fantastic season. It was a massive moment. Imagine if we’d gone up in 2018 at Wembley. I remember somebody saying six or seven years into (being in) the Second Division that we’re the team that had been there the longest.
“We took it as a matter of course. What should have been fabulously exciting, you adapt to and get used to and take for granted a little bit.
“During the close season they had to virtually rebuild the Station End to comply with regulations, the terraces were closed off by this high wiring, it looked like a lion’s compound. They put high fencing along the pathway to the rail station, so when the likes of Middlesbrough came down they’d be funnelled down into the ground.
“We had fantastic gates, the ground was totally unsuitable. I remember win after win after win against Birmingham and the likes of beating Man City away, it’s difficult to imagine now.
“This was the calibre of team we were playing. You get used to it and after 10 years it ended and we’ve never really looked like getting back to that level.”
Graham Turner and his heroes led the way as Town climbed to their highest ever league status before holding their own through much of the 1980s.
But Jervis, 70, behind the mic introducing players for 42 years now – among the longest in the Football League – recalls a key, if forgotten, figure behind Shrewsbury’s ascent.
“Alan Durban is probably one of my all-time favourites,” he explains.
“You don’t hear much about Alan Durban, player-manager, but I think he created the foundations for Richie Barker and then Graham Turner to develop that fantastic team that took us to the what is now the Championship.
“Graham Turner obviously played a massive part, Richie Barker prior to him, but it was fundamentally Durban.
“He was a disciplinarian, he’d been a fantastic captain at Derby, I think he’d come under the influence of a certain Mr Clough. He insisted all players lived locally. There was a real genuine discipline.
“That was the basis of that team that won the league in 1979. I think Durban’s very much been underrated.”
Jervis has numerous tales banked away thanks to the years of association with his hometown club – he was born a stone’s throw from Gay Meadow at the Royal Salop Infirmary – and one of former player-boss Durban stands out.
He adds: “I was playing golf at Oswestry on a Sunday morning, where you chose random partners to play 15 holes.
“I drew Alan Durban. This was supposed to be a fun round of golf, I had never been so frightened as I was on that round of golf.
“It’s the difference between those who like to have a game of football and those who want to win at all costs.
“That was Alan Durban and the case that morning. There was no enjoying it, having a nice time and a conversation, we had to win at all costs.”
Retired head teacher Jervis has welcomed thousands upon thousands of players to Shrewsbury Town – a task made tougher through the sands of time.
When he first picked up the mic, Jervis’s role was to read out 12 members of the matchday squad permitted, along with the odd goal announcement – if vision allowed.
Now there is much more for the voice of Montgomery Waters the Meadow at a home League One fixture. Jervis can be seen hurrying around the pitch at half-time, entertaining onlookers, or cheering on as youngsters attempt to kick a ball through a hole and into the net to win their parents a car experience for the day – such is the development of the club’s community and corporate departments.
“The names used to be much easier to read out than they are now!” He says.
“Steve Ogrizovic was the first challenge. But ever since we’ve had some humdingers.
“The PA has changed completely. There was a time the electronics wouldn’t allow me to go down to the pitch, so many things have changed. It used to be very mechanical, read out the teams, perhaps announce the goalscorer if we could ever discover who it was. There are so many more things now.”
More in tomorrow’s Shropshire Star.