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The players who’ve made Ryan Jervis' Shrewsbury Town life special

By Lewis Cox | Shrewsbury Town FC | Published:

In the second of a three-part series, Shrewsbury Town correspondent Lewis Cox talks to stadium announcer Ryan Jervis about his decades on the microphone at the Meadow

Shrewsbury Town's Nigel Jemson

A young Ryan Jervis had watched football at Molineux and The Racecourse Ground, having relocated as father Bob worked in the police force, but it was a towering No.9 who managed to foster his love for the sport.

The late Alf Wood, who died in April, captured Jervis' imagination and ultimately helped build his passion for the Blues, some seven or eight years before the schoolteacher would shift from the terrace to the PA box.

"I started teaching in 1970 in Shrewsbury at Meole Brace and then started coming to Shrewsbury Town, at the age of 21 I became a true blue," Jervis said.

Alf Wood, Shrewsbury Town player.

"I remember a chap called Mike Unsworth, a new maths teacher, was a big Wigan supporter. He said one day 'let's go and watch Shrewsbury', so I said 'alright'. I remember 20 minutes in – and he's reminded me ever since – saying 'which team are Shrewsbury?'"

"I never saw Arthur Rowley play, those who did will always say him as their favourite player.

"But I loved Alf Wood. He was just a prolific goalscorer.

"It was the sight of Alf Wood. I'd been to Wrexham and Wolves but was never into it as a fan.

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"Ricky Moir played, and (Gerry) Bridgwood and a chap called Alan Groves who sadly died as a very young man. Pete Dolby too, at the back.

"We had our legends meeting some years ago, I went with (club historian) Mike Jones to Birmingham, we thought we'd interview Alf because Mrs Wood didn't think he'd come to the presentation.

"We tried to get something on tape but here was this man, my idol and the reason I became such an ardent Shrewsbury Town supporter, very much physically fit but mentally absolutely destroyed.

"It does make you wonder with the heading of the ball, as he was a centre-half before converting to a centre-forward.

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"I've seen his whole story. They lived in this lovely house with a huge, huge garden, it was immaculate. Alf did the garden. He was out at dawn, and his wife said if she didn't drag him in for breakfast, lunch and tea he'd still be out there.

"Over the years there have been other terrific people. Perhaps not the greatest footballers, but it is about the attachment with the supporters.

"For Shrewsbury supporters, of course they love to see good players, but they love to see players who take an interest in the crowd and recognise them, have some sort of relationship.

"Tommy Lynch, Pete Wilding, Mat Sadler, Dave Edwards and Mickey Brown are among the many who offered that bit extra, happy to stop and talk and be generous with their time."

Jervis, PA announcer at Gay Meadow and the New Meadow spanning 42 years, has truly seen it all with Town.

He insists he has never 'worked' at the club, his tones welcoming travelling teams and supporters from all over spanning five decades.

Jervis, who lives just off Frankwell Island in the town centre with wife Jane, had a highly successful academic career and became headteacher at Lakelands in Ellesmere in 1995. He was presented with an OBE for services to education by the Queen in 2008.

He retired – for a second time – from teaching in 2010 but a passion for his hometown football club, of which he is chairman of the trustees and champion of the ever-impressive Community department, burns brightly as ever.

Asked for a standout football memory from the hundreds he has experienced, Jervis opts for the beginning of 2003, where top flight Everton were knocked out of the FA Cup.

In a contrasting period, Shrewsbury were relegated to the Conference a few months later but mercifully – just about – bounced back at the first attempt, not least thanks to Scott Howie's heroics.

"It was that bittersweet 2003 game where we beat Everton, the Jemson double," he adds.

"It was a fantastic achievement under Kevin Ratcliffe. And then I don't think we won a game after that.

"You've seen it so often, with the likes of Wrexham, when teams go down to the Conference and don't bounce back quickly. We did by the skin of our teeth at the Britannia. We didn't deserve to beat Aldershot, they were the better team for most of the game.

"But the writing was on the wall. I'm not sure we'd have got back so easily had it gone into a second and third season, we were extraordinarily fortunate.

"I think that game was a huge turning point for the club.

"The Everton game was a big game, big occasion and I loved it.

"And of course 1979, our final game against Exeter. And then the Mickey Brown game where we avoided relegation. I remember going (to Exeter) and the elation avoiding the drop.

"In my excitement at the start of the next season I referred to him as Sir Mickey Brown and it stuck. I do recall giving him the elevation in my voice, it was phenomenal what he did."

Jervis' longevity with Shrewsbury has also been phenomenal. For many match-going supporters he is the comforting voice of the Meadow, announcing that matchday had truly arrived.

He has been married to Jane for 46 years, just edging his service on the Shrewsbury mic. Has two children – son Mark helps out on the PA – daughter Clare who has 'no interest' in football, and four grandchildren, two of whom are promising little footballers.

They were due to visit Madeira to renew wedding vows next month, but plans have been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic – the global pandemic that has kept Jervis away from the football club for the longest period of time in 50 years.

"I've never been away from the ground for as long as this," he adds. "There was a point where I hoped we could finish the season."

There are many Salop followers for whom, without Jervis' voice accompanying the action, the matchday experience wouldn't be the same.

"Very rarely," is his response to a question about missing home matches. "Now that I'm retired Mrs Jervis likes to go away occasionally, so just to keep the peace I miss the odd game.

"Occasionally I go away, in the Conference I think I went to every game, occasionally I'll go away, maybe half-a-dozen times in a season.

"I went to Accrington last season (3-2 win), took the family and we stayed in a hotel where the players came for their afternoon tea.

"I like to take the grandkids when I go."

Jervis' passion for football in the community is evident.

He adds: "A football club used to be about winning or losing, now it's so much more. The community, for instance, is massive, as is the hospitality.

Omar Beckles.

"The involvement of players, until three or four years ago I'd never had a player ask to go to the schools, but now my old school, Lakelands in Ellesmere, has regular visits because they are part of the community project.

"The impact our players can have is huge. In the disability programmes, some of these young children have been too self-conscious to ever put shorts on, I'm thinking of young Corbin Davies, now they can't get him out of his football kit.

"Rubbing shoulders with young people and our players, the impact is absolutely massive.

"The likes of Omar (Beckles), I remember taking him to Priory School and the head of PE said he's never seen anyone in that school quite as attentive as when Omar was talking.

"This is a young-ish footballer, but he's so much more than that to our community, which would why it would be so much of a loss to lose him in many ways."

Lewis Cox

By Lewis Cox
Multi-Media Sports Journalist - @lewiscox_star

Sports reporter with the Express & Star and Shropshire Star. Covering Shrewsbury Town and with a keen eye for non-league and grassroots.

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