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Shake-up at Shrewsbury Town as Jon Pitts and Graham Barrow exit with Dean Whitehead promoted

Sam Ricketts has streamlined his Shrewsbury Town backroom staff after Jon Pitts and Graham Barrow departed the club.

Graham Barrow, right, has been joined out the Town exit door by Jon Pitts (AMA)
Graham Barrow, right, has been joined out the Town exit door by Jon Pitts (AMA)

Former first-team coach Dean Whitehead has been promoted to the assistant manager role vacated by Barrow, as Ricketts opted for a younger coaching set-up, with more energy.

Pitts, who joined the club alongside Ricketts from Wrexham in late 2018, was head of performance at Montgomery Waters Meadow, focusing on the psychological gains in improving the Town squad.

Experienced coach Barrow made the move to become Ricketts’ right-hand man last summer but has left Shrewsbury for ‘personal reasons’, according to the boss.

Highly-rated coach Whitehead, a long-term friend of Ricketts’ having come through the youth ranks together at Oxford United before playing Premier League football for Sunderland, Stoke and Huddersfield, initially joined Town as first-team coach last November and has stepped into the assistant manager role.

The shake-up brings a more streamlined dynamic at the Meadow and Sundorne Castle training ground, while Ricketts placed emphasis on a more youthful management team.

The boss said: “We’ve slightly re-arranged things over the summer for different reasons.

“Jon Pitts is no longer with us and Graham Barrow has left as well. Graham has left for person reasons.

“We’ll continue to talk to him but he’s left his role for personal reasons.

“Dean Whitehead will step up and be my assistant manager. It’ll be myself and Dean and we’ll be the coaching element of the backroom staff.

“Dean has great experience as a player and like myself is a young and up and coming, with some great experience as a coach working under some very good managers.

“It’s us two pushing the players and getting us ready. I’m very happy. Pre-season has gone extremely well, I’ve been delighted with everything.

“You could say it’s younger, (with) more energy and freshens things up really and that’s been seen in training.”

Pitts, who previously worked with Brentford, Red Bull Racing’s Formula One team and Somerset County Cricket Club, specialises in elite performance and spent time at the training base in the week and alongside Ricketts on a matchday.

The Shrews boss had previously said Pitts’ role would be to help Town gain extra percentages and push boundaries.

Ricketts added on Pitts’ exit: “It was just a decision made in the summer as I evaluate things and want to move forward to get the best out of us as a team. I thought it was the best decision to try to take us forward.”

Former Wigan and Chester great Barrow has been in the game since the late 1970s, entering manager as player-boss of Chester in 1992, but will not be on the Meadow coaching staff heading into the new season.

Meanwhile, Ricketts has clarified why his side are playing their pre-season friendlies away from the Meadow, which is being given more time to settle after Covid-19 meant to delays to summer work.

Salop have taken on Bala Town, Nuneaton Borough and Walsall at the New Bucks Head, home of neighbours AFC Telford United.

The League One side are the first team to play fixtures on the Bucks’ newly-laid £100,000 pitch, which had new drainage fitted after Telford received a near-six figure grant for upgrades this summer.

Ricketts added: “The Meadow pitch didn’t get renovated as early as required, due to coronavirus, in order for us to get back on that pitch now.

“In order to give the pitch that best opportunity it was ideal to play the games somewhere else. I wanted to use somewhere local and Telford have just been handed a huge grant to replace their pitch and make it a very, very good playing surface.

“It worked very well for us to play there where we know the surface will be good. It takes away your pre-season worries about the quality of the pitches you’ll be on.”

Town still have at least one more warm-up friendly ahead of the 2020/21 season kick-off at Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup on Friday week.

Ricketts’ side are believing to be facing Championship outfit Stoke in a contest that will also take place away from the Meadow.

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