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Shrewsbury Town’s highs and lows in Roland Wycherley’s 25-year reign

Roland Wycherley’s 25 years at the helm of Shrewsbury Town could be nearing an end after the chairman this week admitted he is considering the club’s long-term future.

The chairman, 80, marked a quarter of a century as owner of his hometown club this year.

His tenure has largely been away from the limelight, but he has led Shrewsbury to become one of the most self-sustained club’s in the Football League through prudent ownership.

We have a look at some of the club’s highs and lows from the last 25 years.

Low: 1996/97 – An inauspicious start

Wycherley’s first campaign at the helm ended miserably after two seasons in the third tier for manager Fred Davies and his side.

Town looked set for a reasonable mid-table finish, but won just one of the final 15 games from mid-February onwards to ensure a slide down the table and eventual 22nd-placed finish.

Ex-title winning boss Davies and his staff were sacked in early May.

High: 2003 – Everton cup upset

The great cup occasion of Shrewsbury’s modern history saw the fourth-tier side, under Toffees legend Kevin Ratcliffe, knock out his former club, shining in the top flight under ex-Town man David Moyes, 80 places above Town.

The 2-1 victory was sealed by skipper Nigel Jemson’s brilliance, but also remembered for Pete Wilding pocketing a certain Wayne Rooney.

There would be more huge cup fixtures in Town’s future – including against Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea – but this remains the chief scalp of Wycherley’s tenure.

Low: 2003 – drop out the league

A Mickey Brown-inspired Great Escape at Exeter saved them three years earlier, but Town’s 54-year stay in the Football League ended in Hartlepool in late April with a resounding 3-0 defeat, one of eight straight defeats that sent the club spiralling with Ratcliffe later axed.

It was an all-time low for Town but one, to their credit, they responded from immediately.

High: 2004 – Bouncing back

Most Town fans of any generation will tell you that penalty play-off success against Aldershot in Stoke in May 2004 is up there for importance.

After finishing third in the Conference, player-boss Jimmy Quinn’s men edged past Barnet and were spot on against the Shots, thanks to goalkeeper Scott Howie’s heroics.

High: 2007 – Meadow move

Supporters’ love for Gay Meadow will never be forgotten or recaptured but there is no denying the building of an all-purpose, modern stadium has helped Town sustain themselves.

Flooding from the Severn would often prove problematic but the New Meadow helped Town move into the 21st Century.

Average attendances during Wycherley’s mid-90s takeover would be down in the 2,000-3,000 mark, but a lasting legacy will be lifting that to around double.

Town’s academy has also blossomed over a couple of decades and has produced hometown internationals – including Joe Hart and Dave Edwards.

Low: 2007 – Badge change

The club’s badge was changed for 2007/08 and the move to Oteley Road, and the new design did not go down well.

In fact, fans drummed up support in their hundreds and thousands against the change and demanded a re-think, stating the loggerheads feature captured the club’s proud history and tradition.

Fan power eventually won through and the loggerheads were back for 2015/16.

Low: 2009 – Stunned by Staines

Mention Staines, Histon and Blyth to Town fans and they will shudder.

The three non-league outfits all knocked Salop out of the Cup first round within six seasons in the 2000s.

Staines, in 2009, was particularly forgettable, as 3,500 home fans watched on as Ali Chabaan sent Town crashing out.

High: 2012 – League Two promotion

With the legendary Graham Turner back at the helm, Town finally cracked the fourth tier – following three failed play-off attempts – with a memorable runners-up spot and brilliant 88 points.

Town survived a 16th-placed finish the following year before Turner departed and relegation came.

Micky Mellon would soon arrive and a stunning debut year sealed a return.

High: 2017/18 memories

Paul Hurst led Town to a Wembley double in the memorable 2017/18 campaign, but Town remained unable to break their national stadium hoodoo with defeats in the EFL Trophy and League One play-off final.

Those made it five Wembley defeats – four in Wycherley’s tenure – but the rest of the campaign left lasting memories.

High: 2021 – MBE and Covid response

Wycherley marked 25 years as Town chairman in the same year he was awarded an MBE by the Queen for services to local football.

Both he and Town have been tested severely by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months, but Shrewsbury are likely to be one of very few EFL clubs capable of surviving through their own means.

That is perhaps the biggest testament to Wycherley’s prudent ownership, and the biggest legacy he will undoubtedly leave behind when the club passes into new hands in the future.

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