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Two years in and Steve Cotterill’s Shrewsbury on an upward curve

Steve Cotterill celebrated two years in charge at Shrewsbury Town at the weekend – but how can his tenure be assessed?

Steve Cotterill back when he was unveiled as the new Shrewsbury boss
Steve Cotterill back when he was unveiled as the new Shrewsbury boss

Two years in charge of a football club in the current climate is somewhat of a milestone in itself, with the shelf life of managers in the Football League.

The 58-year-old is good at what he does, and Shrewsbury appear to be on an upward curve rather than on the way down.

The boss is a good tactician, he rarely gets outthought and his in-game changes, whether that be substitutions or switches in formation, often pay dividends.

A perfect example would be with Shrews trailing to promotion hopefuls Wycombe earlier this campaign, with 25 minutes to go they switched from a back three to a back four and came from behind to win the game.

He is a realist, he sets his team up differently depending on the opponents – when they play teams with quality, if they surrender possession they look to stay in games and get opportunities on the counter-attack, but against lesser sides, they will pass it more and try to build from the back.

In 2021/21, the team had a difficult start to the season, but they recovered.

And this season the team’s progress, although positive, has been undoubtedly hampered by horrendous bad luck with injuries. Salop are missing arguably five guaranteed starters – which would be a blow for any team at this level.

But it has been a bright start nonetheless – performances remain at a high level – and fixtures of late have been challenging.

Cotterill’s tenure in charge of Salop has not always followed a linear path. He took over from Sam Ricketts in November 2020, and not long into his time at Montgomery Waters Meadow he was hospitalised with Covid.

When the boss reflects on that period of his life he feels ‘sad’ and understandably so.

He said: “I have probably only had 18 months here because after the first month I was away for six months.

“So I feel I am still chasing my tail a little bit, but one thing is for sure is there was nothing I could do about that.

“It was just, well, I don’t know, probably one of the worst moments that has gone on in my life really, when I look back at that it makes me sad.”

The boss recovered from Covid, and he has spent the last 18 months implementing his ideas, signing his own players and looking to move Town forward.

Noises from inside the club suggest in that time the boss has done an awful lot of good work behind the scenes – which will go completely unnoticed.

Cotterill said his time at the Meadow has not been easy but he thinks he has done a decent job.

"I think the 18 months after have been incredibly tough getting the club somewhere where I want it,” he continued. “I may say it myself but I think I have done a decent job here in a period of time.

“Some of the decisions you have to make that people say ‘I am not sure I would have made that decision’.

“Sometimes you don’t really have a decision to make and you have to do something short-term.

“I think overall for the permanent players we have recruited, you will always get ups and downs with loans, but some of the permanents we have signed have been good additions.

“I would say there is a good splashing certainly this year, with the loans we have signed too – who have been good additions.

“I think it is easier for me to judge because I have to do it and see it every day.

“Whereas people that are not inwardly working at the club only see us on a Saturday.

“I suppose it is more for other people to judge really on what type of job that has been done.

“When I look at it though I don’t think I have made any decisions here that have put the club on the back foot.

“I think they have all been front-foot decisions even though some would have needed to be short-term.

“The longer-term plan is a lot healthier and a lot better at that football club. If I was to leave tomorrow, I could easily step away and say I have done a good job there and worked really, really hard.”

Elliott Bennett, who Cotterill has signed twice in his career, said over the weekend he ‘loves’ the boss’s management style, which he says is straight talking.

He has been in the game a long time – his first job was at Cheltenham in 1997 more than 25 years ago – so to have had the longevity is an achievement in its own right with the ruthlessness of the industry.

But at Shrewsbury, the boss says he feels he can be himself.

He said: “I am very comfortable at this football club being me.

“The players know that I am intense and I am demanding.

“But in the next breath, they will see a different side of me when we go back inside and have lunch.

“If they are in the treatment room or in the gym they will see the other side.

“The side that is caring, protective and I would say funny, but they might not agree – funny sometimes maybe.

“I feel quite relaxed at the football club dropping my guard about anything – some managers would not drop their guard for the feel of being exploited.

“I don’t feel that here. I trust them, and they trust me.”

With Steve Cotterill at the helm, you feel Shrewsbury are in safe hands on the pitch – while he continues to build and put the club in a stronger position.

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