Revolution are ready and raring to go after year on the sidelines

Shropshire Revolution's mantra for their return to American football action this season is 'be great not good'.

Shropshire Revolution.
Shropshire Revolution.

New head coach John Angell, who spent eight years at the club from rookie player to landing the senior coaching role, claims he has committed for the long haul.

A return to action can't come soon enough for Shropshire's only Britball outfit. The BAFA National League NFC1 South side were frustrated and left on the sidelines throughout the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

But positive news arrives in the form of a return to action for the 2021/22 season, albeit it with a twist.

Teams have been regionalised to minimise travelling for players and spectators. Angell's Revolution are in the BAFANL Mercia – alongside Premiership giants Tamworth Phoenix, Premiership new-boys Sandwell Steelers and former top flight side Leicester Falcons.

Also making up their group are Staffordshire Surge and Crewe Railroaders. There will be no promotion and relegation this season and matches are scheduled to begin on June 25.

There was a big change at the top of Shropshire's coaching ranks during the down time, as former head coach Neil Holtschke, who had been in charge for two seasons, stepped down and was replaced by former league-winning captain and offensive line coach Angell.

Angell, who is from Shrewsbury, was a key influence as a player as Revolution won promotion from Division Two and, having put himself forward for the top role, sees no reason why the organisation cannot push on and strive to reach Premiership level football.

"Getting up into the first division has been brilliant and we've stabilised in that," said 39-year-old head coach Angell.

"Now we're looking to move on further forward. I've been ramming home to the team that we need to turn good to great, that's the mantra we're looking for.

"The great is going to be our standard, great is going to be how we are moving forward.

"We can stay in division one and compete week in, week out, or we can take that next step and put those extra yards in to push for the Premiership.

"Obviously that's not something that's going to come instantly, but it's definitely something to work to. It's a push we're going to make."

It has been a difficult time for all of sport, specifically the Britball community, with no competitive action for any teams since 2019.

Revolution have been following BAFA's – British American Football Association – roadmap out of lockdown to the tee, meaning many changes to the norm.

Rookie sessions finally started around six weeks ago, where the club were inundated with existing players and would-be new recruits, with around 70 players at the first sessions, which have been held at Wrekin College.

Angell concedes that numbers will always tail off, when players realise the physical nature of the sport, both in strength and fitness, as well as the extra curricular homework in regards to learning playbooks.

But, even when the troops were unable to meet for physical training of any sort, the response to the club's Zoom classes has blown away the head coach. The head coach hopes for a roster of 50 come the new season.

"My message box has been flooded with people asking when we get back on the field," added Angell.

"Since January we've been doing Sunday sessions I'd have up to 40 guys sat on a Zoom call talking about plays.

"It's something you wouldn't have thought of this time two years ago. We used to do classroom sessions and a Facebook Live but to get that many guys on a Zoom call is very good."

While new to the top job at the Telford-based outfit, Angell counts on priceless experience in the shape of his lieutenants Andrew Morgan, who is offensive co-ordinator, and defensive co-ordinator Alasdair Jarvis.

Morgan is a level two coach and Jarvis represented Great Britain as a player.

Both are 'scholars of the game' and have been around coaching circles for a number of years.

Angell said of his route to the top job: "I've been in and around the Rev for eight years now but gave up playing three years ago.

"I captained them to the bowl game and hung up my cleats and went into coaching. I was running back coach for a year, then the O-line coach for a bit.

"And Neil stepped away from the game (last year) and I used my influence with the players, my man management skills, as my CV to go into the management team.

"It wasn't forced or dropped on me, I put my name forward for it. From a managerial and organisation point of view I do that for a living, so I can organise.

"And I have two very skilled guys as my co-ordinators."

"No, no, no" Angell laughed at the thought of imagining himself as head coach one day after his first session eight years ago.

The new head coach added: "I played cricket! Tuesday night 2020 cricket in the pub leagues. I thought to myself one rainy February day I'd go down to the Rev session.

"I'd got into American football, I liked watching it. I saw it on Facebook and thought 'I'll go down' and have been there ever since.

"I'm here to coach up the team and coach up coaches – that was literally my opening mantra to the management team.

"So that we're not scratching around for replacements, so we've always got the next one up. I'm here for the long haul, definitely."

When restrictions allow, Revolution will return to training at TCAT's indoor dome, and their home venue is Oakengates Leisure Centre's athletics stadium.

If you are interested in getting involved, contact the Revolution on their Facebook page.

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