Why former Shrewsbury midfielder Paul Evans was happy to see the snow
For Shrewsbury Town’s Paul Evans, the build-up to his dream tie against Liverpool in 1996 was like torture.
The Oswestry lad, who came through the youth ranks with Shrews, faced a possible nightmare suspension for an unjust red card in the third-round replay against Fulham – with Liverpool already revealed as the prize for the winners.
“Five minutes into the replay I went up for a header and their lad went down holding his face. I got sent off,” former Wales international Evans recalls.
“I was like ‘What?’ I’d not elbowed him. I won the ball and he’d gone down clutching his face. I’m like ‘Oh my god, oh my god’.
“My mates had come to the ground to watch and they had barely got in, they were just sitting down and I was walking off the pitch.
“It was 1-1 near the end. I’m standing in the tunnel at the old Gay Meadow and I’ll never forget their manager Ian Branfoot, when they get a free-kick on the edge of the box, turning to say ‘This is a great time to score’.
“We charged it down, Ozzie Berkley ran the whole length of the pitch, slipped it to Mark Dempsey and we scored to win 2-1.”
Evans, who netted in the 1-1 third-round draw against Fulham, had already declared on air his wish to face Liverpool next and that dream came true the following evening as Shrewsbury or Fulham against Liverpool were the first balls out.
Thankfully for Evans, his four-match suspension was not set to kick in until after Roy Evans’ Liverpool visited Gay Meadow. His dream was still alive some two-and-a-bit years after being left out of the side that faced Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn.
But then the snow came and put paid to the original date and Evans was left in a frenzied panic.
“It got called off so I thought I was never, ever going to play,” admitted the hard-working midfielder, who played more than 200 games for Town.
“I think Steve Anthrobus was suspended at a similar time. We had a few games. One game was Hereford in the Trophy. Me and Anthrobus were on the pitch clearing the snow with the apprentices to get the game on. Then they arranged Bristol City away in midweek (before Liverpool) so I was available.”
Liverpool, of course, went on to beat Shrewsbury 4-0 and reached the final where they lost out to Manchester United and were branded the Spice Boys.
For Evans and Fred Davies’ Shrewsbury, whose side against Liverpool featured a handful of Scousers, it is still remembered as a ‘wow’ moment.
He added: “We played them on Sunday morning, 11 o’clock, which was ridiculous.
“I just remember them all walking past in the suits, you didn’t see their heads but it was (David) James, (Stan) Collymore and all those.
“No-one could catch (Steve) McManaman running with the ball. He was nearly being sick in the second half and I just said ‘God, I’d hate to play against you when you’re feeling good’.
“Rob Jones – what a player he was. They had Barnes. Fred told me to stay close to John Barnes, but he was literally telling every player where to pass for Liverpool. It was just ‘Wow’.
“We had quite a few Scousers, Paul Edwards, Chris Withe, Ray Woods and Peter Whiston and they were being interviewed by Sky all the time before the game.
“I just remember the Liverpool team being the lads I would watch playing at Anfield and now we were against them.
“I remember (Jason) McAteer running everywhere, (Robbie) Fowler was unbelievable. I’d seen him for Liverpool youth team against my old team Oswestry Boys Club.”
Town supporters remember the Liverpool tie as a damp squib as the visitors netted early and won comfortably.
“I remember in the build-up to the game we’d changed. In our shape we were going to have a go then we were doing to drop off,” Evans said.
“We probably did sit off. We were probably scared back then. I just think it’s really great they’re coming to Shrewsbury again now.”
The 45-year-old, now a sports masseur at Sheffield United, has had a first-hand experience against his beloved Reds this year.
He added: “I think you’ve just got to go out and have a go. At Sheffield United now there’s a respect, but the manager’s emphasis is you go out and prove how good you are.
“They (Liverpool) are unbelievable. We played them away on January 2 and they were on it. Our players came off saying ‘wow – how good is he?.”
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