Unexpected Rivalries 2: Shrewsbury, Port Vale and Wrexham
After Kerry Andrew opened our Unexpected Rivalries series back in March, we are delighted to welcome back Andrew Harding, deviser of an eponymous blog and a man we have invited to muse on those clubs likely to get the goat of the average Shrew. True, Hereford remain the most indelible foe, but in the spirit of the series, Andrew, who can be followed on Twitter here, spreads the net wider, clearly spoiling for disagreement.
Opposition goading is part of the whole spectacle of football. They might well have won more trophies and have a much greater fanbase than you but as far as you and your fellow supporters are concerned, it is your club that are ‘the greatest team that the world has ever seen.’ Terrace song-standards aside, rivalries tend to shape footballing opinions before the media has been able to manipulate the image of a given footballer to make you detest/adore them (delete as applicable).
Shrewsbury Town’s rivalries have tended to be strictly local but recent times have seen the net cast further afield following expanding divisional divides with Wrexham as well as the perils that have befallen teams from Chester and Telford. There have been moments that have sparked brief moments of tension but they’ve tended to have been minor agitators that have barely been reciprocal. A lot of those intermittent rivalries have been more born of frustration at other factors i.e. refereeing (Wycombe Wanderers and the goal that never should have been) and particular players (Jake Robinson served as an interesting side story to conflicts with Torquay United).
Recent years have seen the Shrews able to create a rivalry with Port Vale and make an old one a lot more aggressive in Hereford United.
The rivalry with Port Vale has been a fairly recent development and as both have run out of more immediate local options, it seems an inevitable one. To a Shropshire mind, Port Vale are desperate to unleash anger borne of the frustration caused by their financial issues and the ever-increasing gap between themselves and the long-standing antagonists to their tale, Stoke City. For the Shrews, the aforementioned search for a tougher, grittier enmity. Recent clashes have seen it boil over on a few occasions.
When growing up as a Shrew, Port Vale were never on the radar of discontent. It was reserved specifically for Wrexham; indeed any Welsh team. The chant directed at Salop by those further away from the Welsh border certainly doesn’t ring true in moments with the Welsh teams but after those clashes in the nineties, the matches with the Swans and the Bluebirds (I still find it difficult to call them the Red Dragons) are a long memory; one that will be even further away should Cardiff’s supposed cash injection bear fruit .
Promotion to League 1 last season combined with their relegation to non-league means that the heated rivalry with Hereford United could be given some time to cool off. Matters involving the Bulls have been much more intense, mainly thanks to Graham Turner’s move back along the A49. Much was made of his defection and clashes between the clubs since have seen the Shrews come out victorious on all occasions. Perhaps a few years apart will help as there have been some unsavoury scenes at recent meetings. Hereford’s hiring of former Shrews boss Gary Peters as Director of Football didn’t exactly quell matters.
This coming season serves up a quandary for Salopians. League 1 presents the Shrews with an old foe in the shape of Walsall but there’s not a lot else expected in the rivalry stakes this year. Indeed, the net of contempt is likely to be thrown further still and animosity with Swindon Town could blossom. Last season’s game at the County Ground caused Graham Turner to explode rather angrily. Add to that James Collins’ departure and the growing irritation caused by everyone’s favourite Mussolini fan Paolo Di Canio and you just might have something to build a possibly sustainable rivalry on. Unfortunately, it would appear that the powers-that-be at Swindon are more predisposed to loosening the purse strings than Roland Wycherley and the board so it just might be one of those that keep the Salop faithful pre-occupied until a rivalry more meaningful comes along.
In some twisted ideal, antagonistic matters would be relit with Wrexham. Indeed, some Wrexham supporters thought it would be good to break into the Greenhous Meadow and spray club-based graffiti over Graham Turner’s office door last season. It would appear that Wycherley would like a more unexpected rivalry with a club higher up the ladder as would many Shrews fans. There always remains that flame that won’t quite go out though. Thank you for the reminder, hooligans of Wrexham.