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Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 11:51 UK

Shrewsbury all set for big time

By BBC Stuart Dunn
BBC Radio Shropshire

Stuart Dunn and Steve Cross
Stuart Dunn (left) and Steve Cross commentate for BBC Radio Shropshire

Shrewsbury Town may be viewed as a small rural club but their proud record of three Wembley outings in the last 13 years is sure to be the envy of much bigger clubs up and down the land.

People's perceptions of Town are gradually starting to change.

Quite right, too, for they are an ambitious club ready to take off.

They have gone from being the country cousins from the cosy but tired Gay Meadow to a club now labelled as League Two's big spenders.

The club moved to a modern all-seater stadium with a capacity of just under 10,000. They have an average crowd this season of more than 5,000 and they have a highly rated manager in Paul Simpson, plus a talented squad of players.

Headlined by record signing Grant Holt, who cost £170,000 from Nottingham Forest, his presence has added to the feel-good factor surrounding the club.

They have raised their profile in the right way, too, by being prudent under long-serving chairman Roland Wycherley, a Shrewsbury-born lifelong fan of the club.

Wycherley has delivered a blueprint which similar-sized clubs would do well to replicate, producing in the process two home-grown exports to the Premier League in local lads Joe Hart and David Edwards.

Now, with the backing of more than 20,000 Salopians at Wembley this weekend, they are desperate to overcome Gillingham and book a place in the most attractive League One line-up for many a year.

To do that, they must do something which has eluded them on each of their two visits to the national stadium, and that is to win.

Ironically, the two men who did more than most to dash their Wembley dreams in the past later ended up signing for the club.

Nigel Jemson was the two-goal destroyer when Rotherham lifted the Auto Windscreens Shield in 1996.

Then Richard Walker, fighting for a place on Simpson's bench this weekend, did the same when Bristol Rovers triumphed 3-1 in the League Two play-off final two years ago.

That defeat really hurt as Shrewsbury played well on the day and could not have hoped for a better start when Stuart Drummond headed them into a second-minute lead before Walker's quality finishing delivered the knock-out blow.

606: DEBATE
WhatShrew

This year Shrewsbury look much better equipped with a strong experienced spine to the team in skipper Graham Coughlan at the back, the influential Paul Murray in midfield and the rampaging Holt up front.

They also know they have what it takes to trouble Gillingham.

They came back from 2-0 down to salvage a battling point at Priestfield in March and memorably demolished the Kent side 7-0 at the Prostar Stadium back in September.

Perhaps most importantly, they have a real sense of belief.

Witness their 2-1 against-all-odds victory at Dagenham & Redbridge on the final day of the season to sneak the final play-off spot.

Then the dramatic way in which they accounted for Bury over two legs in the semi-finals, when they battled through after a penalty shoot-out.

Shrewsbury are certainly in good shape, both on and off the field, as they prepare for their latest day of destiny.

You can have your say ahead of the League Two play-off final with the fans' phone-in live from Wembley Stadium on Friday from 1800 BST on BBC Radio Shropshire 96 FM and online at bbc.co.uk/shropshire by calling 01743 248 321.



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see also
Gillingham v Shrewsbury
22 May 09 |  League Two
Ticket deadline for Shrews fans
18 May 09 |  Shrewsbury
Jackson ruled out of Wembley date
15 May 09 |  Shrewsbury
Shrews loanee aims to make amends
14 May 09 |  Shrewsbury
Bury 0-1 Shrewsbury (agg 1-1)
10 May 09 |  League Two


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