Friday 2nd March 2007 ko 19.45
SHREWSBURY TOWN 0
Asomoah missed penalty 90
BRISTOL ROVERS 0
Hinton sent off (2nd booking) 90
Att 4,227 at Gay Meadow, Shrewsbury
Entry £15 (Main Stand)
Oddly it was surprising I was there. Groundhopping legend Martin “Spud” Hollands phoned to ask whether I was going and preemptively ask for a lift from the station to Gay Meadow. I wasn’t planning on going, but with the ground going at the end of the season a revisit wasn’t even close to being a wasted journey.
Noone is quite sure how the ground got its name, some say it was named after the Gay family but the more plausible explanation is the land was used for entertainment – fairs, carnivals and circuses regularly took place here well before the football arrived in 1910. One notable tragedy involved a ‘steeple-flyer’ Robin Cadman in 1741. He attempted to ‘fly’ across the River Severn using a rope attached to St Mary’s Church at one side of the river and a tree on Gay Meadow some two hundred feet below. The rope broke and Cadman fell to his death.
Gay Meadow despite it existing as a football ground for the best part of century was never ideal for an ambitious club’s needs. Access was difficult, the main access road was called The Narrows for a reason! Having the Severn right next door to the ground added up to flooding and multiple games lost to waterlogged pitches. It also did give the world Fred Davies paid by the rescue to paddle his coracle to fish stray balls out of the Severn.
So perhaps Shrewsbury needed to move, but that didn’t make the move easy, and perhaps that’s why I felt the need to pay the place one final visit. There never was an Archibald Leitch designed stand at Gay Meadow, although I do look at those crash barriers and wonder whether…. But for all its difficulties what Gay Meadow had was character by the bucketload.
That’s why I felt drawn back to the place to walk around the place in the shoes of a home fan. All my memories were all of being an away fan such as Oxford United’s Stuart Massey managing to brain the statue atop the Wakeman School behind the near goal for example. Here the story was one of frustration for both Shrewsbury and Bristol Rovers. The Gas had Craig Hinton sent off for the foul that gave the hosts their final minute penalty, but Derek Asamoah missed. It wasn’t to be the last time the Ghanian was to be a disappointment to Shrewsbury Town.
Of course the two teams were to meet again at the end of the season, this time at Wembley with the Gas winning 3-1 to win promotion in the League 2 playoff final. Shrewsbury Town moved to the New Meadow for the start of the next season minus Derek Asamoah who absented himself without permission to engineer a move away. He popped up at OGC Nice and Shrewsbury got £50,000 for their trouble.
I was fortunate to be at Shrewsbury Town’s first league game at their new ground as, would you believe Swedish journalist/groundhopper Joachim Hedwall’s interpreter. I’ll leave those who know him to judge how much help he needed with English idioms! The new ground is everything the club needs with ample space to expand, it doesn’t flood, and the access is straightforward, being right on the A5. But it is functional rather than characterful, and I know if I were a Shrews fan I’d still be hankering after the old ground. I am writing this!
Gay Meadow these days is a housing estate, with precious little to remind you of what once was there. The street names give the game away, there’s Coracle Way and Cadman Close together with Amber Rise. Perhaps the old lady still lives?