THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Loans show lack of long-term vision

icon relegation129 March ~ In the WSC pre-season preview I said that anything above the bottom four would be a bonus for Shrewsbury Town. We're currently 18th and most Shrewsbury fans would take that. Today's visitors, Leyton Orient, look comfortably mid-table but they aren't having that great a season either. It looks like one that Town could win but it's these sorts of matches that have often caused us problems. Apart from a 4-1 home win over Coventry, who were a shambles at that point, there were few highlights over autumn.

But some astute loan signings in January have changed things round a bit. A good away win at Tranmere, followed by one at home to Stevenage, gave us our first back-to-back victories of the season and helped us pull away from the bottom. Then a cruel last-minute defeat to Doncaster and an underwhelming performance at Walsall have shown we aren't safe yet.

We lost key members of last season's League Two promotion-winning team – most of whom left because the club were too tight to spring for two-year contracts. Offered longer deals elsewhere the spine of the team – both central defenders, key midfielder Nicky Wroe and striker James Collins – all left (although Collins was probably going to go anyway).

The board's reluctance to offer longer deals was apparently because they didn't want players stuck on League One wages if Town got immediately relegated. It's the kind of risk-averse small-town mentality which is a hallmark of how the club is run. While most people would agree that prudence is laudable in the modern game, there's a fine line between caution and self-sabotage. By not offering those deals the team was substantially weakened, thereby increasing the likelihood of relegation.

Our manager Graham Turner likes playing the loan system but that isn't a way to build for the future. If Town survive their first season in the third tier in 15 years then they will have the same problems in the summer – they will need to build a team again after the loan players leave. I think Town will just about stay up but have no idea who will be playing for them next year. The only thing that's certain with our squad is uncertainty and that's not usually a component of success. Jon Matthias

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