Surprise friendly in Shropshire
13 July ~ The biggest news of Shrewsbury's close season was unexpected: Galatasaray, the only Turkish team to win a European trophy, are heading to the New Meadow today for a friendly against a team that couldn’t fit in the Shropshire Senior Cup final last year. Galatasaray are playing in the Emirates Cup in London in early August and have been training at Burton in the run-up. It took Shrewsbury six months to set up the game, which is the most intriguing friendly since they took on Zambia in 1978 and included Bobby Charlton on the teamsheet.
A work colleague has already asked me if I’ve got my "Welcome to Hell" banner ready. I’m not sure it’s apt. While Shropshire is a certain kind of hell if you can’t live without things such as 3G phone reception and 24-hour supermarkets, at the moment being a Town fan is more like Limbo, the not-quite-hell abolished by papal decree a few years ago.
This season we will probably be good enough to stay up but we’re definitely not good enough to rule out relegation. There is a feeling this will be a tough year and there’s no visible plan of progression. And so we face Galatasaray. Of course, whether the stars such as Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba will actually take the field isn’t clear. Galatasaray have said they are taking the game seriously and the big names will feature. Like many other Town fans I hope they do but secretly expect they won’t.
But then, we don’t know who will be playing for Shrewsbury either. A good number of players weren’t offered renewed contracts at the end of last season and more have turned down new ones since. We have signed three defenders but at the moment there are limited striking options available to boss Graham Turner. Whether Galatasaray will get anything out of this game is hard to say. For Shrewsbury fans it’s a chance to see a top European side filled with international stars. And the way it’s going, we might even enjoy it in some Mediterranean-style sunshine. Jon Matthias