Shrewsbury Town manager Steve Cotterill believes his side will be “out of the struggle a little bit” of battling relegation in the upcoming 2021/22 season.
Since gaining promotion back to the third tier in 2014/15, the Shrews have been no strangers to finding a way out of relegation danger, with the only exception being a third place finish four seasons ago. However, since his appointment last November, Cotterill believes his Town side have turned a corner and will look to build on it in the new season, despite trying to play down his in-house expectations by stressing that a period consolidating is paramount before they can be talked about as contenders.
He told the Shropshire Star: “We have probably struggled a little bit for a couple of seasons now, so we’ve got to get out of that struggle before we can become serious, if you know what I mean.
“We’re out of the struggle a little bit, I think, but we’ve got to make sure we consolidate where we are now before we build on it – without making any rash statements about where we’re going to finish in the league, because that’s what you’re asking me, I think I’ve done a good enough job talking around the houses without answering it.”
Saturday’s season opener at the Montgomery Waters Meadow will be a poignant occasion for everyone connected with the club, as Cotterill takes charge of his first competitive game since recovering from his well documented battle with coronavirus, something referenced in a jokingly manner in that interview with the Shropshire Star when asked about targets: “To make sure I’m still in the training ground, in the dugout, and pushing the lads like I’m pushing them now – and not anywhere else!”
Saturday’s game is also a chance for Salop fans to witness some of their shrewd off-season signings in action for the first time, such as Marko Marosi, Elliott Bennett and Ryan Bowman.
Despite a shaky start to last season, the experience of Cotterill managed to rub off on the squad after pulling themselves clear of the danger zone, and it will be interesting to see how they fare under a full season of his management. The signing of Bowman adds some more attacking threat to a side who’s top scorer Shaun Whalley only managed a single figure tally of nine, with the 29-year old scoring 27 goals in the last two seasons for Exeter City. The additions of Bennett and Marosi echo Cotterill’s message about consolidation, with 217 League One appearances and three promotions from this division between them, adding vital experience to the side.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see them pick up points against the sides challenging for promotion. Last season The Shrews took 13 points off Hull City, Blackpool and Peterborough who were promoted to the second tier, but due to the nature of the division this season looking even tougher, a season consolidating would be an improvement and give them plenty to build on in the future.