As Liverpool prepare to face Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fourth round, we get the lowdown on the Reds’ opponents.
Amid the relentless push for the Premier League, cup duty takes focus this weekend.
For Jurgen Klopp‘s champions in waiting, it’s a trip to Shrewsbury on Sunday evening, as the two teams meet for only the second time in history.
Sam Ricketts’ side sit 16th in League One currently, seeing off Bristol City in a replay in the third round.
Ahead of the game, we spoke to Ollie Warner from Salopcast (@salopcast), Shrewsbury Town’s leading podcast, to get his thoughts on a huge night in the club’s history, and much more.
How has Shrewsbury’s season gone to date? Fill us in on the highs and lows…
Last season was not a campaign that will live long in the memory.
John Askey, now of Port Vale, was sacked and Sam Ricketts took over in December 2018. We were successful in avoiding relegation, but it would be fair to say we were saved by the poor form of others rather than going on a run ourselves.
Going into this season, the majority of fans hoped and expected we would finish mid-table; so far, we are on course to achieve that aim.
Our relative success this season has been built on defensive solidity. We are a well-organised team that plays with three central defenders.
On the negative side, the fans have been frustrated with Ricketts’ approach, which has been hard to watch at times. We are particularly poor in the final third—the second-lowest scorers in League One.
Only drawing against 10-man Bolton was a particularly frustrating game, as was losing 3-0 at home to Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town.
Despite this, we are moving in the right direction, and while this is the case the fans are right behind the manager.
Where does Sunday’s game rank among the biggest in the club’s history?
That depends on the result. If we lose, I don’t predict it will be a game that will live long in the memory.
In recent years, we have played West Ham at home in the FA Cup, including a trip to the London Stadium in the replay, and a tie against Louis van Gaal’s Man United, as well as one against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the League Cup.
In terms of finance, how big is the visit of the Reds?
It might come as a surprise to your readers, but it won’t be as big as you might have expected.
The game will generate about £400,000, so based on our latest set of accounts it will increase our income by five percent.
We are one of the most financially sensible clubs in the whole Football League.
Through player sales and increasing non-matchday income, we have increased our playing budget and have invested in infrastructure of the club such as our training ground, which is similar in standard to that of a Championship side.
We are far from the basket cases in the Championship, who on average lose £20 million a year, or clubs like Oldham Athletic, Southend United and Macclesfield Town, who struggle to pay their players’ wages.
I suspect the extra income will be given straight to the manager and will boost our activity in the January transfer window.
League One clubs have a salary cap set at 60 percent of their income, so it is difficult to go too crazy.
How do you view the FA Cup these days? As important as ever for lower league clubs?
The FA Cup is a welcome distraction from the league, whether it is playing a small non-league side, ticking off a new ground or playing one of the big boys.
The draw is still an occasion that gets the fans excited—it is particularly fun when you beat a team like Bristol City, whose fans were giving it the big one, only to leave Shropshire with their tails between their legs.
You were the first English club to introduce safe standing in an all-seater stadium – how has that gone?
It was a great honour to be the first club to install safe standing in a modern all-seater stadium, especially as it was a project led by the fans and supported by the club.
The crowdfunding helped raise the profile of the club around the world, with fans from a range of clubs and countries donating to the project.
It has been a great success and I hope we can lead the way for more fans being able to watch the game from a safe standing area.
It is a lot safer than standing in front of a chair.
Who are the key Shrewsbury players for Liverpool fans to keep an eye on?
Callum Lang – The on-loan Wigan Athletic striker has returned from injury and looks like he hasn’t lost his form.
He is a hardworking forward with a lot of potential for our level. He is a good dribbler and scored a wonderful goal in the FA Cup last season for Rochdale, which is worth a search.
Aaron Pierre – Pierre joined us from Northampton Town in the summer and has been one of our best players all season.
He is a fast and strong central defender, who when given the license to roam forward is a threat. His wonderful strike in the 89th minute took us into the fourth round.
Josh Laurent – Laurent is an athletic midfielder who plays as a No. 8 or in a wide attacking role in a 3-4-3 formation.
He is a good runner with the ball and there have been rumours that several Championship clubs are poised to bid for him.
Where does this Liverpool side rank among the best you’ve seen?
I am a massive football fan. I have been to see games in Europe, including a trip to see Barcelona play at home in the Champions League with Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and company.
If the current Liverpool team can win the Premier League and repeat their relative success, you have to place them in the same bracket.
The football they play is fantastic and Jurgen Klopp has to be the best manager in the game today.
He is such a fantastic leader and communicator.
Is there anyone you would particularly love to see in the flesh on Sunday?
As a retired Sunday League right-back I would love to see Trent Alexander-Arnold play!
It makes me smile to think that in my normal season ticket seat I might get to see the best right-back in the world ply his trade.
I would be fascinated to watch his movement, but I fear he won’t start the game; I will see Neco Williams play the same role instead, by the sounds of it.
Where do you see the key battles taking place?
The key battle will be in our defensive third. How long can we keep Liverpool from scoring?
The first 10 minutes will be key and if we can get through the first period unscathed, the crowd will get right behind the players and there is the potential for the young Reds players to feel under pressure.
The ability of our three central defenders to win their battles will be vital.
Given the relative success United had playing a back three last Sunday, our go-to formation might just be the right one.
Finally, hit us with your prediction…
Saying all that, I suspect if the game was played 20 times, Liverpool would win the match 19 times.
You never know, though, miracles do happen!
I predict a 5-1 win for Liverpool, unless Klopp tells the lads to go easy when you are a couple of goals ahead.