The connection between the local football team and pubs goes all the way back to the founding of the club in May 1886. However there appears to be some confusion as to the exact circumstances. The Eddowes Shropshire Journal reported that the club was formed during a meeting at the Lion Hotel, but the Shrewsbury Chronicle then reported that the event took place at the Turf Hotel, Claremont Hill (which closed in 1930).
The best theory seems to be that both premises were actually visited that night. The Shropshire FA held their meetings at the Lion, while many local sides used the Turf as their base. So probably what happened was the proposal put forward by the Committee at the Lion was confirmed later at the Turf with the players (or they just fancied a pub-crawl!).
An amateur club when founded, it so happened that the decision to pay some players for the first time was taken during a meeting at another pub, the Unicorn, Wyle Cop (closed as a pub in 1983), in August 1896. Not as handy for the ground as you may think, at the time the club played at the Barrack’s Ground, Copthorne, moving to Gay Meadow near the Unicorn in 1910.
Little knowing the trend he would start, the centre-half of the Welsh Cup winning team of 1891, Jack Davies, would become the landlord of the Criterion (Shrewsbury) from 1906 to 1907.
Indeed it was not just the players running pubs. In 1937 the trainer at the club, Sam Powell, took over at the Old Post Office, where he would be landlord for the next 28 years.
Tommy Seymour played for Shrewsbury from 1936 to 1939. After the war he became the club’s trainer for many years, while also running the Royal Vaults, Wyle Cop from 1947 to 1954. The Vaults closed permanently in 1958 and is now an Indian restaurant.
Since joining the Football League in 1950 a steady stream of former players have gone on to be associated with the licensing trade, below are listed some of them: (the dates are their time at Shrewsbury Town)
Ted Gorin (1951-52) – Only played a few times for Shrewsbury Town, he returned to his hometown of Cardiff where he later ran 3 pubs, the Big Windsor, the Bird in Hand and the Romilly.
Jimmy Bannister (1952-58) – Played over 200 games for Shrewsbury, eventually ending up as Landlord of the Shoulder of Mutton (Barton-under-Needwood)
Maurice Candlin (1953-55) – After two seasons at Shrewsbury he joined Wellingborough Town, later running the nearby Old Swan (Earls Barton)
Norman Hobson (1954-62) – Played over 200 games for Shrewsbury. At the end of his career in 1967 he briefly became player/manager of Oswestry Town while running the nearby Admiral Duncan (Baschurch), before later emigrating to Australia.
Joe Wallace (1954-62) – Became the first to play over 300 Football League games for the club in 1961. He ran the Nag’s Head and later the Mardol Vaults (now closed) around 1987 (Thanks Deborah Curtis)
Gerry Bridgwood (1969-73) – Joined Shrewsbury Town from First Division Stoke City. When his playing career ended he became a pub landlord, owning the Greyhound (Yarlet Bank, Stafford) and the Crown (Goostrey) where he died in 2012.
Ricky Moir (1969-74) – After over 150 appearances for Shrewsbury, Ricky left to play a few games for Halifax Town. But he was soon back in Shrewsbury where he managed the London Apprentice (which closed in 2009) from 1975-92 then the Red Lion (Bomere Heath).
Jim Holton (1971-72) – After an impressive season and a half at Shrewsbury the 21 year old centre half was snapped up by Manchester United and within 6 months had earned the first of his 15 Scotland caps. After finishing his football career at Coventry City he went on to run two pubs in the Coventry area, the Stag and the Rising Sun.
Ken Mulhearn (1971-80) – Long serving Shrewsbury goalkeeper, signed from Manchester City where he gained a League Championship winners medal in 1968. After ending his football career at Crewe, he returned to Shrewsbury where he managed the Exchange (now Morgans) 1982-84, the Springfield (demolished in 1990s) 1984-87 and the Saddlers 1987-94.
Mike Kearney (1973-77) – Signed by Manager Maurice Evans, he ended up at Reading having been signed once again by Evans. For a time after that he ran the Horse & Jockey and then the Royals Rendezvous, a supporters bar by the Reading ground.
John ‘Jake’ King (1973-82) – During his time as a player Shrewsbury earned two promotions and twice reached the FA Cup Quarter Finals. Once his playing career ended Jake started his involvement in the licensing trade with a spell at Cromwells. However he was tempted back into football and went on to manage Shrewsbury Town for two years (1997-99) in between two spells as manager of nearby Telford United. Since then he has returned to his involvement in pubs with the Plume of Feathers (Harley) 2003-07 and the Smoke Stop (Ford).
Sammy Irvine (1974-78) – Signed from Shrewsbury by Stoke City, where a promising career was ended at age 24 by injuries sustained in a car crash. He returned to Shrewsbury where he managed the Wheatsheaf 1982-84
Carleton Leonard (1975-83) – After a successful career at Shrewsbury where he won a Third Division Championship winners medal in 1979, he returned to his hometown of Oswestry where he has since managed the Oak, the Pedigree (demolished 2015) and until 2016 the Bell.
Jimmy Lindsay (1977-81) – Started his football career at First Division West Ham before later winning Third Division titles with both Hereford (1976) and Shrewsbury (1979). Ending his football career at Shrewsbury he was soon in charge of a local pub, the Masonic Arms 1981-85. Since then he has also managed the Exchange (now Morgans) 1985-89 and later the Canal Tavern (closed 2009)
Sammy Chapman (1978-80) – Spent most of his time at Notts Forest, but had a very successful two season spell at Shrewsbury at the end of his career. Ran a pub near Nottingham, the Cuckoo Bush (Gotham).
Ross MacLaren (1980-85) – After leaving Shrewsbury he went on to play top flight football with both Derby County and Swindon Town. He later returned to the Derby area to run the Bluebell (Kirk Langley).
John McGinlay (1989-90) – After being given his Football League chance with Shrewsbury, he went on to play in the Premiership with Bolton Wanderers and represent Scotland 13 times. During his playing days he took over a Bolton pub, re-inventing it as a sports bar called McGinlay’s, though it didn’t last long. After a spell in football management he returned to the Bolton area to run the Old Original Bay Horse (Horwich) in 2014.
Robbie Turner (1993) – Played for more than a dozen clubs, including a spell in the First Division with Wimbledon and a 9 game loan spell with Shrewsbury. Ended up in non-league football in the West Country, where he helped his brother run the Dog & Duck (Torquay).
Ben Smith (2010-11) – Goalkeeper who played in the first 11 games of the 2011-12 season when Shrewsbury won promotion from League 2. He opened the St Nicholas Cafe Bar (Shrewsbury) in 2014.
No doubt there are others. It is known that Joe Wallace (Coton Hill?), Willie O’Donnell (Glasgow?), Terry Matthias (Australia?) & Billy Askew (Hull?) have had some involvement in the licensed trade, but details of which pubs they were at are not known at present. If you have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
Thanks to Kevin Davies, Leigh Edwards & Mike Jones, resident Shrewsbury Town historians & stattos, for their pointers in match-day programmes throughout the years.