Shrewsbury Town: Manager Paul Hurst excited by League One leaders' good start

Paul Hurst's Shrewsbury Town have won 20 of his 44 matches in charge since he was appointed on 23 October 2016
Paul Hurst's Shrewsbury Town have won 20 of his 44 matches in charge since he was appointed in October 2016

Shrewsbury boss Paul Hurst is doing his best not to get carried away by his side's great start to the season but is pleased that people are taking notice of his table-topping League One side.

Town's haul of 19 points from their first seven games has helped the pre-season relegation favourites forge a three-point lead at the top.

"It's exciting. I'm not going to get away from it," he told BBC Shropshire.

"It's what you want as a football club. You want people talking positively."

It is Town's best start to a season in almost 40 years, since Graham Turner led the Shropshire club to English football's second tier for the first time in 1978-79.

"It is pleasing," added Hurst. "But we just move on to the next game, at Oldham on Saturday.

"You hear enough grumbling at clubs when things aren't going well so, if people are taking notice of us, that's great.

"But that will only happen when things are going well. And it's an extremely competitive division. I spoke to another manager this week who agrees it's a stronger league this season."

Recapturing the past at the new Meadow

For two generations of Shrewsbury Town fans, talk of the 10 successive seasons they once spent in English football's second tier remains almost the stuff of myths.

It was way back in May 1979 when, at their old Gay Meadow home, Turner led Town to the old Division Three title ahead of Graham Taylor's Watford and John Toshack's Swansea City.

While Watford and Swansea were both destined for the top flight, that 10-year tenure in the old Division Two was as high as the Town got.

And even that was considered an amazing achievement as, in that time, they played a host of other much bigger teams who are also now in the Premier League - Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester City, Newcastle United, Southampton, West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, Burnley, Stoke City, Brighton, Bournemouth and Huddersfield Town.

After Turner was lured away by the bright lights of Aston Villa, he successfully handed over the reins to his old number two Chic Bates.

Former England captain Kevin Keegan is tackled by Nigel Pearson in Newcastle's trip to Shrewsbury in 1982
England captain Kevin Keegan, tackled here by Nigel Pearson, was one of many stars of the day to play league football at the Meadow in the 1980s

But Bates, too, had moved on by the time they were finally relegated back to the third tier in 1989 - and the years since in Shropshire have been relatively lean, as successive Shrewsbury teams have found it hard going, being compared to the team that Turner built.

Relegation followed, back to the fourth tier on three occasions and all the way to the Conference in 2003 under Kevin Ratcliffe.

That low point lasted just one season, before being brought back up by Jimmy Quinn. Since then, they have twice more reached the third tier, first under Turner (in 2012, after he returned to the club) and then again under Micky Mellon in 2015.

Their only other promotion campaign since 1979 was again beating the odds to win the Division Three title under Fred Davies in 1993-94, when it was how they finished that season, not how that started, which proved the key.

That is also how Hurst sees it now. But the season they remember most in Shropshire was 1978-79. Back then, Turner's Town won four and drew twice in their first six matches.

This time round, at the New Meadow, they have made an even better start under Hurst. And it's hard for Town fans not to get too excited.

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