Sam Ricketts: Shrewsbury boss eyeing famous FA Cup win over former club Wolves

By Neil JohnstonBBC Sport
Sam Ricketts (left) celebrates scoring a goal for Wolverhampton Wanderers
Shrewsbury boss Sam Ricketts (left) made 44 appearances during 2013-14 as Wolves won the League One title with 103 points
FA Cup fourth round on the BBC
Date: 25-28 January
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"When I was growing up we used to go to the Horse of the Year Show at Wembley Arena as a family. I would always sneak next door and do the Wembley Stadium tour," says Shrewsbury Town manager Sam Ricketts.

An accomplished horse rider who jumped fences at an early age and the son of a former international show jumper, Ricketts has faced obstacles all his life.

On Saturday, he faces one of his toughest yet as he attempts to inspire Shrewsbury, 18th in League One, to a famous FA Cup win over his former club Wolverhampton Wanderers at a sold-out Montgomery Waters Meadow in the fourth round.

This time last year the 37-year-old ex-Wales defender, who was forced to retire from playing due to a knee injury while at Coventry City in 2016, was coaching Wolves' under-16 team. Keen to learn, he would try and watch first team manager Nuno Espirito Santo's training sessions whenever the opportunity arose.

Ricketts began his own managerial career at National League Wrexham, an impressive start to his tenure attracting interest from Shrewsbury that was not well received by the club's hierarchy.

He was asked to stay away from their televised FA Cup game against Newport but two days later was announced as Shrewsbury's new manager. Having already orchestrated an FA Cup third-round surprise win at Stoke, he is now seeking to knock out the club he captained to the League One title in 2014.

"We're known as little Shrewsbury and Wolves are eighth in the Premier League and trying to get into Europe," Ricketts told BBC Sport.

"No-one expects us to get through because of the gulf between the clubs."

Shrewsbury manager Sam Ricketts was an accomplished horse rider as a child
A 10-year-old Sam Ricketts on a pony called Jumbo at the Daily Mail Family Challenge Show Jumping event at Hickstead's Royal International in 1992. He won the event with his father Derek

'I was sitting on a horse before I could walk'

Ricketts, who was appointed Shrews boss only two months ago, comes from a famous horse riding background. His father is Derek Ricketts, a member of Great Britain's 1978 show jumping world championship winning team.

Meanwhile, Uncle John is none other than John Francome - the seven-time champion jockey.

"I was sitting on a horse before I could walk," said Ricketts, who was born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and qualified to play for Wales through his grandmother.

"As I got older I was always in horse jumping competitions, always trying to win."

At the age of 10, Ricketts and his dad won the Daily Mail Family Challenge Show Jumping event at Hickstead's Royal International.

In an interview afterwards, young Ricketts, a Liverpool fan who was already captain of his local football team, gave a clear indication of where he wanted his future to go.

"I enjoyed it but I want to be a footballer," he said.

Three years later, after finishing second in a qualifier for the Horse of the Year Show on a pony called Diamond Lock, a 13-year-old Ricketts told his dad he was no longer interested in riding.

"I didn't ride again after that day. I sold the pony, made a little bit of money, and that was that," he said.

At the age of 18, Ricketts made his competitive debut for Oxford United at Swindon Town in a third-tier match in October 2000. A career which would span every level from the Conference, with Nuneaton and Telford, to the Premier League, with Bolton Wanderers and Hull City, had begun.

The Ricketts goal which sparked a Molineux pitch invasion

As well as playing 52 times for his country, Ricketts made 93 top-flight appearances.

In addition to being a League Two promotion winner with Swansea City in 2005, he was also part of the Hull team that won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club's history after beating Bristol City 1-0 in the 2008 Championship play-off final.

After moving to Wolves from Bolton in July 2013, he was made captain and sparked a pitch invasion at Molineux after scoring a rare goal in an incredible 6-4 win over Rotherham which edged the Black County club closer to the League One title.

"I'm often reminded of that game. We were winning 4-2 with 10 minutes to go," added Ricketts. "I'd been close to scoring all season and I hadn't done it.

"Around the 90th minute, soon after Rotherham had equalised to make it 4-4, I played a one-two with Dave Edwards and side-footed it into the top corner. All the fans were on the pitch."

Sam Ricketts (right) and Dave Edwards celebrate winning the League One title with Wolves in 2013-14
Sam Ricketts (right) and Dave Edwards, who is at Shrewsbury as a player, helped Wolves win the League One title in 2013-14

Ricketts is held in high regard by Wolves fans.

After the club sealed the Championship title last season, he was back on the Molineux pitch at half-time during the final home game with Sheffield Wednesday.

"I was invited to say a few words to the fans," he said. "I loved my time at Wolves.

"Having played there and coached at the academy, there are a lot of connections. But in football you cannot really look back too much.

"I'm going into Saturday's game to try and win."

Life-long Shrewsbury fan & Wolves favourite

Dave Edwards captained Wolverhampton Wanderers, then a Championship club, to a famous 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield in the fourth round of the FA Cup two years ago.

The 32-year-old midfielder had been hoping to face his former team after re-joining Shrewsbury - his hometown club - earlier this month but has been ruled out with a groin injury.

During nine-and-a-half-years at Molineux, Edwards played for Wolves in each of the top three English divisions, making 307 appearances and scoring 44 goals.

"It is a giant of a club and the pressure that comes with being a Wolves player is immense," said the Wales international, who played at Euro 2016.

"I revelled in it. When things go right, it's a very special place."

Dave Edwards (right) as a Shrewsbury Town mascot with former Shrews and Manchester City forward Carl Griffiths
Dave Edwards (right) was a mascot for Shrewsbury Town at the age of six. He is pictured with his favourite player at the time, forward Carl Griffiths, who went on to play for Manchester City

Born in the nearby Shropshire village of Pontesbury, Edwards started his career at Shrewsbury - making his debut as a 17-year-old in 2003.

Long before that Edwards, who shared a house with England goalkeeper Joe Hart when the pair played together at Shrewsbury, was following the club home and away as a fan.

Aged 14, he witnessed a 2-1 win at Exeter City on the final day of the 1999-2000 season which ensured they stayed in the Football League.

"There was a pitch invasion at the end and I got goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin's gloves," said Edwards, who has helped set up a foundation to support children with disabilities.

"Three or four years later I was playing with him at Shrewsbury."

Nigel Jemson (left) scored both goals as Shrewsbury beat an Everton side containing 17-year-old Wayne Rooney 2-1 in the FA Cup third round at Gay Meadow in 2003.
In 2003, Nigel Jemson (left) scored both goals as Shrewsbury beat an Everton side containing 17-year-old Wayne Rooney 2-1 in the FA Cup third round


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