Shrewsbury v Liverpool – FA Cup fourth round
- How to follow:
- Watch on BBC One from 16:30 GMT, Sunday 26 January; listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC local radio; text commentary on the BBC Sport website
When Liverpool’s players emerge from the tunnel at Montgomery Waters Meadow, they will be forgiven for glancing over at the safe-standing section of Shrewsbury Town’s home and wondering why the green, gold and red flag of Grenada billows proudly in the Shropshire breeze.
The small Caribbean island with a population not much greater than that of the Midlands market town not only boasts three senior internationals among the League One side’s squad but also, having flown in especially for the FA Cup fourth-round fixture, one of the club’s newest and most ardent supporters.
Cheney Joseph, the president of the Grenadian FA, has been following Shrewsbury’s fortunes closely for just over a year, having discovered four of their players qualify to represent his nation – Aaron Pierre, the scorer of the dramatic winner against Bristol City in the last round, defender Omar Beckles, captain Oliver Norburn and Ro-Shaun Williams, the former Manchester United youngster who is yet to commit his international allegiance.
But Joseph, who captained Grenada during a 15-year playing career, insists his connection to Shrewsbury runs deeper than merely cheering on his Spice Boys, as the Grenadian national team is nicknamed; he has fallen for the club.
“It’s history. I didn’t even know the club exists, but it’s been around since 1886,” Joseph told BBC Sport. “Our national association was established in 1924; we’re still a kid compared to that club.
“We have four players from one club. It’s a unique scenario in the UK. I started doing a little bit of social media along that line. I am not a big Twitter fan, I must admit, but I realised the club has a great following on Twitter, so I started to use the platform to promote our Spice Boys.
“When I started to do so, Grenada was not expected to do well. We had just qualified for the group stage of the qualification for the World Cup, and we started to attract additional UK-based players. Form that, I referred to Grenada and Shrewsbury as two ‘Cinderella stories’.
“People mocked me at first but Shrewsbury were getting some favourable results against bigger opponents and Grenada were undefeated; in fact, we qualified for the Gold Cup as the lowest-ranked team in our zone, six points clear of the second-placed team. These guys had a major part to play in that.
“And I wish, for some reason, [Leicester City midfielder] Hamza Choudhury might hear me talking and make the decision to play for Grenada to make the Cinderella story continue. He’s eligible to represent us.”
Joseph watches as many Shrewsbury games as he can access back home in Grenada, and the presence of three of the nation’s star players has made the Shropshire side a good-news story in the local media. “I follow a lot of it on the internet,” says Joseph, who was invited to make the 7,000km journey to attend this afternoon’s game by Shrewsbury’s chairman, Roland Wycherley. “Results of the club are often featured in the local newspapers, television and radio.”
The future of the FA Cup has been a hotly debated topic of late, as the world’s oldest cup competition vies for relevance in the modern game, sliding down the list of priorities for English football’s biggest clubs, a distant third behind the riches on offer in the Premier League and Champions League.
But Joseph insists the Cup remains a big deal in Grenada, where the English game has long been revered.
“It’s massive,” he says. “All English football in Grenada is a big thing. We have had a relationship with the UK a long time now. We’ve had Jason Roberts, who played for Wigan and West Brom. He came out to represent Grenada at age 19.
“Grenadians have been following English football for a long time. And Brendon Batson, a Grenadian, was the head of the players’ association [PFA] in the UK for a long time.”
Although a seat in one of the plush executive boxes at Montgomery Waters Meadow will surely be on offer, Joseph intends to support Shrewsbury from the stands as they hope to pull off an upset for the ages. And there will be a significant audience in Grenada willing them on, too.
“It’s a really big thing,” Joseph says of Grenadian interest in the Cup tie. “The association has been promoting it on its social media pages. Liverpool, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Arsenal, Everton – these are the big teams many people at home follow.
“A game like this one, especially now Liverpool are world and European champions, you can expect everyone back home will be watching. The match will be shown live.
“It’s like David and Goliath. I’m hoping, for some reason, David will have some luck.”
Article courtesy of BBC Sport