Sleaford Town: Shaw plans hearts and minds mission to earn community’s love after safety secured

While vowing to spend the season on the touchline, Shaw occasionally had to pull on the boots for his depleted squad EMN-180305-154029002
While vowing to spend the season on the touchline, Shaw occasionally had to pull on the boots for his depleted squad EMN-180305-154029002

Sleaford Town manager Jamie Shaw is keen to build on his first season in charge after seeing his side retain their Premier Division status.

Tuesday night’s 3-2 defeat in their final match at Boston Town took their United Counties League fate out of their hands, knowing all of their rivals could overhaul them with their games in hand.

But a draw for fellow scrappers Oadby, with Peterborough Northern Star, 24 hours later ensured Sleaford would not finish in the two relegation spots.

“It was a great relief as we were reliant on one of the others slipping up,” said Shaw.

“There is a great sense of pride in many respects, but also a determination to build on what we’ve achieved.

“I’m proud of how the players and my staff have reacted to the numerous obstacles and difficulties they have faced and found a way to overcome them.”

While Town do not usually spend the back end of a season scrapping relegation, their survival this year marked a brilliant turnaround.

Last summer, Shaw was handed the reins just weeks before the start of the season with barely enough players to field an XI after new manager Paul Walden quit.

Still scrabbling around for good quality players as the season kicked off, Town picked up just two points in a winless first 15 games and stayed rock bottom up to Christmas, picking up just 12 points from their first 27 matches.

But Sleaford’s form took a dramatic upturn after a Boxing Day win over Boston, winning seven and drawing two of their final 15 matches.

“It was tough in some ways as obviously nobody likes getting beaten, and it was hard at times for the players to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Shaw added.

“But we kept stressing the belief we had in them that they would turn it around, and once they got the confidence from the wins it became easier.

“We were able to improve the squad as the season went on, but chiefly it was down to the players and their hunger and appetite to improve and to fight their way up the league.

“The work that (assistant managers) Jay Harrison and Richard Kinniburgh have done has also been invaluable, not forgetting Jamie Tucker’s help at the start of the season.”

Shaw has spent virtually his entire career with the club, and their fate this season was something he took personally.

Last Wednesday evening was spent frantically following the Oadby score on Twitter in what became an emotionally draining evening.

But despite the inevitable stresses of the job, Town’s all-time leading goalscorer has relished the challenge and is keen to continue.

“I’ve really enjoyed my first season managing at this level and I’ve made it clear that I want the job and that’ll be something to discuss with the committee at our next meeting,” he explained.

“I’ve received great assistance from Thomas Murchington as physio, the senior players have helped out when necessary, plus the committee have been great in always offering their support rather than feeling that the axe might be coming after every bad result.”

Shaw is especially keen on selling the club to the town, trying to replicate some of his passion for the club among the community.

“Off the pitch it’s vital we integrate the town of Sleaford into the football club and develop the right culture.

“I want to give Sleaford a club at the heart of its community and something they can be proud of, and obviously the higher level you are playing at, the more people will want to engage with that.”

He added: “I think the prospects going forward are very positive.

“We need to put a secure foundation under what we have been able to achieve this season.

“Some of that will be by improving the depth and quality of the squad, particularly in areas where we may feel we need to strengthen.

“But also we can still improve on our fitness as a squad and hopefully a settled pre-season will allow us to develop that.

“We’ve also got a fantastic youth set up at Sleaford that we need to keep trying to tap into where possible as that is the ideal situation for finding future players.”