Sam Ricketts is calling on Shrewsbury fans to boo him tomorrow to overshadow Graham Turner’s welcome from Wolves fans.
As a former Telford United player, the Wales international is more acutely aware of the passions of being a rival against the Greenhous Meadow side than anyone else at Molineux.
And, as Wolves lick their wounds looking for an immediate response to Tuesday’s 1-0 humbling by neighbours Walsall, Ricketts is happy to be singled out for some ‘banter’ from the home fans to bring out the best in him.
Ricketts’ one-season spell at the New Bucks Head in 2003-04 coincided with Shrewsbury’s year in the then Conference.
Town went up through the play-offs but Ricketts enjoyed the best of their fortunes against them that season.
Telford beat them over two legs in the FA Trophy semi-final and took four points off them in the league, Ricketts scoring the only goal at the New Bucks Head in the April – against a certain Dave Edwards in opposition.
“I played against them about three or four times that season,” said Ricketts.
“We beat them over two legs in the FA Trophy semi-final.
“So I hope they remember me and I do get some stick because I quite enjoy that.
“I love it – I’ve always enjoyed that. I was fortunate enough to make my debut in the Oxford-Swindon derby and I played for Swansea, so even though I never played against Cardiff, when I go to Cardiff now, I get stick because they hate any ex-Swansea players.”
Like Tuesday’s clash against Walsall, tomorrow’s derby is one perhaps more eagerly-awaited by opposition fans eager to put over over their more illustrious neighbours.
Older Shrewsbury fans will recall the epic battle over two games in the FA Cup quarter-final of 1979, when Third Division Town held top-flight Wolves 1-1 in front of 40,946 in the Molineux mud before John Barnwell’s white-shirted side stunned Gay Meadow by winning 3-1 in a replay.
Those games were the first brush Wolves had with Shrewsbury boss Graham Turner, then player-manager.
And they weren’t to be the last, as tomorrow marks the first occasion a Molineux Hall of Fame inductee plays against Wolves.
Ricketts is aware of the place Turner holds in the affections of the gold and black masses after leading them from oblivion to the brink of the Premier League in a seven-and-a-half year spell at the helm.
But he is anxious to create new history and insists the current Wolves won’t be bothered by it tomorrow.
“I can assure you the players won’t be distracted by that,” said the 31-year-old, who wasn’t born when the sides locked horns in the FA Cup.
“That’s for the people coming to the game to perhaps remember him and to thank him for the job he did at Wolves.
“We’re going there to win and he will want to beat us, just like everyone wants to beat us this season.
“Certainly him being a former Wolves manager and now in charge of the local club down the road, he’ll be looking for the bragging rights as well.”
The fact tomorrow’s game is virtually a 9,500 sell out – some 4,000 above their 5,541 average despite only admitting 1,500 Wolves fans – confirms what a hot ticket this is in and around Shrewsbury.
Wolves are a big draw and as such, they are the team everyone wants to beat.
“We expect that in every game and it’s even more evident in a local derby,” said Ricketts.
“You could tell with the Walsall fans on Tuesday – that was their cup final, coming to a ground like ours.
“I don’t mean that in a detrimental way, but it was a game they probably looked forward to, just like we have.
“We were disappointed not to have won it.”
Wolves haven’t been at their best in their last two games.
Fans have been critical of a lack of creativity in midfield as well as the resting of four-goal top-scorer Leigh Griffiths.
Ricketts believes fans should ‘keep the faith’ and leave it to head coach Kenny Jackett as the former Swansea and Bolton defender is confident the gaffer’s rotation policy will pay dividends later in the season when the squads of their League One rivals become weary.
“We’ve got a fantastic squad and it’s hard to keep everyone happy,” he said.
“People will always go in and out of the team and I think that policy will bear fruit later on in the season when possibly people who haven’t been playing every game will come into it more. After Christmas, you’re not going to get any fitter and every team is fading, even if you’re Real Madrid.
“It’s just a case of who fades slower, so the more we can utilise our squad to our advantage and the more people can come in fresh, the better. Our subs have been magnificent coming on – Bjorn (Sigurdarson) earned his start against Walsall with the way he’s played coming off the bench in the previous couple of league games and that’s what we need and that’s what we’ve had to be fair.”
With performances having dipped against Swindon and Walsall, Wolves’ youthful squad will be looking to experienced players such as Ricketts and Kevin Doyle.
But the skipper stressed there’s no need to panic as he tried to put Tuesday’s 1-0 setback against Walsall – their first defeat of the season – into perspective.
“There’s no reason for anyone’s head to drop,” said Ricketts.“We’ve only lost one game – we’ve got to deal with it and we’ll bounce back. That’s how we’ve got to be – we’ve got to be confident in our style our performance as a team and in ourselves.”