By Ryan Walters
IF JOSE Mourinho began his first stint at Chelsea by declaring himself ‘The Special One’, then Micky Mellon is fast earning a reputation as ‘The Lucky One’ in charge of Shrewsbury.
And despite being at opposite ends of the managerial spectrum, Mellon says he couldn’t have wished for a better test than against the Portuguese in the Capital One Cup fourth round.
The 42-year-old Scot has galvanised a patchwork of players brought in over the summer, leading them to early League Two success – as well as the tag of cup giant-killers.
Norwich were the latest club to be slain in midweek, with Leicester and Blackpool falling before them to set up a home clash with Chelsea’s glut of stars on Tuesday October 28.
While Mourinho has won Champions Leagues and Premier League titles, Mellon earned his full professional coaching licence only just before starting at New Meadow in May.
But with his players having embraced a passing philosophy – which hasn’t always guaranteed success in the lower leagues – Mellon hopes Lady Luck will continue to shine on the Shrews.
“Somebody said to me the other day ‘will it be a distraction?’” said Mellon. “Chelsea at home? Jose Mourinho? Please give me a distraction like that every single season in my career!
“I don’t really believe there would have been a better draw for us. I think it ticks so many boxes at the minute.
“We’ve got a lot to think about beforehand, and of course you need luck, but we want to make sure that we’re galvanised by the energy around the place knowing we’ve got such a big game on the horizon.
“I want the players to take their fantastic training ground performances onto the football pitch because we encourage them to pass it and to be aggressive in getting the ball back.
“Confidence is massive and it’s very fragile, so all the time you’ve just got to be encouraging and keep saying to your players that it’s OK to make a mistake but learn from it.”
Mellon signed no fewer than 17 players over the summer, looking to bring a change in fortunes after the Shrews were relegated from League One last season.
And having placed his side in the play-off places before the weekend it would be fair to say Mellon has started to work his magic already.
The likes of Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Mickey Demetriou, young defenders with roots in Non-League football and signed in the summer, have epitomised the confidence around the place.
But with a long way still to go, Mellon claims his players will have to continue finding solutions to the hardships and struggles there will no doubt be this season.
“I think because it’s such a new group, and everything is so fresh, we’re working so hard together to try to build everything – as the challenges are coming we’re really embracing them,” added the ex-Fleetwood manager.
“When they are going up against these big clubs they are enjoying the challenge and just testing themselves against them with no fear, so it’s really encouraging.
“We brought in 17 players in the summer, pretty much all at the same time and then we had some young players that were left over from last season. It’s been so pleasing to see how they’ve all attacked the ideas that we have.
“I knew Nathaniel Knight-Percival and I knew Mickey Demetriou from my time in the Conference and one thing you get from them is that they fight and scrap.
“They’ve played a lot of Non-League games and they don’t care who they come up against, they’ll go toe to toe with you and they will fight to try and come out on top.
“I’ve enjoyed the work that we’ve done, I’m just cautious to say that we’ve achieved anything yet.”