Shrewsbury’s Grenadian duo Pierre and Beckles out to show Liverpool they are the real Spice Boys

By | 25th January 2020

SHREWSBURY’S Spice Boys are ready to take on mighty Liverpool.

Defenders Aaron Pierre and Omar Beckles are too young to remember the mid-1990s, when the Spice Girls were big news and the young Reds side earned the nickname for their showbiz links and dodgy dress sense.

Shrewsbury face Premier League leaders Liverpool in the FA Cup
Getty Images – Getty

For the Shrews duo, the Spice Boys means Grenada — and they have already made history with their national team this season.

When told of the Liverpool link, Pierre, 26, said: “Really? They tried to nick our name?

“Everyone says it sounds like a boy band, but it’s only because the island produces the spices for seasoning.

“One of the main ones is nutmeg. That’s where Spice Boys came from.”

Pierre and Beckles have played a big part in putting Grenada on the football map again.

In November, the tiny island — with a population of just over 100,000 — qualified for the 2021 Gold Cup, the CONCACAF equivalent of the European Championship, for only the third time in its history.

Grenada FA president Cheney Joseph, who will attend today’s clash with Jurgen Klopp’s side at the invitation of Shrews chairman Roland Wycherley, said: “It’s taken the association and football to the next level.

“The reality is they have been an inspiration to the younger players who are now aspiring to do as good as they did.”

Liverpool’s side in the mid-late 1990s earned the nickname for their showbiz links and dodgy dress sense
Getty – Contributor

For 28-year-old Beckles, in particular, the transformation into a Grenadian national hero has happened quickly.

While Pierre made his debut back in 2015, Beckles resisted attempts to persuade him to play for the birthplace of his late father Linton, a pop star turned pastor who died in 2015.

The ex-Millwall trainee said: “They had been trying to get hold of me for about four or five years.
“At that time I didn’t feel like it was worthwhile.

“The priority for me was to be playing league football — that’s going to pay my mortgage and bills, rather than international football, nice as it would be.”

The pressure told as Beckles tried to support his family while driving on his career and led to mental health problems and the need to wear a mouthguard to stop him grinding his teeth at night.

Happily, the centre-half has come through his own issues and now helps others through the Hub 365 Foundation that he set up in 2018.

He also married his wife Dahlia on the island last summer, just before making his debut. He said: “Because my father passed away, there was always a thing with the family to go out there so we thought it would be a nice touch to get married there.

Getty Images – Getty

For Omar Beckles the transformation into a Grenadian national hero has happened quickly.[/caption]

“My dad always told loads of stories about when he was growing up. There was one where he was peeing in a bush and got chased by a dog and lost his trousers in the process.

“He ended up having to go back to this lady and say, ‘Miss Jackson, have you seen my pants?’

“And I got to meet her, Miss Jackson! She said it was true. Just to put a face to the story was legendary. After going there and connecting with family, it felt right.”

Beckles had made a long emotional journey, now it was time for the challenge of playing Gold Cup qualifers in the Caribbean — while turning out for League One Shrewsbury.

Grenada qualified with a goalless draw in St Kitts and Nevis on a Thursday in November. But could Beckles and Pierre do it on a cold Tuesday night in Bradford for the FA Cup first-round replay?

After flight delays, an overnight stay in St Lucia and general chaos, the answer was: Just about.

Beckles said: “We arrived back on the Sunday, then trained on the Monday to play on the Tuesday.

“It wasn’t ideal preparation, to say the least, but it’s part and parcel.

“We played in the hottest game we’d had and then flew back from St Kitts to play a night game. It was freezing cold, Baltic.”

Beckles played the full 90 minutes as Shrews sneaked a 1-0 win. Pierre was on the bench that night, but he was the Shrews’ Cup hero earlier this month when his late screamer decided the third-round replay at Championship side Bristol City.

Shrewsbury beat Bristol City in the third round replay
PA:Empics Sport

It earned today’s home tie with world and European champions Liverpool and Pierre said: “It didn’t really sink in at the time how crucial the goal might be. It was only after the game you appreciate what it means to everyone else with the fans running on to the pitch.”

Thousands of miles away in Grenada, Pierre’s amazing strike was also making headlines.

Grenada FC chief Joseph revealed: “Oh my God, it was a big thing. It was on every newspaper and television station. Almost every Grenadian who follows football now knows about the club and where the players are playing.”
Shrewsbury’s Oliver Norburn will also play for Grenada and they hope former Manchester United trainee Ro-Shaun Williams will take Shrews’ contingent to four.

But today is all about the challenge of playing Liverpool and Pierre hopes it will be third time lucky for him against Premier League opposition in the FA Cup.

He was part of the Wycombe side that took Aston Villa to a third-round replay in 2016.

More painfully, he was in the Wanderers team that led 2-0 at Spurs in the fourth round in 2017, then 3-2 with a minute to go, before Dele Alli equalised and Son Heung-min hit a winner in stoppage-time.

Aaron Pierre has played a big part in putting Grenada on the football map again
Getty Images – Getty

Pierre said: “We were winning 2-0, then they put a couple of the big boys on. Unfortunately I gave away a penalty.

“We still put in a big performance but Son that day, wow, he’s probably the best player I ever played against.

“He’s a joke, he never stops moving at all. I couldn’t even catch him to kick him, I was like: ‘Stay still, just for a moment’.”

Klopp’s policy of playing the kids in the cups means Pierre and Beckles probably will not compete against the Reds’ front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

Pierre said: “That’s sad in one way, you want to test yourself against the elite, but on the other hand the alternatives are probably just as good on their day.

“It’d be nice to have the experience of playing against Mane or Salah. As a centre-half I would have liked to play against Virgil van Dijk as well, even if only to ask him for his shirt afterwards.”

But for Beckles and Pierre, this will be the biggest day of their careers — even after their heroics with Grenada.

Beckles said: “The FA Cup is magical, isn’t it? It’s hard to compare the two. They are both unique.

“International football holds a sentimental space for me and why I’m playing there, through my old man.

“This game is bigger. We’re playing against the world champions, it’s a big scalp, and every lad wants to put their ability to the test.”

And the Spice Boys were outsiders to qualify for the Gold Cup, so why cannot Shrewsbury spring a shock?
Pierre said: “We are underdogs so we have nothing to lose, just give it our all and at the end of the day we just have to enjoy the moment.”

This post written by Jack Figg originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.

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