Shrewsbury’s Spice Boys set to face Liverpool in FA Cup
Forget about cream suits and the 1996 FA Cup Final – Liverpool will need to get past a couple of members of the original Spice Boys in the fourth round of the competition on Sunday.
The nickname may have been applied to the likes of Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, and Jamie Redknapp in the mid-90s, but the real Spice Boys are the Grenadan national team.
And Liverpool will face two Grenada internationals – Aaron Pierre and Omar Beckles – when they travel to Shrewsbury in the FA Cup this weekend.
Not that Pierre, born in 1993, even realised there was any competition for the moniker.
“Were they trying to nick our name?” he said with a laugh. “I never knew that.”
Pierre, born in London but with Grenadan grandparents, has earned 10 caps for the national team, and along with Beckles has just helped them qualify for next year’s Gold Cup – their first participation for a decade.
It is a huge moment for a nation accustomed to missing out on major tournaments, but one that Pierre admitted might come second to Shrewsbury beating Liverpool at Montgomery Waters Meadow on Sunday.
“For a nation to qualify for the Gold Cup is a massive thing, it’s only the third time in our history and it’s a very young squad, so that’s an unreal moment for me and Omar,” said Pierre, who has been trying to recruit Shrews team-mates Ollie Norburn and Roshaun Williams for Grenada too.
“But on a personal scale, living in England, you want to play the big boys and Liverpool are one of the major teams.”
Pierre scored the winner against Bristol City to set up this fixture and is hoping it can be third-time lucky for him when facing Premier League opposition in the cup after two frustrating defeats during his time at Wycombe.
In January 2016 the Chairboys earned a replay with Aston Villa, drawing 1-1 at home before losing the replay 2-0, but there was even more frustration a year later when they led 2-0 and 3-2 at White Hart Lane before goals from Dele Alli and Son Heung-min in the 89th and 90th minutes sent Spurs through.
“Don’t get me started on Tottenham,” Pierre said. “Tottenham was a ridiculous experience. My dad is a Tottenham supporter so he was happy, but he had to put on a sad face for me.
“We were winning 2-0 and then they put a couple of the big boys on. Unfortunately I gave away a penalty – it wasn’t a penalty but they’re good at diving – nevertheless we still put in a big performance.”
Liverpool may well rest the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah on Sunday, but the match against Spurs gave Pierre experience of facing one of the Premier League’s most dynamic forwards in Son.
“He’s probably the best player I’ve ever played against,” Pierre said.
“He’s a joke. He doesn’t stop moving. I was getting annoyed, ‘Bro, just stay still’. I actually told him to stop moving, ‘You’re starting to annoy me’, I said.
“He went and scored two goals after that.”
Salah or Mane would be likely to run Pierre ragged as well should either play, but he still hopes they do.
“If you’re going to get knocked out of a competition you want to be playing against the best,” he said.
“You can say you played against Mane or Salah, or have done a crunching tackle on Salah.
“As a defender, on that team, Virgil Van Dijk is a massive highlight, so if he plays or is on the bench I’m going straight over to get that top. I’ll win the scrap to get it.”