Billy Tunnicliffe

Memory Match – 19-03-49

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

** This was written before the Coronavirus outbreak. But l see no reason why my opinions should change. It goes without saying that l wish everyone associated with the club the very best of health, but I remain convinced that Wrexham AFC will only prosper by being inclusive for ALL supporters. ** 

***

19/03/49

Wrexham v Carlisle United

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

 Wrexham: Ferguson, Tunney, Jackson, Speed, Spruce, Wilson, Grainger, Beynon, Boothway, Sharp, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorer: Boothway (2), Beynon (2)

 Carlisle United: MacLaren, Simpson, Coupe, Horton, Seed, Twentyman, Turner, Lindsay, Yates, Barkas, Walshaw

Attendance: 7,340

The 1948/49 season saw plenty of changes as one chapter closed, and another began.

Everything seemed to be going to plan, with the Town competing near the top of the Third Division North table. Following a fourth successive victory, against Accrington Stanley (1-0) we found ourselves in sixth position. With everything seemingly going well, it came as a massive shock when Tom Williams was relieved of his duties, even though his contract was due to run until 1950. Two of the club’s directors also retired in protest at the dismissal.

One of these figures, Alderman William Dodman said: “Tom Williams was highly respected everywhere. He always said that his dismissal by Wrexham was an injustice, and I agree with him. If the club had been left in his hands, I think Wrexham would have been a Second Division side long ago. He managed the club during the war, without pay and he got a team together that could, and did hold its own against the best in the country. His heart was always with Wrexham FC, and he once said that he would go back for nothing.”

A committee took over team selection while a new manager was found. This committee had been in charge of the three games prior to this one, and we were still searching for our first victory. We had slid down to ninth position and it was clear that a new manager had to be appointed as soon as possible.

We had lost the reverse fixture at Brunton Park by the odd goal in five. Since that game in October, both clubs had a change of management. Ivor Broadis had been in charge of United, but had since been replaced by Bill Shankly, a man who would become legendary in his own right. This was to be Shankly’s third game in the dug-out, and prior to this game he was undefeated in club management, with a victory against Bradford City (1-2) coming before a goalless draw against Halifax Town.

They would not have everything their own way this afternoon though, as the home side dominated proceedings. Wrexham scored all of their goals in the second half of the contest, but also played some impressive football during the opening period. As ‘Wanderer’ recounts in the Wrexham Leader: “There were periods of delightful movement; there were periods of bad luck in front of goal, and the inevitable periods of erratic shooting. But for the rest it was ninety percent Wrexham’s half”.

With the game goalless at half-time, fans worried that the lads would fall away completely as they had done against Stockport County (1-0) just seven days previously. Any nerves were soon settled when Jack Boothway netted three minutes after the restart. According to Wanderer the goal was a tribute to “Beynon’s fine initiative and individualism” – the Welsh inside forward powered through the visiting defence and his resulting drive beat Jimmy MacLaren. The shot stopper was saved by the crossbar, but Boothway was on hand to nod home the opening goal.

Wrexham were now in the driving seat, much as they had been throughout, but now they had made the all-important breakthrough. After proving that they could be clinical in front of goal, the home side asserted their dominance. On 57 minutes, Billy Tunnicliffe managed to send over an inviting cross which unfortunately eluded Boothway. Thankfully, Eddie Beynon was on hand to send a left-footed drive through a crowd of players that found its way passed an un-sighted MacLaren.

The game was now effectively over as a contest and it came as no surprise when Boothway planted home a header on 73 minutes after a pinpoint cross by Tunnicliffe. Soon after, Beynon latched on to a loose ball and raced forward before dispatching a right-foot drive past the beleaguered figure of MacLaren.

***

 Despite this pleasing victory, we were still without a manager who could provide stability and guidance for the future. We played another couple of games under the committee, in which we continued to show a lack of consistency. A 2-0 defeat at Gateshead was followed by a single-goal victory over Hartlepools United.

Thankfully, prior to our next game against Darlington at Feethams, we appointed Les McDowall as our new manager. The Manchester City wing-half became Wrexham’s first player-manager. It was an inauspicious start to his managerial career, as Wrexham only recorded two victories in the last seven games of the season.

***

It wasn’t a memorable season in the cup competitions. Oldham Athletic dumped us out of the FA Cup at the first round stage. They managed to beat us 0-3 at the Racecourse in front of 15,228 supporters.

It was a similar story in the Welsh Cup, but not before we hammered Chester 0-6 at Sealand Road. Those dreaming of further Welsh Cup glory would be disappointed in the sixth round when Rhyl beat us 1-0 at Belle Vue.

Memory Match – 26-01-52

Throughout the 2017/18 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

This is the third successive season that I have been writing the Memory Match column. Indeed, when I have written a Memory Match for every Football League season that Wrexham AFC enjoyed,  I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

 

26-01-52

Rochdale v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Spotland

Rochdale: Nicholls, Watson, Radford, Lynn, Downes, Buchan, Whitworth, Tomlinson, Middlebrough, Foulds, Betts

Goalscorer: Buchan

Wrexham: Connor, Wynn, Fisher, Jones, Spruce, Tapscott, Lawrence, Hewitt, Bannan, Hope, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorers: Hope (3), Hewitt, Bannan

Attendance: 4,244

Season 1951/52 started in a nightmare fashion with the Town losing all of their opening six matches, including an opening day defeat at Sealand Road against Chester (2-1). This awful start to the season continued with defeats against Barrow (3-1), Chesterfield (0-3), Barrow (2-4), Bradford Park Avenue (5-0) and Workington (2-0). We finally won our seventh match of the campaign after beating Halifax Town (2-1) at the Racecourse. There was only a slight improvement as the season went on with the team lifting themselves to a disappointing 18th position.

Our last game of January 1952 actually came on the back of two successive home victories against Grimsby Town (2-0) and Mansfield Town (3-1), but we had yet to win on the road all season. The only glimmer of hope was that Rochdale were also enduring a season of struggle in the lower reaches of the league table.

This contest was played in atrocious conditions as the afternoon saw dense freezing fog and the pitch at Spotland was covered with snow, which frost had hardened. Writing in the Leader, the “Wanderer” said that these conditions actually paved the way to Wrexham’s success as they passed the ball around well and adapted to the conditions much better than Rochdale. Once the Reds took an early lead they never looked back.

After six minutes play, Eric Hope drove home the opening goal from a George Jones free kick. Rochdale had their moments and equalised after 20 minute when Alistair Buchan fired home a long-range drive. Robert Connor dived and appeared to have the ball covered, but it was deflected into the other corner of the net by Ron Wynn. Our custodian Connor was largely a spectator for the remainder of the afternoon as he was only really tested from a second half corner, from which Alan Middlebrough struck the crossbar.

Wrexham were back in the lead after a Billy Tunnicliffe cross was parried by a defender and the ball fell into the path of the ruthless Hope. More was to follow before half time as on 37 minutes, captain Cyril Lawrence – playing against his former club – swung over a glorious corner and Hewitt converted it into the net before goalkeeper Jim Nicholls could move.

After the interval, Peter Jackson’s men continued to power forward in search of more goals. Indeed, it came as no surprise when Lawrence whipped in a cross for Hope to slam home a 25 yard thunderbolt. Lawrence was playing the game of his life and turned the Rochdale left back, Arthur Radford, inside out with his trickery.  It was a shame that he didn’t get on the scoresheet himself but he could be proud that he had a hand in three of the goals.

Hope also deserves a special mention as “he worked like a Trojan and whenever the ball came his way it was whirled away with the speed of a rocket without a second’s hesitation. It was from three such shots that he got his goals”.

Wrexham completed their third win in succession when Lawrence, once again, sent in a centre that Tommy Bannan connected with.

This remained Wrexham’s only away win of an arduous season, while Rochdale finished the campaign in 21st position – only the bottom two clubs, Workington and Darlington, had to seek re-election.

***

Unfortunately, we did not progress very far in the cup competitions. We did put Halifax Town to the sword (3-0) in the first round of the FA Cup, but we were knocked out at the second round stage by Leyton Orient (3-2), after a replay.

After beating Colwyn Bay and Chester in the Welsh Cup, we were beaten at the semi-final stage by Merthyr Tydfil (0-2).

Memory Match – 11-10-47

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

11-10-47

Wrexham v Chester

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Bayley, Tunney, Jackson, Roberts, Wilson, Bellis, Jones, Beynon, Boothway, Sharp, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorer: Tunnicliffe (2)

Chester: MacLaren, Butcher, McNeil, Marsh, Walters, Cole, Turner, Burden, Coffin, Astbury, Hamilton

Goalscorer: Marsh (pen)

Attendance: 21,131

Wrexham went into this derby clash whilst riding high at the top of the league although they had failed to win their last three matches. Defeat at eventual champions Lincoln City was followed by successive 1-1 draws against Accrington Stanley and Hull City.  Hopes were high that Tom Williams’ men could get their promotion charge back on track against our mid-table local rivals. Chester had been fairly inconsistent up until this point, but were fresh from a 4-1 home win against Carlisle United.

Goalkeeper Tom Bayley was making his home League debut, but had a fairly quiet introduction to life at the Racecourse as the home team dominated proceedings. Indeed, Wrexham took the lead after only three minutes through a Billy Tunnicliffe effort that was deflected by Chester’s Reg Butcher.

After weathering fierce Wrexham pressure to keep the scoreline respectable, Chester found their feet and went close through Tommy Burden and Geoff Coffin.  At half-time, Racecourse regulars fretted over the fact that despite their dominance they only had a one goal lead. Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait much longer to increase this lead as Tunnicliffe completed his brace after 57 minutes. The outside-left accepted a through ball by Jack Boothway and beat Jimmy MacLaren with a well-placed cross shot.

Chester got back into the game late on when they were awarded a controversial penalty after Wally Roberts was deemed to have fouled Tommy Burden. Frank Marsh converted the resulting spot kick.  This was the final goal of the afternoon, but if Wrexham players had been wearing their shooting boots then the margin of victory would surely have been greater.

Norman Sharp was particularly unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet due to a fine save from MacLaren after earlier shooting over the bar. Jack Jones also warmed the hands of MacLaren with a rasping drive while Boothway, on his return from injury, could not find the form that had brought him a glut of goals following his move from Crewe Alexandra the previous season. Chester defender Trevor Walters – the backbone of a defiant defence – also deserves grudging praise for containing the dangerous Wrexham attack.

Wrexham finished the season in third position, but were lagging ten points behind Lincoln City.  Meanwhile, Chester just avoided having to seek re-election after limping to 20th position with just Halifax Town and New Brighton below them.

***

However, Wrexham did not fare so well in cup competitions. They suffered the embarrassment of losing a Welsh Cup semi-final to Lovell’s Athletic, 2-1 despite beating Rhyl and Penrhyn Quarry in earlier rounds.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat Halifax Town 5-0 in the first round, but there was more heartbreak to follow.  The second round saw Wrexham travelling to non-league Colchester United and with just a few minutes remaining a shock was on the cards as we trailed 1-0.  Our desperation turned to hope when we were awarded a penalty at the death and as regular penalty-taker Billy Tunnicliffe strode forward it seemed as if we had found redemption.  Unfortunately Tunnicliffe promptly fainted, leaving Jack Boothway as the man responsible for taking the crucial spot-kick.  With the pressure on, Boothway stubbed the ground as he shot and the ball trickled into the arms of an amused Colchester goalkeeper.  Our cup dreams were over for another season…

***

At the end of this season, Wrexham travelled to Germany to play three matches against Army teams stationed on the Rhine.  They met BAOR in Celle, the Rhine Army XI in Hanover and the combined services XI in Rothesan.

Memory Match – 13-01-51

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

13-01-51

Wrexham v York City

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-3

Wrexham: Ferguson, Tunney, McAdam, Spencer, Spruce, McCallum, Lawrence, Wylliie, Fidler, Donaldson, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorers: Tunnicliffe, Wylliie, Donaldson, Fidler

York City: Ashley, Andrews, Simpson, Horton, Brenen, Spence, Linaker, Brown, Patrick (A), Storey, Patrick (M)

Goalscorers: Patrick (Alf) (2), Spence (pen)

Attendance: 5,159

Wrexham began the 1950/51 season without a permanent manager, following the departure of Les McDowall to his beloved Manchester City after only one season in charge. This had been a season of struggle and caretaker Cliff Lloyd could only lead the Reds to an inconsistent start to the new term. The high points of his stewardship up until November included home victories over Shrewsbury Town (1-0) and Chester City (2-0).

Peter Jackson was eventually unveiled as the new manager after we had endured a run of only one win in nine games under Lloyd. Jackson’s mission was to steady the ship and it could be argued that this was achieved with an anonymous 14th place finish in a newly expanded 24-team League.

This was Jackson’s fourth home game, having won two others and drawing one. With York City struggling for form it was hoped that our new boss could extend his unbeaten record at the Racecourse.

It took 20 minutes for Wrexham to open the scoring when Cyril Lawrence delivered a corner to the unmarked Billy Tunnicliffe who didn’t need asking twice to put the Reds in the lead. Frank Fidler had a chance to increase the lead with a flashing header, but it was the visitors who struck next on the half-hour. Alf Patrick made the most of Wrexham’s defensive shortcomings to equalise, albeit totally against the run of play.

It didn’t take the home side long to reassert their dominance though. Again it was a Lawrence corner kick that proved decisive, but this time it was Jimmy Wyllie who provided the finishing header. There was still time before the interval for Wrexham to increase their lead further. Fidler was unfortunate to see his header parried against the crossbar by Joe Ashley in the York goal, but the ball came down in play and Les Donaldson’s over-head kick secured our advantage going into the break. The only wonder was that York weren’t further behind.

The second half continued in much the same vein with Wrexham battering away at a defence that could not cope with the onslaught. Seven minutes after the re-start Fidler nodded in a Tunnicliffe cross to score his side’s fourth. Game over, or was it?

Whether it was a case of Wrexham becoming complacent or York digging deep to fight back is a moot point. Writing in the Leader, “Wanderer” complained about “Wrexham’s half-backs wandering hither and thither until all we could rely on was Eddie Tunney like the rock of Gibraltar crashing in and clearing when everyone else seemed unable to put a foot right”.

The Minstermen found their way back into the game thanks to an error of judgement from Wrexham goalkeeper Archie Ferguson. Matt Patrick delivered a corner that a poorly placed Ferguson could only watch sail over his head to his unmarked brother Alf, who was on hand to reduce the deficit for the final half-hour.

On 77 minutes disaster struck when Wrexham conceded a penalty following a “stupid push”. It was probably a harsh decision, but Ron Spence made no mistake from the penalty spot. This led to an uncomfortabl00e last 10 minutes, but had Wrexham increased their lead it would not have been an unfair result based on the overall standards of the two teams.

Memory Match – 25-04-53

Throughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

25-04-53

Wrexham v Chester

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 7-0

Wrexham: Egglestone, Parker, Fisher, Jones, Capper, Tapscott, Heggie, Hewitt, Bannan, Tilston, Richards

Goalscorers: Jones, Tilston (2), Bannan (2), Richards, Hewitt

Chester: Wright, Dickens, Gill, Hughes, Coffin, Astbury, Deakin, Moremont, Travis, Sutcliffe, Whitlock

Attendance: 10,914

 

In 1952/53, Peter Jackson almost led Wrexham to the uncharted heights of the Second Division. The Robins finished a successful season in third position, just three points behind champions Oldham Athletic. One of the main reasons behind this success was our forward line of Tommy Bannan, Glyn Hughes, Ron Hewitt, Tommy Tilston and Billy Tunnicliffe, who reaped 70 goals between them.

The undoubted highlight of the season was a staggering 7-0 victory over our cross-border rivals in the penultimate game. This was Wrexham’s biggest-ever derby win and completed a League double over Chester following a 1-2 victory at Sealand Road just ten days previously. For balance, I suppose I should also note that this double helped avenge a 4-3 defeat by the Englishmen in a Welsh Cup fifth round tie that same season.

Just three days after our heaviest defeat of the season – a promotion-denying 4-0 trouncing at relegation-threatened Workington – hopes were high that we could bounce back from such disappointment against an injury–depleted Chester side.

The Cestrians were always going to find it tough without regular outside-left Billy Windle and right-back John Molyneux. These reliable and effective regulars were replaced by Phil Whitlock and Leo Dickens. The crowning misfortune for the visitors saw centre-half Eric Hall deemed unfit meaning that centre-forward Geoff Coffin had to cover as a makeshift defender.

Conversely, Wrexham were only forced to play without Glyn Hughes (flu). This allowed Bill Heggie to get an outing at outside-right as Wrexham showed their attacking intentions from the off. George Jones wasted a free-kick that sailed yards wide before Ron Hewitt shot inches off-target. We were getting closer…

On five minutes, Chester goalkeeper Dick Wright collided with the substantial frame of Scottish-born Heggie. It took extensive use of the magic sponge to get the dazed Wright back on his feet, but it wasn’t to be his day as just minutes later the bemused ‘keeper, “flitting around his goalmouth like a fly trapped into a bottle”, collided with an unnamed Wrexham forward and had to be stretchered from the field of play. Chester were reduced to ten-men and forced to put Ralph Moremont into goal. Writing in the North Wales Guardian, Ron Chaloner noted that the defence in front of the versatile wing-half “looked about as safe as a prefab would be to an atom bomb”.

As the half-hour mark approached – depending which newspaper you believe – Bannan sent over a corner for Hewitt to head home the first of three goals in a nine-minute spell. Tilston was then officially credited with a brace before the break, despite the fact that watching journalists agreed that his first goal appeared to have been helped in by Chester’s Tommy Astbury.

Five minutes into the second period, Jones made it four when he headed past Moremont after Dickens had cleared off the goal-line. Bannan, who was the spearhead of a fast-moving attack, headed home the fifth from Heggie’s cross and completed his brace nine minutes from time when he sent in a high cross-shot that floated over Moremont’s hands and under the bar.

Chester’s disastrous afternoon was complete three minutes from time when Dickens handled the ball in the penalty area and conceded a clear spot-kick that was powered home by Gordon Richards.

The Wrexham Advertiser and Star moaned that the match lost all interest as a spectacle when Chester lost Wright and called for a new rule allowing substitute goalkeepers. Somehow, if something similarly unfortunate was to happen to our visitors this afternoon, I can’t see many Wrexham fans complaining…

***

Chester finished the season in a lowly 20th position – five points clear of relegation.

 

Memory Match – 27-08-49

Throughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

27-08-49

Wrexham v Lincoln City

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

Wrexham: Ferguson, Wynn, Jackson, Spruce, Wilson, Speed, Grainger, Graham, Boothway, Rowell, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorers: Boothway (3), Grainger

Lincoln City: Payne, Green, Stillyards, Wright, Emery, Owen, Windsor, Finch, Dodds, Eastham, Windle

Attendance: 13,162

This was our first full season under the tutorship of player-manager Les McDowall after the departure of Tom Williams in February 1949. McDowall had been at the helm for the last seven matches of a fairly successful season in which we finished ninth. However, on closer inspection McDowall’s initial impact was hardly impressive –winning two, drawing two and losing three. The jury was still out…

The only new signing in the close season was a four figure deal for outside-right John Graham from Aston Villa who scored on his debut in a 2-2 draw against Rotherham United. This well-earned point came against a side that had been runners-up in Division Three North for the previous three seasons and was followed by a fortunate 1-1 draw against Bill Shankly’s Carlisle United side at the Racecourse. This game saw much criticism, frustration and barracking of the team for a below par performance strewn with errors.

The catcalls and jeers must have been vociferous as they resulted in the following paragraph from match reporter “The Wanderer” in the Leader.

“Let us have a little more practical demonstration of the word “supporter” and a lot less criticism, and the team will profit by it in good games as well as in bad.”

Next up were newly relegated Lincoln City.

In their failed attempt to stave off relegation from the Second Division, the Imps spent £25,000 on players, so hopes were high that the team would bounce straight back up under the guidance of Bill Anderson. However, it was the Robins who surprised many – including their own fans – by recording such a resounding victory.

After 39 minutes of grumbling from the home fans, Wrexham clicked into gear and took the lead through Jack Boothway after good work from Fred Rowell and a pinpoint cross from Billy Tunnicliffe. A combination of defensive heroics, good goalkeeping and misfiring meant that the Reds went in at half-time with a mere one-goal advantage.

The second period was only 30 seconds old when Boothway doubled his tally after a direct dribble down the middle of the pitch. The 6ft 2in marksman ran out of options, so whipped the ball out wide to Tunnicliffe and continued his race towards goal. When Tunnicliffe eventually centred the ball it was met by the head of the in-rushing Boothway to give Frank Payne no chance in the Lincoln goal.

Boothway completed his hat-trick after an hour following a sublime dribble from Rowell that ended when he pushed the ball out to Dennis Grainger on the flank. The cross that followed was inevitably converted by Boothway who was popularly regarded as the best centre-forward at the Cae Ras since the legendary Tommy Bamford.

Four minutes later the rout was completed with a powerful header from Grainger.

***

After such a promising start to the season Wrexham quickly faded and finished a season of struggle in 20th position in the League table. Les McDowell left the hot-seat when former club Manchester City came calling for his managerial services. McDowall was an instant success at Maine Road by securing promotion to the top flight at his first attempt. This began a distinguished 13 year reign in the job after learning the ropes at Wrexham.