Eddie Niedzwiecki

The 20 Tour: Signed Stoke City shirt

I was delighted to receive a signed Stoke City shirt in the post this morning. This is my first piece of memorabilia that I have collected for my tour of Premier League football grounds in support of Level Playing Field.

The shirt was kindly donated by former Wrexham AFC goalkeeper and current Stoke City coach Eddie Niedzwiecki. I really appreciate his support and I am looking forward to collecting more such items from the country’s biggest clubs to auction when my journey around England and Wales (providing Swansea City survive) comes to an end.

I am currently working on a JustGiving page, but I am not sure when to launch it. The sooner the better I suppose…

 

Latest Mission

During the following 12 months I hope to visit all the 92 football grounds in the Premier League and Football League. I will not try to watch a match at all the grounds, but I do want to bask in the architecture of these differing stadiums and collect memorabilia to auction at the end of my tour.

The charity that I have chosen to benefit from my expedition is Level Playing Field – the working name of National Association of Disabled Supporters. Instead of spending time trying to explain the nature of this registered charity I will share their guiding principles that can be found on their excellent website at www.levelplayingfield.org.uk

Guiding Principles

Level Playing Field (LPF) believe that being a disabled person is a social issue and that an individual only becomes disabled because of the social, attitudinal and environmental barriers that the individual faces (this is known as the social model of disability).

Our efforts are focussed on removing these barriers in all sports. LPF and its members will know they have succeeded when all fans can enjoy an equal experience at live sports events:

  • all stadia and sports venues are fully accessible and inclusive;
  • all customer and/or fan services are equal and inclusive;
  • disabled people are seen as customers with a commercial value


We are guided by the following principles:

  • Anti-discrimination – so that disabled people do not face discrimination arising from poor or misinformed practice.
  • Equality of opportunity or making things fairer – for disabled people in every aspect of their contact with sports clubs and venues.
  • Increasing the independence and choices that disabled people have.
  • Individual needs / Diversity – recognising that a disabled person is an individual who, like all others, has his or her own needs, abilities, human rights and responsibilities.
  • Integration/inclusion – such that services are made accessible to disabled people and offer choice.
  • Involvement in decision-making – so that disabled people, and/or their advocates, are consulted before decisions which affect them are made.
  • The social model of disability explains that it is social and physical ‘barriers’ that cause ‘disability’ not impairments.

LPF is working to remove the barriers that currently exclude disabled people. These barriers can be:

  • prejudice and stereotypes
  • the way things are organised and run
  • little or no access to information, buildings and transport

To download a PDF of the Guiding Principles with footnotes please click here.

 To download a PDF copy of the LPF Governing Constitution click here.

I think you now get an idea of why I have chosen to support this charity. As a disabled person, I know that attending a football match every weekend and having involvement with like-minded fans through a DSA (Disabled Supporter’s Association) can make a big difference to people’s lives.  I want the money raised through this project to make a real difference by giving others the opportunity to attend matches and feel the same sense of inclusion that I feel every time I visit the Racecourse.

There is much planning to be done. Fortunately, I recently discovered Roadrunner Motorhomes which provides fully accessible accommodation on wheels.  It boasts a ceiling track hoist, profiling bed, toilet and wet room, which is all I need to make this epic adventure a reality.  I have booked the motorhome for the first week in October.  This will be ideal for visiting clubs based on the south coast and maybe a few more once I have worked out which are the best campsites to stay in.

For more information see: www.roadrunnermotorhomes.webs.com

I also need to set up an online sponsorship page for all you kind people to support me on my tour of England and Wales.  In addition I will also be booking the few hotels with the necessary equipment needed to transfer me from wheelchair to bed.  This will be needed in order to visit the London clubs and those based in south Wales and the North East.

I will be beginning my quest next week with trips to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City.  My trip to Wolves is to represent Wrexham DSA who have been invited to Molineux  to meet their counterparts in the West Midlands and foster a positive relationship with this group before enjoying their clash with Nottingham Forest.  My trip to the Britannia Stadium was organised with the help of Eddie Niedzwiecki after my friend Valerie Leney wrote to him to tell him about my 40th birthday.  He kindly got in touch with tickets for his side’s forthcoming game against Liverpool.

This venture will cost me a pretty penny at a time that disabled people are disproportionately feeling the full force of austerity measures. Subsequently, any individual or company that would like to help out with petrol costs, hotel fees and food bills then please do get in touch.

So, this is my latest escapade. There is much to organise and at times it is overwhelming, but if the money I raise helps just one disabled person attend football more regularly – subsequently increasing their sense of- self-worth – then it will have been a worthwhile venture…

Stars in my Eyes

It’s just another typical weekend where I enjoy spending my time wallowing in self-pity and bemoaning the structure of our couple-centric society.  My loneliness helps create a vile bitterness that I try to harness and turn into a positive creativity, whether this works or not is for readers of my book and this blog to decide.

I definitely have a “glass half empty” outlook, but deep down – below the negative surface – I know how lucky I am compared to many other people.  Once in a while, I am reminded of this in no uncertain terms and I find it to be quite humbling.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a birthday card and signed photograph from Jeremy Corbyn.  The card was a little late in arriving, but I didn’t mind because someone I admire greatly had taken the time to send me his best wishes. I think this is a measure of the man as even though he must have a hectic schedule in trying to fight the Tories, he still found a minute to congratulate me on my 40th birthday.

***

Cerys Matthews has been a very important figure in my life.

In 1999, I had a car crash in Huddersfield while listening to Road Rage by Cerys’ band Catatonia.   To read the full story of my accident in West Yorkshire, simply click here.  Then in 2008, I went to watch Cerys, who was now a solo artist, perform a concert in Llangollen while my wife at the time went to Birmingham to meet an old friend.

It was a great concert and Cerys was absolutely sensational.  I still have fond memories of that evening even though my ex-wife later admitted that she had been snogging the face off her old friend.  It’s a pity she couldn’t see what me and Cerys had got up to in my dreams.

In 2010, I went to see Cerys perform again in Glyndwr University and was annoyed to find out that my sister had stayed behind and met Cerys while I rushed home to placate my newly employed Personal Assistant.  I hope I will get the chance to meet her again soon.

Therefore, imagine my surprise and delight when I received a parcel from none other than Cerys Matthews that included two signed albums and a note apologising for the late arrival.  I was overjoyed to receive this and I will treasure these gifts, from such a talented beauty, always.

However, the real star of the show is none other than my good friend Valerie Leney who organised my celebrity surprises.  I am also going to watch Stoke City against Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium on April 8 thanks to Valerie contacting Eddie Niedzwiecki – former Wrexham goalkeeper and Stoke City coach – and encouraging him to mark my birthday with an unforgettable surprise.

I am lucky to have a friend like this.  Valerie is such a special person that I am fortunate enough to have in my life.  Indeed, the biggest achievement of my time at the University of Nottingham was not achieving a 2:1 in American Studies or spending a semester in the University of Illinois, but making such a close circle of friends that I am still in touch with.  These people helped me to enjoy my 40th birthday celebrations and reunited especially for the occasion.  This will no doubt serve as a constant reminder that when the chips are down, I can always rely on the bonds I created over 20 years ago…

Memory Match – 06.09.83

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.

06.09.83

Wrexham v Rochdale

Canon League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-1

Wrexham: Wardle, King, Cunnington, Hunt, Coleman, Keay, Arkwright, Muldoon (Edwards), Baker, Gregory, Heath

Goalscorers: Arkwright (32, 81), Hunt (44), Gregory (60), Edwards (88)

Rochdale: Conroy, Oates, Chapman, Farrell, Higgins (s/o), Williams, Thompson, Hamilton, Johnson, Allatt, Greenhoff

Goalscorer: Johnson (51)

Attendance: 1,684

Following consecutive relegations, surely this was the season that things would start to improve? One thing for sure, things couldn’t get much worse…

Our opening fixture in the basement was against Doncaster Rovers at a sweltering hot Belle Vue. Wrexham certainly received a half-time roasting and ended up losing 3-0 with a performance that was described as ‘wretched’, ‘ineffective’ and ‘an embarrassment’ by Ron Chaloner in the Leader. Oh dear. Where did we go from here?

Well, we travelled to Vale Park for the first leg of a Milk Cup clash with Port Vale and, despite an improved performance, lost 3-1. This was followed by our first home game of the season. Peterborough United were the opponents and a patchy performance ended in a 2-2 draw that was witnessed by only 1,680 fans – our lowest-ever League attendance and the smallest gate of the day in the entire League.

Things could only get better and so it proved as Jimmy Greenhoff brought his Rochdale side to the Racecourse. There was little suggestion of the treat in store for Reds fans when Shaun Cunnington misplaced a back-pass that could’ve ended in calamity but for the vigilance of new loan signing Phil Coleman.

Ian Arkwright opened the scoring spectacularly from 20 yards after 32 minutes. Things got worse for Rochdale on 41 minutes when Andy Higgins was sent off for a second bookable offence after tripping Arkwright. On the stroke of half-time, David Gregory’s superb pass put Simon Hunt clear on goal and he calmly doubled our advantage.

Rochdale rolled up their sleeves in the second half and Steve Johnson sparked a revival when he collected Peter Farrell’s pass, beat Jack Keay and fired home under Bob Wardle’s body. This was the start of a tricky period, but when Gregory headed home Shaun Cunnington’s crossed on the hour it was all over bar the shouting.

There were nine minutes remaining when Arkwright rounded Steve Conroy to score the fourth and the fifth goal was claimed by substitute Andy Edwards on 88 minutes with a neat shot.

Bobby Roberts was obviously pleased but he wasn’t getting carried away: “We played a lot better and competed a lot better. We were a wee bit rocky for a spell but sometimes you get that against ten men.

“We looked a bit nervous after Rochdale scored. Some may lack a bit of confidence at times but when we got the third goal we were comfortable. There were five cracking goals there tonight and there was some very good football.

“If we can keep knocking in goals, people will want to see us.”

***

Wrexham’s win took them to ninth place in the Fourth Division table, but this was about as good as it got. As the season dragged on it soon became clear that this performance against Rochdale was a one-off and we finished the season in a lowly 20th position.

On the bright side, we did qualify for Europe by reaching the Welsh Cup final, signed Jim Steel from Port Vale for £10,000 and escaped having to apply for re-election on the final day of the season with a 5-1 home win over Tranmere Rovers.

However on the flip side, attendances didn’t really improve, we lost 10 home games in the league to equal the club’s worst ever record from 1963/64, we lost Eddie Niedzwiecki to Chelsea for a bargain £45,000 and Bobby Roberts was forced to play in goal during a Welsh Cup tie against Worcester.

On the whole, it really was a season to forget…

Memory Match – 27-02-82

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.

27-02-82

Wrexham v Chelsea

League Division Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Niedzwiecki, Jones, Bater, Davis, Dowman, Ronson, Leman, McNeil, Fox, Vinter (Hill), Carrodus

Goalscorer: Carrodus (66)

Chelsea: Francis, Locke, Hutchings, Nutton, Chivers, Pates, Rhoades-Brown, Britton (Mayes), Lee, Walker, Fillery

Attendance: 3,935

Star-studded Chelsea may be experiencing a season of turmoil, but it is still hard to believe that back in 1981/82 we played them five times. What’s more, the Stamford Bridge hot-seat was occupied by a certain John Neal…

It all began with a disappointing League trip to Stamford Bridge that ended in a 2-0 defeat before a trio of tussles in the FA Cup fourth round. A goalless draw in West London was followed by a 1-1 draw at the Racecourse and a second replay took place at the same venue on the toss of a coin. Home advantage did not help on this occasion though as we lost 1-2 and missed out on a lucrative fifth round home encounter with Liverpool.

The fifth meeting between the sides came at the end of February 1982 on the back of six straight defeats. The mood around the Cae Ras was one of resignation as the club were staring relegation in the face under Mel Sutton, had not won at home since their 3-1 victory over Cardiff on November 24 and had only won three home games in the League all season.

Writing in the Leader, Les Chamberlain said:  “It now looks a certainty that there will be Third Division football at the Racecourse next season.  Only a superhuman effort by the team and the collapse of teams above Wrexham can now save them”.

Ahead of this must-win game, Wrexham were without Wayne Cegielski through suspension but Billy Ronson and Steve Buxton, who had both been suspended, come back into the reckoning. Wrexham fans also had their first chance of seeing Denis Leman who was on loan from Sheffield Wednesday.

The match was only nine minutes old when Joey Jones brought down Clive Walker in the penalty area for what seemed a certain penalty, but fortunately the referee ignored passionate appeals from the Pensioners.

Two minutes before the interval, Mike Fillery beat Eddie Niedzwiecki with a thunderous drive, but the ball hit the side of the bar, bounced on the line and back into play. Once again Chelsea players felt aggrieved as they felt the ball had crossed the goal line.

Wrexham’s goal started from a mistake by Fillery as his under strength pass to Gary Locke was intersected by Steve Fox who took the opportunity to whip in a pinpoint cross to the unmarked Frank Carrodus who calmly drove it past a helpless Steve Francis in the Chelsea goal.

Mel Sutton said: “We played the ball about today and the goal gave them confidence.  Now this has given us a lift and I think it has given the players a lift.  We have now got to work on that and make it pay.”

There is no doubt that this victory gave everyone at the club a confidence boost as the Reds had still to play fellow strugglers so their fate was largely in their own hands. Unfortunately, despite an immediate upturn in fortunes that saw us undefeated in March, we conspired to win just one of our last eight games and we were relegated along with Cardiff City and Orient.

***

1981/82 was also the first season that the three points for a win system was introduced.

Memory Match – 11-08-79

gue CupThroughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham Areil

FC 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.

11-08-79

Wrexham v Carlisle United

 League Cup Round One First Leg

Racecourse Ground

 Result: 1-1

WREXHAM: Davies, Hill, Dwyer, Davis, Jones, Giles, Sutton, Whittle, McNeil, Vinter, Cartwright (J Roberts)

Goalscorer: Vinter 65

 CARLISLE UNITED: Swinburne, Hoolickin, McCartney, MacDonald, Tait, Parker, Bannon, Bonnyman, Ludlam, Kemp, McAuley

 Goalscorer: Kemp 60

 Attendance: 5,878

 

The 1979/80 season kicked off with a League Cup clash against Third Division Carlisle United, which was seen as the ideal preparation for another tilt at life in the second tier.

During the close season, Bobby Shinton (£300,000 to Manchester City) and John Lyons (£50,000 to Millwall) both departed the Racecourse while Mick Vinter was picked up for £150,000 from Notts County by manager Arfon Griffiths.

Of equal significance was the club’s rejection of a £100,000 bid for Graham Whittle by Crystal Palace and his subsequent signing of a new two-year deal to stay in north Wales. After being plagued with cartilage problems during the previous season, Whittle’s commitment to the cause was as exciting as a new signing and he lined up alongside Vinter and Dixie McNeil.

If home fans were expecting a goal glut against lower division opponents then they were to be disappointed. Wrexham struggled to find their way though a well-organised Carlisle outfit who had one eye on the second leg. There was plenty of decent football on show but little excitement until the hour mark when David Kemp put the visitors ahead from 15 yards.

Just five minutes later the scores were level. Jones tackled goalscorer Kemp in his own half and sprayed an accurate pass to midfield maestro Mel Sutton who, in turn, set Whittle free down the right. What followed was a perfect cross for the in-rushing Vinter to score on his debut.

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Wrexham were unable to turn their neat approach work into a comfortable lead, leaving cynics moaning that they’d seen it all before and optimists focussed on the potential shown by a fluent passing side.

 

***

Arfon’s men seemed to be heading for an embarrassing cup exit in the second leg at Brunton Park three days later after falling behind to a Joey Jones own-goal on 25 minutes. It didn’t seem to be Wrexham’s day as they struggled to find any rhythm at all, Jones failed to reappear for the second half due to double vision and Niedzwiecki – deputising between the sticks for the injured Dai Davies – was called upon on several occasions to keep Wrexham’s Cup hopes alive.

Indeed, it took two stunning late goals from Whittle (81) and McNeil (87) to secure their place in the second round of the League Cup and set-up a double header against Southampton.

“We needed to beat Carlisle and the way we won pleased me and perked up everyone at the club,” said Griffiths.

“It’s pleasing too that the three front runners have each scored in our opening games and they are getting a good understanding.”