Edgar Street

Memory Match – 13-10-01

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 I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

13-10-01

Wrexham v Queen’s Park Rangers

League Division Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Rogers, Whitley, Holmes, Ferguson, Hill, Roberts, Gibson, Faulconbridge, Trundle, Blackwood, Thomas

Goalscorer: Blackwood (43)

Queen’s Park Rangers: Day, Bignot (Perry), Bruce, Palmer, Forbes, Askar, Bonnot, Connolly (Wardley), Griffiths (M’Bombo), Thomson, Rose

Attendance: 4,474

After parting company with Brian Flynn and his assistant Kevin Reeves, there was a new man in charge as we prepared to face Queen’s Park Rangers at the Racecourse Ground. Denis Smith was given the responsibility to end a dismal run of only one win in the opening 8 League games, including the 5-0 humiliation at Prenton Park that signalled the end of the Flynn era.

Smith, who had managed York, Sunderland and Oxford, was delighted with his appointment. “I think you’ve got something here to be proud of. It’s exceptional here. I’ve been at other clubs and never had training facilities like these. From a manager’s point of view, that’s where I do my day to day work and to have something like Colliers Park, and a stadium like the Racecourse, is brilliant. There’s no money, and I don’t think that’s a secret, so what we have got to do is either generate it, or I’ve got to use the contacts I’ve got. Very rarely in my career have I had money to spend. I’m here for football, and finance doesn’t come into it.”

Wrexham gave debuts to Jim Whitley and on-loan Keith Hill from Cheltenham Town, who was partnered at the heart of defence by Steven Roberts in the absence of Captain Brian Carey. Rangers included a familiar face in former Reds favourite Karl Connolly.

Both sides created few clear cut openings in the first half as Hill and Roberts looked a particularly strong unit at the heart of the defence.

Lee Trundle’s tenth minute effort was well kept out by Hoops goalkeeper Chris Day while at the other end Kristian Rogers saved from Leroy Griffiths.

The 43rd minute winner came when Blackwood ran onto Stephen Thomas’ neat through ball and he calmly side footed past Day. It was a crucial time to score and we hung on to this lead in the second half despite being reduced to 10-men just after the hour mark when Thomas was shown a red card for a second bookable offence.

Denis Smith said: “I hope the fans can match my passion. I think they would be insulted if I claimed to have more passion than them and I doubt that I have.

“I’m very pleased. I thought we deserved to win. We worked hard, we defended well, our goalkeeper had very little to do and we created chances, so you can’t ask a great deal more than that.

“But it’s just a start of a very hard battle ahead. We’ve won one little skirmish and there’s a lot of work to do in the future. We can’t say, we’ve won one game let’s retire. There’s a lot of work to be done.

“The back four were superb and Michael Blackwood, apart from scoring, had worked so hard. He did things today I didn’t think he was capable of, but he has got to go out and do it again next week.”

Referring to Steve Thomas being sent off he said: “The first booking was unlucky because it was a 50-50 ball, but for the second he was standing on the ball and you can’t do that.”

***

Wrexham finished the season in 23rd position and were relegated despite a 5-0 victory on the final day of the season against bottom of the pile Cambridge United. This was a memorable afternoon for Lee Jones who scored all five goals – only the second Wrexham player to achieve this feat. The other was Tommy Bamford against Carlisle United on 17th March 1934.

It was also a poor show in the Cups with first round defeats against Hereford United (1-0) at Edgar Street in the FA Cup and Hull City (2-3) at the Racecourse in the Worthington Cup.

Memory Match – 11-09-62

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 I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

11-09-62

Northampton Town v Wrexham

League Division Three

County Ground

Result: 8-0

Northampton Town: Brodie, Foley, Woollard, Leck, Branston, Kurila, Sanders, Holton, Ashworth, Reid, Lines

Goalscorers: Holton (5, 20), Ashworth (32, 40), Reid (47), Lines (60, 63, 82)

Wrexham: Keelan, Peter Jones, McGowan, Ken Barnes, Fox, Tecwyn Jones, Ron Barnes, Bennion, Pythian, Metcalf, Colbridge

Attendance: 9,555

After winning promotion back to Division Three under Ken Barnes, the Reds adapted to life at this higher level with a very respectable ninth-placed finish. During the season though they did suffer the embarrassment of receiving their heaviest defeat in the League – to that point – losing 8-0 at eventual champions, Northampton Town.

Writing in the Leader, Ron Chaloner points to a “double disaster in the 20th minute” when Northampton’s monster of a left half, John Kurila, savagely floored Peter Jones with a hefty kick to the shin that left him writhing on the ground in agony. Kurila played on and passed the ball to Barry Lines who carved out an opportunity for Cliff Holton, who netted the home side’s second goal of the afternoon.

After the celebrations had died down, Jones was carried off and even though the player himself insisted that he had only suffered bruising and could return to the action, a doctor who examined his injury diagnosed a broken leg and subsequently ordered Jones to hospital in an ambulance. The X-ray examination proved that Jones was right. His leg was simply badly bruised, giving conspiracy theorists a field day. Northampton had increased their lead, Wrexham were disorganised without Jones and Kurila escaped any punishment.

The referee comes in for some scathing criticism from Chaloner, although he does hasten to add that this does not justify the ten-men of Wrexham from losing so heavily. Instead, the journalist points to a lack of co-ordination in a defence that was illustrated through a “foolhardy reliance” on the offside trap. It is also contended that some Wrexham players seemed so demoralised that they were resigned to a heavy defeat before the half-hour mark.

Apparently, Northampton were “tough, strong, very fast and – above all utterly merciless” although Chaloner did not have the stomach to share descriptions of all eight goals. Instead he merely concentrates on the last three goals scored by 20-year-old left winger Lines, whose speed was a constant embarrassment to Wrexham that afternoon.

His first came from a centre that would have sailed across the goalmouth if not for the needless intervention of shaky goalkeeper Kevin Keelan, who turned the ball into the far corner of the net. Lines then profited from a perfect pass from Wrexham player Tecwyn Jones for his brace. A fortunate hat-trick was confirmed after Lines crossed the ball into the danger area and watched as it deflected off both Ken Barnes and Alan Fox before rolling into the net with Aly McGowan making a valiant but vain attempt at a goal line clearance.

It was an afternoon to forget…

***

Wrexham’s 8-0 defeat at Northampton was their biggest-ever in a league match. Previous drubbings came in 1937 when they lost 1-7 at Lincoln and in 1938 when they also lost 3-8 at Lincoln. Sincil Bank was obviously not a happy hunting ground during this pre-war period.

Following the Second World War, Wrexham were thrashed 6-1 at Barnsley in 1960 and 6-2 at Mansfield in 1959.

Wrexham’s biggest defeat at this stage of their history was 9-1 at Wolverhampton Wanderers in an FA Cup encounter in 1931.

***

There was mixed success in cup competitions for the Town during 1962/63. The League Cup saw Brentford of the Fourth Division beat us 3-0 at Griffin Park to knock us out at the first round stage. It was not our year in the Welsh Cup either, as Hereford United were our conquerors in a sixth round tie at Edgar Street that finished 2-1 to the Bulls.

We fared a little better in the FA Cup. The Robins overcame Southport, after a replay, and demolished Barrow 5-2 at the Racecourse to set up a home encounter with Liverpool. The match attracted 30,826 spectators who watched Bill Shankly’s men run out 3-0 winners, thanks to goals from Roger Hunt, Kevin Lewis and Jimmy Melia.

When Saturday Comes – Equal access

Below is an article I wrote for the May 2015 edition of When Saturday Comes magazine on disabled access at football grounds.

EQUAL ACCESS

My first away game holds memories of standing room only on a crumbling terrace. It was 1989 and things were very different back then. There were about 500 of us crammed together under a low-hanging roof with obstructive roof supports hindering any decent view as Hereford United and Wrexham played out a turgid goalless draw – apparently.

I’d spent the afternoon craning my neck, deciphering the work of graffiti artists and paddling in piss at Edgar Street. It may sound the stuff of nightmares but it has become a treasured memory from my formative years due to the camaraderie and sense of belonging that was conjured by following my team out of north Wales. It was this notion of shared identity and togetherness that led to more disappointingly brilliant visits to architecturally elderly football grounds during the early nineties. I was part of the crowd.

Fast forward seven years and I’d become a lonely and isolated figure after being diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia – a progressive, genetic disease of the nervous system – which eventually confined me to a wheelchair. I quickly learnt to accept the limitations placed on me by Mother Nature, but I struggled to adapt to the social limitations of a disabled-unfriendly society, which are perfectly illustrated through my experiences as a football spectator.

Away travel quickl0y became a hassle. I could no longer decide on the day of the game whether or not I fancied attending. Instead, I had to telephone the relevant club in advance of my impending ‘pain-in-the-arse’ presence to pre-book tickets. There was one occasion that I was unable to claim a space in a 20,000 capacity stadium despite the official attendance being a paltry 6,729.

When I did manage to secure a match ticket I was determined to travel with my fellow fans on the inaccessible coach, even if this meant losing my dignity by crawling onboard and struggling onto a seat. After expending all my energy with such manoeuvres I couldn’t face the prospect of repeating the process for toilet breaks. Frustratingly this meant no beer for me. To make matters worse, the majority of football grounds didn’t have disabled toilet facilities before the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, meaning that I’d often have to wait until I returned home to relieve myself. Lucky I’ve got a strong bladder.

At least I had the game to look forward to. Annoyingly though, instead of mingling with mates over 90 minutes of social interaction I’d be forced to use a makeshift wheelchair section – wi00th inadequate views from pitch level – in the depths of rival territory and accompanied by hostile stares. What do you do when Karl Connolly converts a late penalty to secure a precious point to the distress of everyone around you? I celebrated. It was worth the bloody nose…

The final whistle signalled another slap in the face. I would regularly travel hundreds of miles to watch my local team but due to my segregation away from the main body of visitors, my efforts would go without applause or recognition by travelling players. It wasn’t their fault. I was merely an invisible needle in a haystack.

My frustrations weren’t just limited to on the road. Things were just as bad at the Racecourse where wheelchair bound fans were plonked at the side of the pitch with only a rickety looking corrugated-iron structure for protection from the elements. It was hard enough to come to terms with my disability without being treated like a second-class citizen by my own club. Instead of accepting this situation, I allowed two club stewards to break all manner of fire regulations and carry me up into the main stand where I could enjoy the game with friends.

These were my experiences in the twentieth century. Surely, the picture is brighter in 2015? It would appear not. More needs to be done to include disabled people – whatever their disability – in the matchday experience. As sports writer David Conn underlined in a recent article, the vast majority of Premier League clubs have not made the required improvements in line with the Equality Act 2010. The money is there to make the necessary architectural improvements to football stadia – as shown in the new builds at Swansea, Leicester and Arsenal – but the socially responsible drive and purpose is missing.

As is often the case, football mirrors society and sporting arenas will continue to be an ugly place for those with disabilities until society at large becomes more accepting and accessible for all. Coalition welfare cuts, a shortage of accessible housing and shocking statistics on disabled hate crime mean I won’t be holding my breath for a return to the inclusion I experienced at Edgar Street…