Ernie Blackburn

Memory Match – 30-01-37

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.

30/01/37

Wrexham v Oldham Athletic

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-1

 Wrexham: McMahon, Evans, Hamilton, Mitchell, Lewis, Snow, Barrow, White, Lapham, Lawrence, Burgon

Goalscorer: White

 Oldham Athletic: Caunce, Hilton, Price, Williamson, Milligan, Gray, Jones, McCormick, Davis, Robbins, Downes

Goalscorer: Gray

Attendance: 2,511

Season 1936/37 got off to an awful start, with a 4-1 drubbing at Chester. Under the guidance of manager Ernie Blackburn, Wrexham soon forgot this calamitous defeat and rose to a mid-table position as we entered the New Year. However, our 2-0 reverse against Stockport County at Edgeley Park on January 2nd proved to be Blackburn’s final game in charge.

Hull City tempted Blackburn away from the Racecourse and a committee was responsible for selecting our starting 11 for the next three games. This included an FA Cup third round clash with Manchester City at the Cae Ras which was witnessed by 20,600 spectators. The Division One side won the match 1-3, but Wrexham pushed them all the way and could be proud of their performance.

Ahead of our home encounter against Oldham Athletic at the end of January, the club appointed Captain James Logan as their fourth manager. We had won our previous two League games under the leadership of the selection committee, so hopes were high that we could continue this form against fifth placed Athletic.

Less than 2,500 supporters braved the wintry weather to spend a chilly afternoon watching their heroes try to play football, on a pitch that more closely resembled a skating rink, with a light dusting of snow. Subsequently, conditions threatened to spoil the game, but Wrexham adapted themselves and pursued a policy of passing that disorientated the scrappy and disjointed Latics.

The home team were on top in the early stages. According to the scribe in the North Wales Guardian: “[Archie] Burgon was like a terrier on the touchline, worrying the defence whenever the ball came anywhere near him, by his eagerness in seizing on the slightest chance”.

Oldham’s tactics seemed quite cynical, and when Burgon was brought down in the box by Billy Hilton, the crowd clambered for a penalty. However, the referee waved away these claims to the satisfaction of our friend from the North Wales Guardian, who suggests that the Nottingham-born winger simply slipped.

Alfie White got on the scoresheet after 35 minutes, following a free-kick that was given for another assault on Burgon. George Snow delivered a delightful ball from the resulting set-piece, that White headed past Lewis Caunce in the Athletic goal. Logan’s new charges then spent the final 10 minutes of the first half, bombarding the visitors’ goal, Matt Lawrence in particular had two shots in quick succession and was unfortunate to see them saved by Caunce.

The second half failed to produce as much goalmouth action, as the first 45 minutes had. The heavy cloud led to poor light, “which seemed to blur the players’ figures in to mere silhouettes, and make it difficult to distinguish individuals”. Pat McMahon was pressed in to action more often as the game progressed, but there seemed little sting to the visitors’ raids.

The Latics eventually capitalised on a mistake by McMahon late in the game. The Glasgow-born goalkeeper made a fatal mistake by punching away a threatening ball, when it seemed much easier to have gathered the ball safely in his arms. The feeble punch was insufficient to clear the danger, and landed at the feet of Matt Gray who returned a low, rasping drive past McMahon’s despairing dive.

***

 In the Leader, ‘XYZ’ highlights a number of elderly spectators who had attended the game on such a brutally cold day:

“One old player, who gained a Welsh cap fifty-nine years ago was present! Another of the old brigade, who was at Newton Heath in the eighties’, stood in the enclosure and a third sporting veteran who had seen seventy-three, or four winters – Mr T.H. Jones (‘The Artist’) – occupied his ‘box’ seat in the paddock, and smiled at the cold.”

***

I cannot move on without mentioning the other headlines that I discovered while looking through local newspapers from January/February 1937. Several articles tell of Wrexham footballers being embroiled in a licensing prosecution. It turned out that four prominent members of our playing staff – George Snow, Jack Lewis, Alfie White and Ambrose Brown – were caught consuming alcohol after permitted hours at the Horseshoe Inn, Bank Street on the evening of January 16th 1937. This was the same day that we had pushed Manchester City all the way in the third round of the FA Cup.

All the defendants pleaded not-guilty, but after a lengthy retirement the Chairman said that the bench had decided to convict in the cases of all four players. They were each fined 10s 6d for daring to enjoy a post-match pint after 22:00 following a gutsy Cup display. Heaven forbid.

Memory Match – 30-09-31

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.

 

30-09-31

Chester v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Sealand Road

Result: 2-5

Chester: Burke, Herod, Jones, Lambie, Skitt, Reilly, Matthews, Thompson, Jennings, Cresswell, Hedley

Goalscorers: Jennings, Thompson

Wrexham: Burrows, Jones, Brown, Clayton, Burkinshaw, Donoghue, Rogers, Ferguson, Bamford, Taylor, Lewis

Goalscorers: Lewis, Bamford (4)

Attendance: 13,656

Under the tutorship of Jack Baynes, season 1931/32 began with a 3-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra, at Gresty Road. This was an interesting season in many respects –  most notably our first Football League encounter with our cross-border rivals Chester. The first contest between the clubs at this level took place at the Racecourse Ground on 2nd September 1931, when 18,750 spectators watched a 1-1 draw.

Later that month, Sealand Road hosted its first League derby match which saw the Blues – Wrexham were actually kitted out in blue shirts with a thick white bar running horizontally – well supported by a large number of fans, who made the journey by road and rail. Our travelling army were certainly rewarded for their efforts.

After a cagey opening half hour, Chester went to pieces and the visitors took full advantage. Tommy Lewis received a pass from Sam Taylor to drive the ball home for the opening goal. Before the break, Tommy Bamford struck a brace and a convincing away win was on the cards.

Wrexham picked up where they left off in the second half. Following a miss-kick by Alec Lambie it seemed that we would be profiting from an own-goal before Bamford managed to connect with the ball and claim his hat-trick.

Chester replied through Andy Thompson, but as the Wrexham Guardian reminds us, “play was mostly in the City’s half, and the Wrexhamites were superior in every department”. Much like today…

Wrexham’s fifth goal was also scored by Bamford, after a goalmouth scramble in which shots by Taylor and Chris Ferguson were somehow kept out. In the last few minutes Chester reduced the deficit, when Tommy Jennings steered the ball past Wrexham custodian Wilf Burrows following a drive by Billie Reilly.

This result saw Wrexham move up to fourth in the table and a real promotion push was on the cards. We won our next match against Tranmere Rovers at the Racecourse (2-1) before real disaster struck. Manager Jack Baynes was forced to relinquish control to captain Ralph Burkinshaw in order to start his personal battle against cancer.

He was admitted to Chester Royal Infirmary for an ‘operative treatment’ in early October. After many anxious weeks he seemed to be making steady progress, and he was able to return home. However, three weeks later he suffered a relapse and was moved to Croesnewydd Hospital in Wrexham where he passed away on December 14th 1931, aged just 43. The former Welsh international and Wrexham player, Reverend Hywel Davies led the service at Jack Baynes’s funeral. This was a sad chapter in our history.

***

Under caretaker player/manager Burkinshaw, the Blues began strongly and reached the heights of second position. However, following the sad passing of Baynes our form dipped alarmingly as the players obviously had their minds off-field matters. We lost three of the first four games, following his demise and the managerial reigns were given to Ernie Blackburn in late January 1932 – much to the disappointment of Burkinshaw. Under the guidance of Blackburn, we finished in 10th position.

***

We failed to make a mark in the FA Cup this season, as we were knocked out at the first round stage by Gateshead, 3-2 at Redheugh Park. We did do rather better in the Welsh Cup. After beating Holywell (3-0), Shrewsbury Town (4-2) and Rhyl (3-1, in a replay played at a neutral venue) we finished runners up to Swansea Town, who beat us 3-1 over two legs.

***

On October 24th we did play Wigan Borough at the Cae Ras.  We thrashed them 5-0 with goals from Taylor (2), Lewis (2) and that man Bamford. However, this game was later made void just two days later after Wigan Borough went out of business on 26 October 1931 . Was it something we said?