Hull City

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.

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When Saturday Comes – Restricted access

I wrote the following article for When Saturday Comes magazine, regarding disabled access to football grounds.  They have used a picture of Wrexham fans enjoying the view from the wheelchair platform at the Racecourse, which just so happens to feature the fantastically gorgeous Nathan Lee Davies.

This is the original article that I wrote.  It has been edited a little in When Saturday Comes, but here it is reprinted in all its glory.  Enjoy.

Restricted access

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee [CMSC] published a report on Access to Sports Stadia in January, which highlighted substandard facilities and archaic attitudes towards disabled football supporters, especially amongst clubs plying their trade in the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.

In 2015, the league promised to improve the matchday experience for disabled fans, stating that clubs would comply with official guidance – set out in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the  – by August 2017. With this self-imposed deadline fast approaching, the CMSC survey suggested that several top-flight clubs were unlikely to meet even basic standards before the new season starts. It seems as if profit and greed has been frequently favoured by club owners over any sense of social responsibility.

This is particularly hard to stomach when you consider that the estimated costs facing the entire Premier League to bring their stadia to standard are as little as £7.2 million. No wonder fans are disgruntled when their clubs are currently in the first of a three-year television deal worth £10.4 billion.

Committee chairman Damian Collins MP said: “Sports fans with disabilities are not asking for a large number of expensive changes, only to have their needs taken into account in the way sports stadia are designed and operated.”

There can be no doubt that the majority of our elite clubs are ignoring the needs of a section of their fanbase. We only need to consider the Premier League Handbook of 2016-17 for evidence of this. This is a hefty 655-page document that includes immense detail regarding stadium requirements for accommodating TV companies, yet includes only 11 words on disabled access. This is a depressing reminder of the modern game’s priorities.

Of course, the Premier League is defensive. A statement argued that clubs are showing commitment over, what it deemed to be, an ambitious timescale.  This is hard to swallow when you consider the inclusive work being done further down the pyramid. The CMSC report regards Championship club Derby County and non-league sides Tranmere Rovers, Wrexham and Egham Town as “exemplars of best practice”. My club, Wrexham, may have played some of the worst football ever seen at the Racecourse during the 2016/17 season, but I have never been prouder to support our truly inclusive, community-owned club.

Not only does the oldest international football stadium in the world now boast an accessible viewing platform for non-ambulant supporters, but we also have plans for two more platforms. In addition, we have purchased audio descriptive commentary equipment for fans with visual impairments and have recently become a dementia friendly football club.  This is good going for a club owned and run by its fans and shows that it is possible to open a stadium to everyone.

A Premier League report – released on Transfer Deadline Day in the hope that no one would notice – revealed that 13 of its 20 clubs’ grounds do not incorporate the minimum number of wheelchair spaces recommended in the Accessible Stadia Guide (ASG) and that nine of the clubs will not make the necessary improvements in time for the league’s August deadline.

Thankfully, the threat of legal action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) seems to have done the trick and shaken many clubs from an inactive slumber. David Isaac, EHRC chair, issued an uncompromising statement: “The time for excuses is over. Clubs need to urgently demonstrate to us what they are doing to ensure they are compliant with the law and how they are making it easier for disabled fans to attend matches. If they don’t, they will face legal action.”

Improvement schemes have subsequently been hurriedly announced by clubs that currently fall short of the minimum standards. Only four of these clubs – Liverpool, Stoke, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion – hope to meet these standards by the August deadline.

Positive plans are in the pipeline at Manchester United, Everton, Arsenal and Leicester City, but these proposed works will not be ready within the tight timeframe.  Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea both pledge that their newly built grounds will be fully compliant with the ASG when opened.  Middlesbrough believe that the Riverside Stadium already complies with the regulations while the other two promoted teams from 2015/16, Hull City and Burnley, have been given a further year to make the necessary improvements.

Progress is being made and this should be welcomed. However, it is hard not to be cynical and question why such improvements have taken so long.  It is all well and good for football grounds to be hospitable to disabled patrons, but the change that really needs to happen is attitudinal so that no one feels excluded from watching their football team ever again.

Memory Match – 28-09-57

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.

28-09-57

Wrexham v Hull City

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-0

Wrexham: Ugolini, McGowan, Parker, Davis, Fox, McNab, Jones (Gren), Dignam, Smith, Bannan, Jones 

Goalscorers: Smith (2, 1 pen), Jones (Gren) (3), Jones (David)

Hull City: Round, Cubie, Nielson, Collinson, Fease, Bulless, Stephens, Clarke, Davidson, Bradbury, Cripsey

Attendance: 8,755

 

Season 1957/58 was to be the last in which the Third Division was split into Northern and Southern sections. The following season saw the formation of the new Third and Fourth Divisions. Wrexham therefore had to finish in the top half of the table to enter the higher division.

The season started badly with Wrexham only winning two of their opening nine league games, which just happened to be against our hapless local rivals Chester.  When mid-table Hull City came to town, we were struggling in 20th position on the back of a 0-1 home defeat against bottom-of-the-table Crewe Alexandra.

Manager Cliff Lloyd was absent from the Racecourse for this game as he was suffering from flu, but this did not adversely affect the players – quite the opposite. Wrexham sparked into life after Tommy Bannan was tackled from behind by Neil Cubie as he was racing towards goal after 20 minutes. A penalty was awarded and converted by Barry Smith to kick-start a mauling for the Tigers.

Writing in the Leader, the Sports Editor bemoans our previous performances in a few months of dreadful form, but notes that: “It was as if some wizard had waved a magic wand and transformed a side of struggling individuals into a close knit, classical combination that conjured up memories of the many brilliant performances of last season”.   In the 36th minute the Reds built on their lead when Joe Dignam galloped down the right wing to send over a perfect cross for Barry Smith to head home his fourth of the season.

Smith was at it again when he beat two men and squared the ball to Bannan, who mis-kicked. Fortunately, Gren Jones had the simple task of notching the third.

Before the referee signalled half time, Smith bulldozed his way forward through despairing defenders and saw his shot palmed away by the beleaguered Len Round in the Hull City goal.  Again, Jones was on the spot to rattle the ball home.

The second half started in much the same fashion when Tommy McNab stabbed a crossfield pass to David Jones who was standing on the corner of the penalty box. The left-winger beat Neil Cubie and crashed a right-footed screamer to make it five.

The last goal came after 72 minutes when Bannan carved an opening in the Hull defence and Gren Jones lobbed the ball over Round from an acute angle to seal his hat-trick.

In October, secretary-manager Cliff Lloyd decided to resign as manager and concentrate on his secretarial duties. He was, however, to continue as manager until a new man could be found.

John Love was to be that man and took up his new duties in December. But even with a new face at the helm, the rest of the season also proved to be a struggle with Wrexham in the bottom half of the table throughout the campaign.

In their last home game, against Accrington Stanley, Wrexham needed to win to stand any chance of qualifying for the new Third Division, with a game at Tranmere to follow. Accrington also needed a win to stand any chance of promotion to the Second Division.

Tommy Bannan was to be Wrexham’s hero of the day when he scored the only goal of the match.

Then it was off to Tranmere, who also needed to win to be in the new Third Division. A large contingent of Wrexham fans formed part of the big crowd of 19, 170 and saw their side lose 2-1 which meant that Wrexham had to wait for the result of the Scunthorpe – Carlisle match which was being played the following evening.

Carlisle had to win for Wrexham to miss out and when the final score came through, it was in Wrexham’s favour with Scunthorpe wining 3-1 to leave the Welsh club in 12th place.

 

Memory Match – 14-01-33

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.

14-01-33

Wrexham v Southport

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-0

Wrexham: Adams, Jones, Brown, Bulling, McMahon, Lawrence, Hughes, Frewin, Bamford, Lewis, Waller

Goalscorers: Lewis (2), Bamford, Frewin, Bulling, Waller

Southport: Middleton, Robinson, Birkett, Taylor, Wyness, Lydon, Sellars, Bell, Appleby, Williams, Turner

Attendance: 5,915

According to the match report in the North Wales Guardian, Wrexham did not need to over-exert themselves in this contest, as Southport never really showed the form that was expected of them.  The visitors were accused of being “sadly disjointed” and the reporter wonders aloud what had caused this slump in a team that threatened at the top of the league earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, the Blues were fresh from hammering Hartlepools United 8-1 at the Cae Ras and were obviously out to prove this was not a mere flash in the pan. Apparently, they tore Southport apart by “playing spirited football and bewildering them with dashing attacks and swift defensive measures.”

Wrexham were in electric form and unleashed wave after wave of attack on goalkeeper Matt Middleton. During 1931/32, the Southport custodian frustrated our forwards with a fine display in a 2-0 defeat at Haig Avenue in Ernest Blackburn’s first match in charge, but he was unsupported on this occasion and powerless against the awesome force of Tommy Bamford and company.

Wrexham had the better of the opening exchanges and it quickly became clear that this would be an afternoon of one-way traffic with Southport having to employ the offside trap to stave off danger.  However, it did not take long for Tommy Lewis to weave his way through static defenders to score the opener on 23 minutes.  A minute later Bamford netted with a neat flick from Harry Waller’s centre and a whirlwind period was complete when George Frewin notched a third with his head from a Jack Hughes cross.

It was now time for toothless Southport to have a go. They pressed forward only to find Alf Jones and Jack Brown were equal to all calls made upon them.  At least the Sandgrounders were trying to make a game of it, even though Hughes hit the woodwork with an excellent drive before Lewis completed an emphatic opening period by heading the fourth.

Southport rarely crossed the half-way line in the second half and the Blues extended their lead through Jim Bulling – who converted a Hughes corner after Ted Robinson had cleared off the line – and a simple tap-in from Waller.

***

Writing in a Supporters’ Club News column, “J.H.W” notes that the first three games in 1933 had yielded six points, with 16 goals for and only two against. Our latter day statistician also noted that, at the time, we had scored more goals at home than any other team in the English Leagues, and only Arsenal had a greater aggregate of goals, home and away, than Wrexham.

***

The 1932/33 season was to be Wrexham’s best-ever in the Third Division North when they finished runners-up to Hull City, only two points adrift of the Humberside club. So close, yet so far…

During the season, Wrexham’s home record was remarkable: they won 18 matches, drew two and lost only one, to Chester. The home wins consisted of some high-scoring victories. The 106 League goals scored that season is still a record.

***

Alas, more frustration and heartache laid in store in the cup competitions.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat non-League Spennymoor United at home (3-0) before losing a second round replay at the Racecourse to Brighton & Hove Albion (2-3).

The Blues reached the Welsh Cup final yet again after beating Oswestry (4-1 after replay), Bangor (2-1) and Southport (3-1 after replay). In the final they met their old rivals Chester at Sealand Road in front of a 15,000 crowd who were to see the Cestrians win 2-0, thereby lifting the Welsh Cup for the second time in their laughably sparse history.

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 – 27-09-58

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.

27-09-58

Southampton v Wrexham

League Division Three

The Dell

Result 1-2

Southampton: Christie, Page, Traynor, Davies, Parker, Stevens, Paine, Mulgrew, Reeves, Hoskins, Sydenham

Goalscorer: Reeves

Wrexham: Ugolini, McGowan, Jones (Ken), Davis, Fox, Evans, Jones (Gren), Murray, Bannan, Crispey, Anderson

Goalscorers: Jones (Gren), Murray

Attendance: 18,048

 

“I like Wrexham. It’s a nice town and I am sure we will be happy here.”

So said Mrs Brian Cripsey after being given a car tour of the town and giving her husband the go-ahead to leave Hull City and sign for the Robins. Manager John Love  signed the 26-year-old left-winger for the princely sum of £4,000 – probably the highest fee the club had ever paid for a player at that time – just hours before his first-team debut at Mansfield Town.gue

While the formalities were being completed, the team coach left for Field Mill leaving a mad dash for Love and Cripsey to catch up with the team coach at Macclesfield – where Cripsey met his new team mates for the first time.

The last-minute escapade did not stop Cripsey from proving his worth when he accepted a slick pass from Don Weston and smashed home from 18 yards. Unfortunately this was nothing more than a consolation as Wrexham slumped to a 3-1 defeat.

Our away record for the start of the 1958/59 season did not bare much scrutiny. We had lost all five games on our travels; conceding nine goals and scoring just two. To increase anxiety our next match was a first-ever trip to Southampton who were undefeated in their last nine home games.

However this match turned out to be a real coupon buster. It was such an impressive display that Leader reporter Ron Chaloner remarked that it was one of the finest away performances he had ever seen by Wrexham – claiming 1-5 would have been more accurate reflection of the game.

Wrexham had two goals disallowed, should’ve been awarded a penalty and Ken Murray was unlucky with a shot that hit a post. Southampton fans showered Wrexham with warm applause for their glorious football. Unfortunately, they were not so kind to their own team who were given a slow-hand clap in the second half. Serious stuff!!

Eight minutes before the interval Wrexham scored the long overdue opener that their flowing football always threatened when Gren Jones burst down the middle, beat three men in a dazzling dribble and slipped the ball to Murray. The inside-forward returned it smartly and Jones, still racing on, smashed it in.

Murray notched the second after the break when Cripsey – who levelled up a lopsided Wrexham attack that had been crying out for a left sided outlet for years – crossed a fine centre that the Geordie met to direct a powerful header into the bottom corner.

Derek Reeves scored Southampton’s consolation five minutes from the end, but Wrexham didn’t panic. They stuck to their fine football and ran out deserving winners.

According to Chalanor, if all Wrexham fans had seen this performance then they would’ve been “as happy as a dog with ten tails”.

***

I wish I could say that this victory was the dawn of an exciting period of stylish football and not a freak flash in the pan, but sadly this level of performance wasn’t repeated all season and the club finished an unforgettable season – the first in the newly reorganised national Third Division – in 18th position.