Manchester United

Memory Match – 19-09-90

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.

 

19-09-90

Wrexham v Lyngby

European Cup Winner’s Cup First Round, First Leg

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Morris, Phillips, Beaumont, Owen, Williams, Sertori, Copper, Flynn (Hunter), Preece, Worthington, Bowden

Lyngby: Rindom, Kuhn, Wieghorst, Gothenborg, Christiensen, Larsen, Helt, Schafer, Christensen, Rode (Andersen), Kuhn

Attendance: 3,417

Season 1990/91 saw Brian Flynn decide to give youth a chance as there was no relegation to the non-league doldrums this season. An array of young talent was waiting in the wings, with players such as Phil Hardy, Waynne Phillips, Gareth Owen and Chris Armstrong all bidding to carve out a successful career in football.

Flynn said “I am getting the praise for these youngsters,, but it is Cliff Sear and his excellent team who have brought them all on over the last four years”. The new man in charge was fairly confident of a productive season and was only looking upward before the season began.

“Every club starts equal, so at this stage it is anybody’s guess who will win promotion.”

After an appalling start to the season, with only one win in the opening ten league games it quickly became clear that we weren’t going to be challenging at the right end of the table. What we needed was a distraction and progress in the League Cup certainly provided that. After beating York City over two legs, we faced Everton in the second round. We were demolished 0-5 at the Racecourse and thumped 6-0 at Goodison Park, but in hindsight these defeats proved valuable lessons for our inexperienced squad.

Another distraction came in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where we were drawn against Danish Cup winners Lyngby. The first-leg at the Racecourse was instantly forgettable to my teenage eyes, but I do remember getting my programme signed by Chris Armstrong. That was about the sum of the excitement.

Kevin Reeves was more than happy with the goalless draw that we had earned: “The most pleasing thing is we never conceded a goal. If we get a scoring draw over there, then it’s obviously a big bonus to us.” Our defensive display was helped by the fact that Flynn chose to play Mike Williams, who had been out of action for nine months.

The Town had achieved more than expected already. It was seen as fanciful to hope that they could capitalise on this result, especially as we had to contend with the fact that we were restricted to four ‘foreign’ players thanks to a new UEFA ruling. This meant that experienced players such as Vince O’Keefe, Andy Thackeray, Nigel Beaumont, Sean Reck and Andy Preece all had to be left out of Flynn’s plans. We were given little chance and Danish newspapers predicted a landslide.

Competing in Europe for the fifth time, Lyngby included four full Danish international players on their books, and almost took the lead after only two minutes. Mark Morris managed to turn a Hasse Kuhl header onto the bar. In the resulting scramble, Morris did well to keep out Michael Gothenburg’s shot.

Only 11 minutes had passed when Wrexham won a free-kick that player-boss Flynn floated across. Jon Bowden nodded on and Chris Armstrong buried a header past Jan Rindom, to send the 400 travelling Wrexham fans into rapture.

Lyngby continued to press for the remainder of the game, but Wrexham defended gallantly and benefited from Morris being on top of his game, especially when making a one-handed save to deny John Helt. Thankfully, Fleming Christian missed a second half sitter with a wayward header.

After the match, Flynn said: “I’m very proud of all my players. They have done Wrexham and Welsh football proud, and once again we have kept up the club’s fine tradition in Europe.”

***

The second round saw the Robins drawn against Manchester United in a tie that we lost 5-0 on aggregate. The Red Devils went on to lift the trophy that season after beating Barcelona in the final.

Memory Match – 02-09-39

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.

02-09-39

Halifax Town v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section) (abandoned)

The Shay

Result: 1-1

Halifax Town: Briggs, Allsop, Jackson, Green, Craig, Ruecroft, Widdowfield, Bruce, Baines, Barkas, Wood

Goalscorer: Baines

Wrexham: Bryan, Tunney, Screen, Savage, Matthias, Briggs, Williams, Snow, Woodman, Bradbury, Brown

Goalscorer: Brown

Attendance: 6,417

When the 1939/40 season kicked off, the international situation meant that it was unlikely to proceed far. Indeed, after only three matches, war was declared on 3 September 1939 and with immediate effect the assembly of crowds was banned until further notice.

The last game Wrexham played before the suspension of football was at the Shay – home of Halifax Town. The match featured a fantastic display from the visiting goalkeeper Billy Bryan who was in inspired form for the Reds.

Halifax controlled proceedings and spent most of the game on the offensive. However, Wrexham took an early lead through former Nottingham Forest winger, Roy Brown who scored with a fast, rising shot. The Shaymen where shocked by this and retaliated swiftly with Bryan being called upon to make some spectacular saves from Reg Baines.

It was apparent that Halifax’s repeated attacks would bring reward, and it came as no surprise when Baines equalised with a fierce drive that gave Bryan no chance. Before the break the Wrexham custodian had to be on his toes to stop a shot from Tommy Barkas. Writing in the Leader, “Candidus” said that Bryan was “clapped when he left the field at half time by the sporting home crowd, and he well deserved their plaudits.”

 After the interval, Halifax maintained their pressure but could not penetrate the red wall of defenders. In the final stages it looked likely that Wrexham were to lose their hard-earned point when Baines broke through with only Bryan to beat. This was a duel between the two star performers of the game. Thankfully, it was Bryan who came out on top when he confidently ran out of his goal and smothered the centre forward’s shot.

***

Underneath the match report in the North Wales Guardian was the headline: “Welsh FA and Suspension of Football”. Ted Robbins, secretary of the FAW issued the following statement: “It will have been noticed that football has been suspended. This decision is doubtless necessary, but I feel that in a very short time the ban will be raised in certain areas so as to afford some recreation for the people, and to take their minds temporarily off sterner things.”

Robbins was correct in his forecast. The Government deemed football should continue in some format because it was good for morale. Wrexham’s next match was a friendly against Chester at the Cae Ras. They played another friendly against Chester and two against Tranmere Rovers before football was reorganised into regions. Wrexham played in the Regional League (West Division), which included the two Manchester giants as well as Liverpool and Everton.

During the war, registration regulations were relaxed to allow players who would serve in the forces to turn out for a club near to where they were stationed. These players were allowed to appear as guests and each club could field as many guests as they wanted. Indeed, without the guest player system, war time football would have collapsed.

During this period, Wrexham had their fair share of guest players. Famous names to appear for Wrexham included England internationals Stanley Matthews, Stan Cullis, John Hancocks and Ronnie Dix. Welsh internationals included Tommy G Jones, Tommy Griffiths, Ehud Rogers, Tommy Bamford and Don Dearson.

The Town’s best season during this time of conflict was in 1943/44 when they finished top of the North Regional Championship and had the same record as Bath City, who played in the Southern Regional competition. Wrexham offered to play Bath over two legs to decide the outright winner, but Bath bottled it and refused the offer because of the travelling involved. Popular opinion of the time regarded Wrexham as the outright winners because of the strength of the opponents they had overcome compared to Bath.

Memory Match – 22-12-56

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.

22-12-56

Wrexham v Gateshead

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-1

Wrexham: Waters, McGowan, Parker, Green, Fox, Davis, Gren Jones, Thompson, Evans, Anderson, David Jones

Goalscorers: Davis, Evans (2), Thompson

Gateshead: Gray, Dawson, Oldham, Callender, Davis, Moran, Slater, Smith, Brown, Oliver, Lydon

Goalscorer: Brown

Attendance: 7,326

The 1956/57 season got off to a slow start with two 2-2 home draws against Chester and Hartlepools United, followed by a 4-2 defeat at Gateshead. Our chance for revenge against the Redheugh Park club came just before Christmas in the middle of 17 games without defeat.

The biggest flashpoint of the afternoon came with just four minutes left on the clock. Gateshead centre forward Bill Brown found himself in hot water when he was involved in an altercation with Wrexham wing half Billy Green. There was only one winner in this colourful tussle as Green was punched unconscious by Brown who was booed off the field after referee Mr A Jobling showed him a red card. What most spectators did not realise was that Green also received his marching orders. Apparently, Green was seen striking the Gateshead man in the chest before Brown delivered the killer blow. Speaking in the dressing room after the game, Green said “I don’t remember anything about what happened”.

Peter Thompson, who was moved to inside right in place of the injured Ron Hewitt, scored with a sensational strike to make it four and complete a resounding victory. Thompson ran half the length of the pitch, beat three men and left Bobby Gray in the Gateshead goal with no chance of picking out the ball in the thick grey fog. This was a shame for Gray who had been in remarkable from that afternoon.

Ron Chaloner of the Leader also gives a special word of praise to left half Fred Davis whose display throughout was described as an object lesson to budding wing halves. It was Davis who opened the scoring in the 36th minute with his first goal of the season. He wormed his way past two men before smashing the ball into the corner of the net.

Three minutes later, Bernard Evans rose high to head home a Grenville Jones corner and double our advantage. By the break, Wrexham could have scored double figures if it wasn’t for the heroics of Gray who even saved a penalty kick from John Anderson with a brilliant flying dive after Gordon Davis had handled.

Wrexham went further ahead in the 75th minute when Evans headed home a centre by Thompson before Brown notched a consolation effort for the away side. Unfortunately, as Green was about to find out, this did not brighten up his mood and calm his aggression…

The Robins climbed to 6th in the table after this victory, with Bob Keen and his Gateshead team looking nervously over their shoulder in 16th position.

***

Cliff Lloyd’s Wrexham finished the season in a comfortable mid–table position of 12th, but the real highlight of the season came in the cup competitions.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat Crewe Alexandra, Scunthorpe & Lindsey United and Reading to set up a dream fourth round home tie against Manchester United. When the “Busby Babes” ran out at the Racecourse they were faced with a record attendance of 34,445 – a record that stands to this day. United put on a spectacular show to run out 5-0 winners. Only a year later, the Munich air disaster robbed football of some exceptional talents, some of whom had played on the Racecourse that day.

The Reds also brought the Welsh Cup back to the Racecourse for the first time since 1931. After knocking out Bangor, Caernarfon and Chester, they met Swansea Town in the Final at Ninian Park. The Swans played in the Second Division and were firm favourites to lift the trophy, but Wrexham surprised everyone by winning 2-1 with goals from Tom McNab and Peter Thompson.

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 – 08-01-66

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.

08-01-66

Wrexham v Barnsley

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-3

Wrexham: Beighton, Wall, Lucas, Smith, Turner, Powell, Lloyd, Griffiths, Webber, McMillan, Campbell

Goalscorers: Webber (3, 1 pen), McMillan (3)

Barnsley: Hill, Parker, Brookes, Jackson, Swallow, Addy, Hayes, Bettany, Kerr, Ferguson, Hewitt

Goalscorers: Kerr, Hewitt, Hayes

Attendance: 4,149

Jack Rowley, former Manchester United and England centre-forward and ex-manager of Plymouth Argyle and Oldham Athletic, became Wrexham’s ninth post-war manager and the third in less than 12 months. He was appointed in January 1966 after Billy Morris had been sacked in October 1965.  Cliff Lloyd had acted as caretaker manager in the interim period.

Speaking to Ron Chaloner in the Leader, Rowley said: “I am a strong one for discipline.  If the players are told to start training at 10am I want them there then – not at five minutes past.”

Rowley’s first game in charge against Barnsley looked tough on paper as the Yorkshire side were in the top ten while the Reds only had two clubs below them in the league. Subsequently, Rowley demanded “nothing less than 100% effort” and he wasn’t to be disappointed.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some confusion over the afternoon’s goalscorers.   Our local newspaper claims that Webber scored four goals and McMillan two, our official history books suggest  that Webber only got a hat-trick,  McMillan scored twice and we profited from an own goal while the English Football Data Archive suggest that Webber and McMillan both scored hat-tricks.  It’s confusing.  What I do know for sure is that we won the game convincingly.

Somehow, I had to solve such a glaring inconsistency, so I spoke to none other than Sammy McMillan himself. He assures me that he definitely scored a hat-trick that afternoon and tells how debutant John Lloyd – son of former caretaker Cliff Lloyd – talks about this match as a popular after dinner speaker, recounting tales of a double hat-trick in his first of only two games for Wrexham.

According to the information at my disposal from the Leader, it seems that things didn’t start well as a rare lapse by David Powell enabled Dick Kerr to strike a beauty from 20 yards after six minutes to put the visitors ahead.  However, just five minutes later Arfon Griffiths was tripped from behind in the penalty box and Webber converted the spot kick.

On 34 minutes, Barnsley re-took the lead when Dick Hewitt despatched a hard cross-shot from the left.  This was the beginning of a breathless period of play that saw Wrexham equalise on 39 minutes through McMillan.

Things got even better for the resurgent Reds in the 42nd minute when Webber ran nearly half the length of the pitch and blasted Wrexham 3-2 in front from 20 yards.  Our jubilant fans were still celebrating this spectacular goal when Webber proceeded to beat two men and slammed in the fourth goal, completing his hat-trick.

Seven minutes into the second half the home side increased their lead, though controversy surrounds this goal in particular. The Official Handbook credits this goal to Barnsley defender Eric Brookes, but the Leader states that his teammate Brian Jackson was responsible.  I believe that this is the goal that should be credited to McMillan as he and John Lloyd are both adamant that no own-goals were scored that afternoon in line with the statistics provided by the English Football Data Archive.

Such was Wrexham’s superiority at this point that Ron Chaloner believed Jack Rowley must have possessed a magic wand. However, Barnsley were by no means finished and their lively forwards continued to test Graham Beighton who was finally beaten in the 68th minute through a fine shot from Joe Hayes.

The final thrill of an action packed afternoon saw McMillan score his third with just two minutes remaining to leave the fans chanting “We want seven”.

***

Jack Rowley’s prediction that we would climb the league table before the end of term proved to be unfounded as we won only one game in the last thirteen of the season to finish rock bottom for the first time in our history. Fortunately, we were comfortably re-elected and lived to fight another day.