Ninian Park

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.

My Racecourse – Mark Thompson

Nathan Lee Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success. He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike. As Euro 2016 approaches, Nathan talks to matchday programme contributor Mark Thompson about international football at the Racecourse, quiz nights with former managers and Christmas carols with television soap stars.

12/05/73

Wales v Scotland

Home International Tournament

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-2

Wales: Sprake, Rodrigues, Thomas, Hockey, England, Roberts, James, Mahoney, Toshack, Yorath (Davies 69), Evans (O’Sullivan 78)

Scotland: McCloy, McGrain, Donachie, Graham, Holton, Johnstone, Dalglish (Macari 84), Stanton, Parlane (Stein 80), Hay, Morgan

Goalscorer: Graham (60, 70)

Attendance: 18,682

With Wales about to play in their first major tournament since 1958 – or more accurately 1976 – I’ve been in a reflective international mood. I’d like to focus on my first international match at the Racecourse back in 1973 when Wales played Scotland in the Home International Tournament.

It was Wales’ first game since a 2-0 win over Poland at Ninian Park, which got the World Cup ’74 qualifying campaign off to a cracking start.  At school – Rhosddu Juniors – lots of my classmates were talking about a ‘new era’ having started for Wales. This was the first time I’d heard that phrase, but as a long-suffering Welshman it was certainly not the last.

The day of the match was overcast and a bit chilly while I was charged 10p to gain access to the Kop through the Boys turnstile.  My pal Neil Roberts and I were amongst the first in the ground.  After an abortive attempt to climb a floodlight pylon, we pottered down towards the Tech End in search of some pre-match entertainment.  We lingered on the terrace that became known as the Yale Paddock, but in those days it was just the terracing in front of the New Stand.  Once at the Tech End we sat on the wall behind the goal with our legs tucked in behind the advertising hoardings and watched the terraces filling up with Scotsmen behind us.  They all seemed to have those yellow flags with a red lion on them – AKA the Royal Standard of Scotland – not the traditional Saltire.  I remember us shouting “Get a dragon on them” with ridiculous bravado.

It was goalless at half-time. Unlike the football, the half-time entertainment was terrific. It comprised of a display by police dogs catching criminals. This got us warmed up for the second half, but our enthusiasm and excitement were soon extinguished…

As we were right next to the goal we had an excellent view of Wales goalkeeper Gary Sprake going down in instalments as Arsenal’s George Graham side-footed past him to put Scotland 0-1 up.  Ten minutes later, Graham scored his second goal as Scotland won 0-2.  After these goals I spent the rest of the game eating my packet of Spangles.

At the final whistle we ran on the pitch and I managed to secure an autograph from Rod Thomas of Swindon. Oh the glamour.

The following Tuesday, Wales lost 0-3 to England at Wembley. Wales’ new era looked a lot like the old one.

***

‘My Racecourse’ memories don’t have to be about matches attended. I vividly recall football quizzes from early/mid 1980s in the old Wrexham AFC Social Club. They were also held in the upstairs bar at the Centenary Club.

Usually I was on a team with former Chief Executive Dave Roberts, which was a very luck break as he has a thorough knowledge of football trivia.  Quizmaster Dave Davies also held quizzes where the competitors entered as individuals.  In one of them, I finished with the same score as manager Bobby Roberts. It was strangely satisfying to know exactly as much about football as the Boss.  I bumped into Bobby recently in Leicester and he told me that the Wrexham job was the most difficult of his career.

***

Of course, ‘My Racecourse’ memories don’t have to be about football. For example, I recall a Christmas carol concert in 1976 that featured Coronation Street actor Peter Adamson – AKA Len Fairclough – as the star guest.

Earlier that same year, the Racecourse held a ‘Festival of Entertainment’, culminating in people riding round the pitch on horseback dressed as characters from Planet of the Apes.  Trust me, it happened. I was there and not on drugs. Honest.

***

Over the summer months, Nathan Lee Davies hopes to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.