Racecourse Ground

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.

Memory Match – 07-04-90

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.

07-04-90

Wrexham v Maidstone United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-2 

Wrexham: O’Keefe, Salathiel, Kennedy, Reck, Beaumont, Youds, Preece (Armstrong), Thackeray, Sertori, Worthington, Bowden

Goalscorers: Youds (4), Worthington (6, 75), Sertori (85)

Maidstone United: Johns, Barton, Rumble, Berry, Golley, Roast, Pritchard, Elsey, Charlery, Butler, Lillis (Gall)

Goalscorer: Butler (9, 57)

Attendance: 2,806

 

After the heartbreak of defeat in the 1988/89 Division Four Play-Off final, Wrexham struggled to bounce back. Preparations for the new season were difficult with Kevin Russell joining Leicester City for £175,000, and Charlton Athletic paying £100,000 for Mike Salmon.

Replacements were signed in the form of Vince O’Keefe on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers, Gary Worthington joined from Darlington at a price of £15,000, Sean Reck was snapped up from Oxford United for £35,000 and Robbie Barnes signed from Manchester City on a free transfer. However, these new arrivals failed to gel and a poor start to the season saw a frustrated Dixie McNeil resign at the end of October with the team struggling near the foot of the table.

Enter Brian Flynn. Things got even worse before they got better as the new man in charge won only one of his opening 18 League matches. Relegation to the Conference looked a real possibility before centre-half Eddie Youds was loaned from Everton and the club stumped up £30,000 for Mark Sertori from Lincoln City to kick start a revival based on a new 3-5-2 formation.

The new-look Robins seemed to be making little progress when all of a sudden they won five games on the trot and hauled themselves off the bottom of the table. After a couple of blips on the road against Aldershot and Cambridge United that left us in 22nd position, it was time for promotion-chasing Maidstone United to visit the Racecourse.

Wrexham profited from home advantage and made a blistering start with two goals in the opening seven minutes. Eddie Youds was first off the mark with a belter from a Sean Reck free-kick before Gary Worthington ended a fine five-man move by calmly lifting the ball over the advancing Nicky Johns in the Maidstone goal.

However, it wasn’t long before the visitors – unbeaten in five – got back into the game. Ken Charlery eased past Alan Kennedy and delivered a cross that was met by the head of Jason Lillis who saw the ball crash against the crossbar. Steve Butler reacted to the rebound before Vince O’Keefe and Youds to keep the game alive with his head.

The Stones were now in the ascendency with Warren Barton and Karl Elsey running the show. O’Keefe reacted well to keep out a deflected Charlery shot at his near post and we were lucky to maintain our lead after a speculative Reck back pass fell ideally for Butler who was denied an equaliser by an in-form O’Keefe.

It was only a matter of time though and on 57 minutes Butler got the better of our Warwickshire-born shot stopper for his second of the afternoon after good work from Elsey and Barton.

With only a handful of games remaining to decide which team would be relegated to the Conference, Wrexham could not afford to settle for a point. The Robins had to dig deep and were rewarded when Worthington restored the lead after Mark Sertori had failed to control a perfect through ball from Jon Bowden.

The high flyers were not giving up without a fight and O’Keefe was on call again to deny substitute Mark Gall before Sertori sealed a vital victory with a shot on the turn after Chris Armstrong had headed down a Reck free-kick.

***

Wrexham won a further three League games that season and finished the campaign in 21st spot. The club that fell through the trap door that season was Colchester United…

Introducing Robyn

I have decided to name my mannequin Robyn. This was decided on after asking my friends on Facebook to come up with their own suggestions. There were a whole host of suggestions from Roxanne to Gertrude, but in the end I decided to follow the advice given by my friend, Ted Eames.

His suggestion was Rita Racecourse as he thought I should keep with the Wrexham AFC theme that is prevalent throughout my bungalow. I totally agree with the Football connection, but I could not name my new friend after an ageing newsagent in Coronation Street. All that was left to do was to think of an alternative name that is associated with the club I love.

Commercial manager Christian Smith came up with the idea of changing the club’s nickname to enhance it’s marketing potential in 2001.  The club had been called the Robins – not because of the red and white kit – but after Ted Robinson, who had given 50 years service to Wrexham Football Club as player coach and secretary.  Smith explained the change: “The Robins doesn’t say a great deal about Wrexham AFC.  We should trade more on our Welsh identity”  The new nickname that was eventually was the Red Dragons.

All this sounds too much like a cunning marketing ploy with total disregard for historical context.  It’s the type of thing I hate.  Some people would say that I am stuck in the past, but I prefer to think of myself as a traditionalist with respect for forgotten heroes.

Anyway, in my choice of name for my mannequin, the spirit of Ted Robinson lives on (albeit in a more attractive, sexier form with the ‘i’ replaced with a ‘y’ to give it a feminine touch).

 

Memory Match – 17-03-23

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.

17-03-23

Wrexham v Tranmere Rovers

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Finnigan, Holmes, Cope, Regan, Savage, Roberts, Warburton, Cotton, Jackson, Jones, Sheldon

Goalscorers: Jackson, Warburton

Tranmere Rovers: Bradshaw, Thompson, Stuart, Campbell, Halstead, Sewell, Cook, Sayer, Crowther, Hilton, Evans

Goalscorer: Sayer

Attendance: 6,150

Our second season in the Football League and we were still looking to beat Tranmere Rovers for the first time in this competition, following a goalless draw at Prenton Park and a comprehensive 1-3 defeat at the Racecourse in 1921/22.

Despite a poor start to season 1922/23 and some heavy defeats – 0-4 at Grimsby, 0-5 at Rochdale – things improved after the festive season. Wrexham went into this derby match in 12th position in the 20 team league on the back of three successive wins against Yorkshire opposition – Halifax Town were beaten 2-1 at the Cae Ras before we recorded a double over Bradford Park Avenue.

Rovers, who were also playing their second season at this elevated level after being elected alongside Wrexham and sixteen other clubs to form the Third Division (North) in 1921/22, were struggling to adapt and were floundering in 18th position ahead of this game on the back of a 0-4 trouncing at Darlington.

Our poor results against relegation-haunted sides are not a modern phenomenon though and after a poor opening half we trailed 0-1 at the break. The visitors profited from winning the toss and opted to play with a stiff breeze at their backs during the first 45 minutes. As a result they dominated proceedings and forced some fine saves from Dick Finnigan in the Wrexham goal. There seemed to be no way through for Tranmere with Jabez Evans, Stan Sayer and George Crowther all wasting good opportunities. Indeed, Leader reporter E.H.K suggested that Tranmere were “particularly clever in midfield and played delightful football but the finishes were feeble”.

However, the home forwards were equally ineffective and shortly before half-time Sayer – a new signing from Millwall – opened the scoring from a centre from Evans.

Wrexham had it all to do in the second period and got off to a great start when Billy Jackson connected with a cross from Richard Warburton to equalise. We were now in the ascendency but failed to find the decisive goal, despite much pressure. Hopes were high when Jack Jones played a lovely ball through to Jackson, but he failed to connect properly with the ball and his tame shot was easily saved by Harry Bradshaw in the Tranmere goal.

There then followed a spell of pressure from the visitors though this was eased when Wrexham won a free-kick as Jones was brought down as he threatened to burst through on goal. Edward Roberts floated in an accurate delivery from the resulting set-piece for Warburton to thump home a header and put us on course for the two points.

It was a very pleasing victory as it was achieved without George Godding and Tommy Matthias who were away on international duty with Wales for their match against Scotland in Paisley. Finnigan and Roberts were able deputies.

***

The return match at Prenton Park was a day to forget for Wrexham fans as we lost 4-0, with Sayer and Sammy Beswick each scoring a brace in front of 8,000 spectators.

***

Wrexham finished the season in 10th position while Tranmere – revived by the goals of Stan Sayer – finished in 15th.

***

Our FA Cup campaign began at the fifth qualifying stage with a 0-2 victory against Port Vale, in a match played at the Old Recreation Ground at Hanley. Billy Jackson was the difference between the two sides and netted a brace.  In the sixth qualifying round we met Hartlepools United at the Racecourse with Tommy Matthias scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to send us into the first round proper. Bristol City of the Third Division (South) were our opponents, but our trip to Ashton Gate ended in a 5-1 defeat.

Latest Mission

During the following 12 months I hope to visit all the 92 football grounds in the Premier League and Football League. I will not try to watch a match at all the grounds, but I do want to bask in the architecture of these differing stadiums and collect memorabilia to auction at the end of my tour.

The charity that I have chosen to benefit from my expedition is Level Playing Field – the working name of National Association of Disabled Supporters. Instead of spending time trying to explain the nature of this registered charity I will share their guiding principles that can be found on their excellent website at www.levelplayingfield.org.uk

Guiding Principles

Level Playing Field (LPF) believe that being a disabled person is a social issue and that an individual only becomes disabled because of the social, attitudinal and environmental barriers that the individual faces (this is known as the social model of disability).

Our efforts are focussed on removing these barriers in all sports. LPF and its members will know they have succeeded when all fans can enjoy an equal experience at live sports events:

  • all stadia and sports venues are fully accessible and inclusive;
  • all customer and/or fan services are equal and inclusive;
  • disabled people are seen as customers with a commercial value


We are guided by the following principles:

  • Anti-discrimination – so that disabled people do not face discrimination arising from poor or misinformed practice.
  • Equality of opportunity or making things fairer – for disabled people in every aspect of their contact with sports clubs and venues.
  • Increasing the independence and choices that disabled people have.
  • Individual needs / Diversity – recognising that a disabled person is an individual who, like all others, has his or her own needs, abilities, human rights and responsibilities.
  • Integration/inclusion – such that services are made accessible to disabled people and offer choice.
  • Involvement in decision-making – so that disabled people, and/or their advocates, are consulted before decisions which affect them are made.
  • The social model of disability explains that it is social and physical ‘barriers’ that cause ‘disability’ not impairments.

LPF is working to remove the barriers that currently exclude disabled people. These barriers can be:

  • prejudice and stereotypes
  • the way things are organised and run
  • little or no access to information, buildings and transport

To download a PDF of the Guiding Principles with footnotes please click here.

 To download a PDF copy of the LPF Governing Constitution click here.

I think you now get an idea of why I have chosen to support this charity. As a disabled person, I know that attending a football match every weekend and having involvement with like-minded fans through a DSA (Disabled Supporter’s Association) can make a big difference to people’s lives.  I want the money raised through this project to make a real difference by giving others the opportunity to attend matches and feel the same sense of inclusion that I feel every time I visit the Racecourse.

There is much planning to be done. Fortunately, I recently discovered Roadrunner Motorhomes which provides fully accessible accommodation on wheels.  It boasts a ceiling track hoist, profiling bed, toilet and wet room, which is all I need to make this epic adventure a reality.  I have booked the motorhome for the first week in October.  This will be ideal for visiting clubs based on the south coast and maybe a few more once I have worked out which are the best campsites to stay in.

For more information see: www.roadrunnermotorhomes.webs.com

I also need to set up an online sponsorship page for all you kind people to support me on my tour of England and Wales.  In addition I will also be booking the few hotels with the necessary equipment needed to transfer me from wheelchair to bed.  This will be needed in order to visit the London clubs and those based in south Wales and the North East.

I will be beginning my quest next week with trips to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City.  My trip to Wolves is to represent Wrexham DSA who have been invited to Molineux  to meet their counterparts in the West Midlands and foster a positive relationship with this group before enjoying their clash with Nottingham Forest.  My trip to the Britannia Stadium was organised with the help of Eddie Niedzwiecki after my friend Valerie Leney wrote to him to tell him about my 40th birthday.  He kindly got in touch with tickets for his side’s forthcoming game against Liverpool.

This venture will cost me a pretty penny at a time that disabled people are disproportionately feeling the full force of austerity measures. Subsequently, any individual or company that would like to help out with petrol costs, hotel fees and food bills then please do get in touch.

So, this is my latest escapade. There is much to organise and at times it is overwhelming, but if the money I raise helps just one disabled person attend football more regularly – subsequently increasing their sense of- self-worth – then it will have been a worthwhile venture…

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.