Roy Brown

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 – 09-11-46

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.

09-11-46

Wrexham v Darlington

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 7-1

Wrexham: McNee, Jones, Jackson, Lloyd, Roberts, Tudor, Gardner, McLarty, Boothway, Sharp, Brown

Goalscorers: Boothway (3, 1 pen), McLarty (2), Sharp, Brown

Darlington: Barron, Kelly, Hutchinson, Parsley, Saunder, Towers, Simpson, Allison, Harrison, Varty, Sinclair

Goalscorer: Varty

Attendance: 9,033

Jack Boothway had his football career severally disrupted by World War Two. The Manchester–born centre forward made his first team debut for Manchester City in April 1941 and played for the Maine Road club up until 1944. During this period Boothway netted 57 goals in only 76 games.

Jack – he was actually named John on his birth certificate – made a guest appearance for Crewe Alexandra in 1944 and stayed at Gresty Road until the Football League resumed in 1946. His war-time career with the Cheshire club saw him net 67 goals in just 68 matches.

In October 1946, Boothway joined Wrexham for a record fee and part-exchange deal with Peter Baines moving in the opposite direction. The 6ft 2in striker played part-time for the Reds while continuing to work as a Draughtsman for a Manchester firm. Although he failed to find the net on his debut at Tranmere – a goalless draw – he certainly made up for it on his home debut against Darlington.

The score line suggests a one-sided contest, but this was far from the case as the home defence found themselves under pressure at times. Nevertheless, Wrexham took the lead in the first few minutes when Boothway headed a cross from Tommy Gardner, only for a Darlington defender to prevent a goal using his hand. The new signing converted the resulting penalty. Within a couple of minutes, Jesse McLarty snapped up a pass from Boothway to make it 2-0.

It was at this point that Darlington goalkeeper Jim Barron raced out to stem a run by Boothway and picked up an injury. Norman Parsley took his place in goal for a short while and when Barron was fit enough to return, the score remained unchanged. The shot stopper’s reappearance boosted the confidence of his team mates and the lively Tommy Varty pulled a goal back for the visitors.

Wrexham struck back before the break when Boothway scored a third goal with a shot on the run after more combination play with Gardner. Both these players were also involved in the fourth goal, which came when Barron fisted out a Gardner cross only to see Boothway return the ball into the net for his hat-trick.

Darlington began the second half strongly, but it was Wrexham who got on the scoresheet when Roy Brown provided McLarty with a cross which he promptly converted.

Wrexham were then reduced to ten men through injury as outside right Cyril Jones had to hobble off. Darlington continued to try to make a game of it, but despite their best efforts they failed to score. Terry McNee saved cleverly from Varty and before the end Wrexham scored through Norman Sharp and Brown to make the final score 7-1.

Writing in the Leader, X.Y.Z said: “On this form the Wrexham men should score much more freely than has been the case, in the first two months of the season. Boothway added so much strength to the attack that all the other members of the line – Gardner, McLarty, Sharp and Brown gave improved displays with Sharp catching the eye with his scintillating runs, and Gardner getting nearer to the ball he revealed at the opening of the season.”

***

Tom Williams was the man in charge as Wrexham resumed league football in 1946/47. The club finished in a respectable seventh place. This was quite an achievement when you consider that there were only four players left in the squad from 1979 – Albert Brown, Eddie Tunney, Gib Bellis and Walter Roberts.

***

Jack Boothway finished the season with 17 goals in 22 league appearances. The big striker also achieved a four-goal haul against Marine in the first round of the FA Cup. Wrexham won the match 5-0.