UEFA

Memory Match – 10-08-95

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.

10-08-95

Wrexham v Petrolul Ploiesti

European Cup Winner’s Cup First Round First Leg

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Marriott, Brace, Hardy, Phillips, Hunter, Jones, Futcher, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Durkan

Petrolul Ploiesti: Preda, Chirita, Leahu, Balaceanu, Grigore, Rachita, Pirlog, Abaluta, Zafiris, Zmoleanu, Toader

Attendance: 4,308

 

The summer of 1995 was a particularly turbulent one at the Racecourse with plenty of transfer activity. The biggest shock was the departure of 47-goal striker Gary Bennett to Tranmere Rovers for £300,000.  There was no doubt that his predatory instincts would be missed after hitting 109 goals in 160 appearances, but manager Brian Flynn moved quickly to create a new-look outfit by signing Peter Ward from Stockport County for £60,000, former favourite Kevin Russell rejoined from Notts County for £60,000 and winger Craig Skinner was captured in a £50,000 deal from Plymouth Argyle.

After lifting the Welsh Cup at Cardiff Arms Park, this was to be Wrexham’s last-ever campaign in Europe due to the fact that the club plied its trade in the English Football League. The good folk at UEFA had suddenly decided that teams that did not play in the national league of the country of origin would no longer be able to compete for the relevant national cup – in our case the Welsh Cup.

Flynn said: “The atmosphere on European nights is always something special. This is such a shame that the politics of football looks like denying us the chance of savouring it again in the future.”

Wrexham were drawn against the little known Romanian side Petrolul Ploiesti who had qualified by beating Rapid Bucharest 5-3 on penalties in the Romanian Cup final, after a 1-1 draw. This would a tough test for the Reds as they were hampered by more red tape and bureaucracy. UEFA’s ‘four foreign players’ ruling, meant we had to play without Peter Ward, Kevin Russell, Tony Humes, Craig Skinner and Bryan Hughes.

As a matter of note, Mel Pejic made his debut as the club’s physio for this game.

Petrolul may have been technically superior and kept possession of the ball for long periods, but Wrexham matched them in endeavour and flashes of excellent football. In deed, Wrexham could easily have gone ahead after only three minutes when a Karl Connolly corner found young Stephen Futcher unmarked at the far post, but his header went just wide of the mark.

Later Waynne Phillips went close and late in the first half both Connolly and Kieron Durkan put chances just wide.

Andy Marriott was in great form making several crucial saves to keep the stalemate going into the second leg in Romania.  All we needed was an early goal over there…

***

The second leg was played in 90-degree heat at the Ilie Oana Stadium, but the Robins put this out of their minds and fought tooth and nail. However, the Welsh side’s resilience was finally broken on the hour when Zmoleanu swung over a corner kick and Mihai Pirlog powerfully headed home.

Flynn said of his team: “They were a credit to club and country, but above all they did themselves proud. It was always going to be hard against a side like Ploiesti with the restrictions that we had – I thought we were magnificent.”

Petrolul were eliminated in the next round by Rapid Vienna.

***

In 2013/14, Ploiesti were eliminated in the Europa League play-off round by Swansea City – 3-6 on aggregate.

***

In February 2015, Petrolul Ploiesti became insolvent. In the summer of 2016 the club was dissolved, but fans and club legends re-founded and enrolled it in Liga IV – the fourth level of the Romanian football league system.

Groundtastic – Scots Scene – Summer 2003

Between 2002-2008 I was Scottish Correspondent for the wonderfully professional Groundtastic – The Football Grounds Magazine. I can not speak highly enough of the editors and contributors to this glossy magazine that is jam-packed with interesting information and photographic gold.

I haven’t been a subscriber to the magazine since my marriage imploded in 2008 and I was forced to leave Scotland. Since then my dexterity has deteriorated to such an extent that I now find it impossible to simply thumb through a magazine.

Imagine my excitement then when I visited the Groundtastic website to discover that they now have a digital edition available 🙂 I’ll definitely be subscribing.

Anyway, over the next few months I will be sharing a number of articles that I penned during my time North of the Border, including my regular Scots Scene news round-up of potential football ground developments and improvements. The following is from Spring 2003 and it will be evident to ground enthusiasts and football fans just how much has changed from the era in which it was written…

Enjoy a short step back in time.

GT

Dundee and Dundee United have joined forces with the University of Abertay to build a joint football academy costing £5 million. The two clubs have submitted a bid for £1 million in lottery funding to sportscotland while a further £450,000 is being sought from the Scottish Football Partnership.

Plans for the 42-acre site include 8 full-size pitches, two of which will boast synthetic, all-weather surfaces and four of which will include floodlights. In addition, the academy could be home to an indoor sports hall, fitness suites, media and press centre and kitchen, dining and laundry facilities – the clubs would be based at the academy for training and administrative purposes. However, such a centre is a long way off as the plans are only at the application stage.

Sports Administrator Alex Stuart who played for Dundee and United has been working on the scheme for past 3 months. He said, “Dundee United and Dundee deserve huge credit for coming together on the bid. They’ll always be massive rivals on the park but off it they’ve realised that by pooling strengths and expertise they can both be stronger We could see the project off the ground within 12 months.”

 

 Hearts’ plans to move to a new ground at Braehead on the outskirts of Edinburgh have been ditched. The 30,000-seater ground was to have been built on an area of land between Braehead Quarry and Turnhouse Golf Course. The Jambos have decided to look elsewhere – focussing on the western side of the city – for a suitable ground location. The club is moving because Tynecastle will be too small for European football in seven years time. New regulations concerning pitch sizes will come into force from UEFA in 2010 and the Gorgie Road site does not allow for expansion to meet them.

 

Livingston are looking at ways to help solve the problems encountered by their disabled supporters who have complained of a lack of protection from the elements in the West Stand at Almondville. The club is currently looking at a mirror image of what they already have in place within the East Stand. By removing a number of seats from the front row of block A3 and C2 we would be able to allow a carer to sit beside each wheelchair.

Livingston are also looking at other stadiums and how they accommodate wheelchair supporters.

 

The First Division title went to Falkirk, but will promotion to the SPL follow? By the time you read this you’ll know which division Falkirk will be playing in next season. Top-flight football will only be granted to The Bairns if SPL bosses decide to allow Falkirk to share New Broomfield Park with Airdrie United until their new all-seater community-stadium at Westfield is ready.

Mowlem Construction have been awarded the contract to build the new ground which will include 11 5-a-side pitches, a fitness centre and conference facilities. Meanwhile, Falkirk have auctioned off parts of Brockville, which staged its final game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on May 10, and was due for demolition in early June to make way for a Morrison’s supermarket.

Falkirk chairman Campbell Christie said, “The demolition of Brockville will be a time of mixed emotions for fans. The ground holds precious memories for thousands of people and we will all be sad to see the stadium go. But it does mean that a new and exciting future is opening up for the football club – and for the Falkirk community as a whole”.

 

Asda is still in negotiations with Inverness Caledonian Thistle over the purchase and redevelopment of Caledonian Stadium, allowing ICT to relocate to a purpose-built ground in the Bught area of the city. Such a move would enable the Highlanders to meet strict SPL ground criteria but reports suggest Asda may be considering moving to the neighbouring travelling people’s site instead and sharing ICT’s car parking facilities.

 

Since St Mirren were relegated from the SPL in 2001, the club has struggled financially. The situation is now so critical that The Buddies are being forced to sell their Love Street ground and move to a new custom-built stadium in Paisley. The proposed relocation to the Ferguslie area hinges on the local council granting planning permission for a retail development at Love Street with supermarket chain Morrisons thought to be waiting in the wings.

 

Buckie Thistle, of the Highland League, is appealing to their fans for funds needed to upgrade Victoria Park’s ageing floodlights. Thistle’s President Mark Duncan said; “The existing lights were erected way back in 1978 so they are now 25 years old and although they have lasted well, they are now beginning to show their age with repairs now being regularly required. A total upgrade of all of the lights is now required and this will cost a figure of around £15,000. The existing floodlight pylons are still in good condition and it is only the lights themselves that need replacing.”

The club is hopeful of raising enough funds to have the new lights in place by the end of the season. Meanwhile, the Main Stand at Victoria Park has received a facelift. The cost of these improvements was paid for in full by Buckie’s main sponsor Planwell Roofing Supplies and include the installation of new front cladding, new lightweight shutters, new signs and a new flagpole, all of which now make the stand wind and watertight for years to come.

Groundtastic – Scots Scene – Spring 2003

Between 2002-2008 I was Scottish Correspondent for the wonderfully professional Groundtastic – The Football Grounds Magazine. I can not speak highly enough of the editors and contributors to this glossy magazine that is jam-packed with interesting information and photographic gold.

I haven’t been a subscriber to the magazine since my marriage imploded in 2008 and I was forced to leave Scotland. Since then my dexterity has deteriorated to such an extent that I now find it impossible to simply thumb through a magazine.

Imagine my excitement then when I visited the Groundtastic website to discover that they now have a digital edition available 🙂 I’ll definitely be subscribing.

Anyway, over the next few months I will be sharing a number of articles that I penned during my time North of the Border, including my regular Scots Scene news round-up of potential football ground developments and improvements. The following is from Spring 2003 and it will be evident to ground enthusiasts and football fans just how much has changed from the era in which it was written…

Enjoy a short step back in time.

GT

 

Euro 2008 will be held in Austria and Switzerland – ending Scottish and Irish dreams of jointly hosting the tournament. This rather surprising decision has had repercussions for three SPL clubs who were planning to move to new stadiums, that would also be used for Euro 2008. Since that will not happen and government support will not be forthcoming, ABERDEEN, DUNDEE UNITED and DUNDEE have been forced to reconsider their options.

As mentioned in the last edition of Groundtastic, there have been objections to the moves from supporters and homeowners in the two cities and they were largely pleased  that the joint Scotland/Ireland bid ended in failure.

The Dundee clubs were planning to share a stadium and had even received SPL permission to groundshare – but crucially they never consulted the supporters whose financial support they now have to rely on if such a move is to go ahead. Not surprisingly, the clubs are now planning to take supporters’ opinions into consideration.

Dundee United spokesman Malcolm Brown said: “We will have to look at the possibility that Scotland may bid for Euro 2012 and assess the implications that might bring. However, I can confirm that we will be taking the supporters’ views into account.”

Over at Dens Park spokesman Niall Scott confirmed that consultation with Dundee supporters was top of their agenda. Scott said: “It’s not a case of going back to the drawing board though. A new stadium for Dundee remains not just a possibility, but an opportunity we should take very seriously.”

Aberdeen have so far spent £300,000 on their proposed move from Pittodrie to Bellfield Farm in the Kingswells area. They have obtained permission to move from the City Council and the plans are currently with the Scottish Executive while a public enquiry takes place.

Following the failure of the European bid though, any plans may have to be dramatically scaled down, though Aberdeen’s plans are thought to be flexible enough to do that.

Dons spokesman Andrew Shinie said: “We are obviously very disappointed that the Scotland-Ireland bid has been unsuccessful. The benefits which could have been derived for Scotland’s economy as well as Scottish football were significant. We still believe that the proposals for a new stadium and world-class sports and leisure facility at Bellfield present an outstanding opportunity for the north-east and we need to consider how we best move this forward.”

 

HIBERNIAN have joined forces with Edinburgh Education Department to create a Football Academy for Edinburgh. Under the proposals, Hibernian FC will apply for outline planning permission to refurbish and improve facilities at Duddingston Playing Fields. The Club and the City of Edinburgh Council will jointly submit a lottery bid to sportScotland to help fund the development.

Councillor Rev Ewan Aitken said: “These exciting proposals will enable us to develop grass roots football and excellence programmes for some of our most talented young sportspeople, offering them the opportunity to work with professional footballers and coaches. I am sure if these plans go ahead it is only a matter of time before we unearth the stars of the future.”

 

The dismal Scottish weather has played havoc with the Scottish fixture list yet again and UEFA are looking into the introduction of plastic pitches on a trial basis to extend the life of pitches.

LIVINGSTON and ABERDEEN has already registered their interest in the trial. UEFA are willing to pay half the installation cost of up to six clubs willing to participate. At the moment all league and cup games must be played on a grass surface but the SPL may be prepared to change the rules to accommodate these pitches.

Livingston already use a synthetic training pitch with no problems. Their chairman, Dominic Keane, admitted he was keen on the idea when he said: “We would be happy to take part in the UEFA initiative as there are a tremendous number of merits in having a synthetic pitch. For a start, your stadium becomes a seven-day operation because your pitch can be used three or four times a day.”

Aberdeen’s chief executive Keith Wyness was also keen to be involved. Wyness said: “If UEFA are looking for clubs to try it out, we are delighted to do so and have registered our interest with the SPL and the SFA”.

 

ARBROATH struck gold when they were drawn to play RANGERS at Gayfield in the third round of the Scottish Cup. The first division side did consider switching the tie to a bigger venue to maximise their windfall until they heard Sky would be covering the game live. Red Lichties boss John Brownlie said “We may have lost money by not playing at a bigger venue but the money from TV means that it’s swings and roundabouts. Everyone at the club is pleased at the way things have worked out”. However, Arbroath had to make a £3,000 investment on their ground to upgrade the lighting system to meet the requirements of Sky who said the Gayfield lights were not bright enough for live TV. Sky in turn coughed up £80,000 so it was money well spent. Unfortunately, Arbroath lost the match 3-0.

 

CLYDE are going well in the Scottish first division but when the travelled to McDiarmid Park, home of ST JOHNSTONE, on January 18, their supporters were far from happy with their treatment. Clyde’s Director of Stadium Operations, Denis Gowans received several letters of complaint from Clyde supporters and subsequently wrote to St Johnstone outlining their concerns.

The main cause for complaint was that the taped off area, designated for the Clyde support, was inadequate. Police and stewards on duty failed to increase this area to house the supporters comfortably. Supporters attempting to leave the taped area to sit with friends and get a better view met with resistance by the stewards. Clyde supporters also moaned that they had to pay £15 for a seat with restricted views and that there was no separate parent and child gate for Clyde families.

Gowans concluded his letter by suggesting that, given McDiarmid Park has a capacity of 10,000, “consideration be given to housing the Clyde support in a properly segregated section in the stand with sufficient space, where our supporters would feel that they are getting better value for money.

“If something is not done to resolve these quite clearly felt areas of concern in the future then I am sure that many of our supporters will refrain from travelling to your stadium with obvious financial implications to yourselves”.

 

FALKIRK, INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE and CLYDE are all challenging for promotion to the SPL but at the moment none of these clubs are eligible for entry to the top flight due to strict ground criteria. The SPL constitution states that clubs must have at least 10,000 seats in their stadium. The respective clubs are currently looking at ways of complying with this ruling.

Falkirk, seem to be on the brink of moving to Westfield and are looking at the possibility of playing games at Airdrie United’s New Broomfield Park until their stadium is ready to use in November 2003.

ICT’s plans are discussed below while Clyde already have three quarters of a stadium and are planning to erect a temporary structure to take their capacity to 10,000.

The only club currently in the promotion race that are eligible for the step up is ST JOHNSTONE.

However, according to reports, the SPL are ready to put another barrier in the way of ambitious first division clubs with the insistence that all members of the SPL must have undersoil heating.

The current rules of the SPL state that teams merely require “pitch-protection”, such as a pitch blanket or hot air bubble. To install undersoil heating would cost in the region of £200,000. It is unlikely that Inverness CT or Falkirk would make that sort of expenditure when they are seeking to move to purpose built stadia.

 

INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE could be a step closer to their proposed move to the Bught Park area of the city with Asda building a new superstore on their current home at East Longman. The £25 million deal was discussed in a secret meeting with Inverness planning officials and a purpose-built stadium looks to be the only way the club will be able to achieve SPL status in the short term. The Caley Jags cannot afford to re-develop Caledonian Stadium to the necessary 10,000-seat capacity – though the possibility of erecting temporary stands, should the Asda deal collapse, has also been investigated.

Inverness planning chief Clive Goodman said: “We have had a briefing from Asda and ICT about the possible takeover of the East Longman site. The prospect of Caley Thistle playing at the Bught is not beyond the realms of possibility. However, there are a lot of hurdles to get over.”. The proposed development at Bught Park includes a sports arena, complete with hotel and conference facilities.

The local civic trust is opposing both the Longman and Bught development ideas.