West Bromwich Albion

Memory Match – 11-01-30

hroughout 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.

11-01-30

Wrexham v West Bromwich Albion

FA Cup Third Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Finnigan, Jones, Lumberg, Dickie, Ross, Graham, Longmuir, Woodhouse, Mays, Bamford, Bell

Goalscorer: Mays

West Bromwich Albion: Ashmore, Finch, Shaw, Richardson, Evans, Darnell, Glidden, Carter, Cookson, Cresswell, Wood

Attendance: 16,600

Since the departure of our first manager Charlie Hewitt at the end of the 1925/26 season, our team had been selected by a committee. This was the case right up to October 1929, when Jack Baynes took over the reins.

The season had started badly, with only two wins from our opening ten games. This had left the team languishing in 15th position after ending the previous season in third position – our highest position since joining the Football League.

Baynes was chosen as our new manager from over 80 applicants, and the remainder of the season proved to be a struggle. Players such as George Bell and William Dickie were brought in, but it proved impossible to improve things after such a dismal start. We eventually limped home in a disappointing 17th place.

There were some bright spots in this campaign though, such as our 8-0 drubbing of Rochdale at the Racecourse which was our biggest-ever victory in the League at the time. Tommy Bamford scored four of the goals, with the others being netted by John Ascroft (2), Archie Longmuir and Roland Woodhouse.

We also continued our fine form in the FA Cup and progressed to the third round, after beating South Shields (2-4) at Horsley Hill and non-league Manchester Central (0-1) at Maine Road.

Our prize was a third round encounter with Second Division outfit West Bromwich Albion at the Racecourse. The away side had prepared for the encounter with a week in Rhyl, but after travelling to Wrexham by coach, they arrived to find the Racecourse covered with a thin layer of snow. Encouraged by the wintery conditions, the Town were also boosted by the recovery from injury of Alf Jones.

Leader journalist ‘XYZ‘, was glowing in his praise of the home team: “Wrexham’s victory was richly deserved. Albion forwards found the Wrexham halves formidable and the backs resourceful”. Apparently, “early Albion raiders were beaten off, and, at the end of half an hour, [Tommy] Bamford took advantage of a mistake by [Bob] Finch to race forward, and then to outwit his pursuer by passing back for [Billy] Mays to score the only goal of the match.”

In the second half, Albion made desperate attempts to get back into the game, but could not find a way past our stubborn defence, with their forward- thinking determination leaving them short at the back. Indeed, Wrexham had the opportunity to increase their lead on a number of occasions n the second period, before being handicapped by a series of unfortunate incidents. Jones picked up an injury and had to move to outside-right, while the attack-minded Longmuir spent a period as right full-back.

To make things worse, this was followed by an incident that left both Jimmy Cookson of the Baggies and Longmuir, having to leave the field. Cookson soon returned, but Longmuir had to be carried off with a torn muscle. This left Wrexham with only nine fit players on the pitch, but still the Albion forwards could not take advantage. We had won our last three games before this match, so confidence was high, and we were in determined mood. We managed to hang on for the win, and received a “large cheer” from the spectators present.

In the fourth round, the mighty Blues were drawn to play another Second Division side, Bradford City. After a goalless draw at the Cae Ras in front of 22,715 – the largest-ever crowd at the ground up to that point – they were knocked out of the Cup 2-1 at Valley Parade.

***

It was also an unsatisfactory season in the Welsh Cup. We beat Connah’s Quay (2-0) and New Brighton (4-0), before being knocked out at the semi-final stage by Cardiff City (0-2).

Memory Match – 28-10-00

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.

28-10-00

Luton Town v Wrexham

League Division Two

Kenilworth Road

Result: 3-4

Luton Town: Abbey, Boyce, Taylor, Breitenfelder, Watts, Johnson, McLaren (Fraser), Holmes, Stein, Fotaidis (Thompson), George

Goalscorers: Stein (39), Watts (44), George (55)

Wrexham: Dearden, McGregor, Roche, Barrett (Owen), Ridler (Mardon), Bouanane (Sam), Chalk, Faulconbridge, Edwards, Ferguson, Killen

Goalscorers: Faulconbridge (59), Killen (63), Chalk (83), Ferguson (87)

Attendance: 5,341

You would have been a fool to have regularly gambled on Wrexham matches during 2000/01, such was our unpredictability. We had just been held to a frustrating stalemate at home to Wycombe Wanderers – meaning that we had only managed to score on six occasions at the Racecourse during eight matches. Brian Flynn’s men had only won twice, drawn once and lost five times at home, including a 0-3 League Cup defeat by Mansfield Town of Division Three.

Our mid-table frustrations were actually viewed through envious eyes by crisis-club Luton Town – they were second bottom of the table after only two home wins.  They had drawn one and lost the other four League games.

Against all the odds, cue a seven-goal thriller…

After 55 minutes it looked as if the Red Army’s only hope of preserving some dignity would be to gallantly surrender. Liam George had fired home a third goal of the afternoon for the Hatters after Kevin Dearden failed to hold a Mark Stein drive. The home side had laid the foundations for a seemingly insurmountable lead in the first period with a Stein header on 39 minutes. Julian Watts doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time.

Believe it or not, the Robins did not deserve to be three goals down. They were actually much the better team for long periods and would have taken an early lead if not for some superb saves by Luton goalkeeper Nathan Abbey. Fortune had deserted us though, as defender Dave Ridler had to hobble off with a hamstring injury after only 39 minutes and was replaced by on-loan West Bromwich Albion defender Paul Mardon.

A lesser team would have given up the ghost, but instead we dug deep to discover determination and strength of character that helped us stage a glorious resurrection. Craig Faulconbridge began the Wrexham fightback with a 59th minute header from Carlos Edwards’ cross, before on-loan Manchester City striker Chris Killen grabbed his second in three games four minutes later.

Martyn Chalk levelled the game on 83 minutes and four minutes later Darren Ferguson fired in a winner after a fine solo run to move Wrexham up to 11th place in Division Two. It was certainly a thrilling finish and, on balance, the Robins deserved to win

Wrexham boss Brian Flynn was understandably full of praise for his battling heroes after their magnificent comeback. He said: “It was certainly an eventful game and I never doubted our ability to claw back a 2-0 half-time deficit.

“We said at half-time that if we score we would have a chance. Obviously, we weren’t expecting them to score a third, but our reaction to that was as good as you would ever see.”

Luton boss, Ricky Hill said: “Unfortunately, we never got to grips with the game in the second half. I just feel very disappointed that being three up with nearly 40 minutes to go, and at home, the players should have been very, very confident, but a couple of our lads let themselves down by trying to do things in the wrong areas.”

***

The Robins were certainly proving to be prolific goalscorers on the road at the beginning of 2000/01. Following the haul at Kenilworth Road, we had the best record in the League with 18, which included four goals in victories at Bury (1-4) and Oxford United (3-4). We didn’t draw a blank away from home until November 11 when we lost 1-0 against eventual champions Millwall at the New Den. Flynn’s men totalled 32 away goals in total as we ended the season in 10th position.

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.

Pledges for 2017

These are tough times in which we live and I see no sign that things are going to get any easier soon. This reminds me of a letter I received from Ossie Ardiles in 1992 after he was appointed as manager of West Bromwich Albion. He was responding to a letter I had written to congratulate him on his appointment – that’s the sort of wild and crazy teenager I was, and I wonder why I am still single.  Anyway, there’s a line in his response that I think is relevant to all of us that are struggling to cope in these repressive, right-wing times.

The wise Argentinean speaks of his new club’s misfortunes over the years and notes that there is a lot of hard work to be done but he concludes with the following words that can give us all hope and determination we need for future fights for justice:

…”from misfortune can come opportunity”

With this in mind, I am looking forward to the next 12 months with an array of opportunities waiting for me. I want to make sure that I keep up the momentum I have built as a creative force and to do this I think it would be a good idea to write down my aims for 2017 so that I can refer back to them throughout the year to check that I am still on track to achieve all that I want to.

 

Pledges for 2017:

To write a Tanka each day (this might be a bit ambitious but I want to write as many as possible to build a comprehensive picture of life with a disability in 21st century Britain).

Continue writing my Memory Match feature for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme.

Continue fighting for independent living for ALL disabled people

Submit art to Disability Arts Cymru exhibitions

Continue my work with Wrexham AFC DSA

Continue my work with Outside In at Glyndwr University

Continue my work with CSSIW

Continue supporting Change.org and 38 Degrees by signing their petitions, sharing on social media and writing to my MP.

Visit my Gran and Granddad’s grave once a month.

Look into the possibility of arranging my first holiday since 2000.

Random acts of kindness – to everyone bar Tory pigs.

I think this is enough for now, but if I think of more that I would like to achieve in 2017 I will add these aims above.  Part of me does not like fragmenting my life into 12 month periods and thereby subscribing to the Western capitalist calendar, but I have social workers to impress by proving that I am in need of a healthy care package to keep me active in the local community.

Happy New Year everyone.