Wrexham AFC

The 20 Tour: Signed Stoke City shirt

I was delighted to receive a signed Stoke City shirt in the post this morning. This is my first piece of memorabilia that I have collected for my tour of Premier League football grounds in support of Level Playing Field.

The shirt was kindly donated by former Wrexham AFC goalkeeper and current Stoke City coach Eddie Niedzwiecki. I really appreciate his support and I am looking forward to collecting more such items from the country’s biggest clubs to auction when my journey around England and Wales (providing Swansea City survive) comes to an end.

I am currently working on a JustGiving page, but I am not sure when to launch it. The sooner the better I suppose…

 

Memory Match – 08-12-2007

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I contributed to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I  penned a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I shared in this blog. We have now reached the end of the season and my final look back is to a game in 2007 against Dagenham & Redbridge.

I have now written this column for the past two seasons and hope to continue with the feature next season. 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.

08-12-2007

Dagenham & Redbridge v Wrexham

Football League 2

Victoria Road

Result: 3-0

Dagenham & Redbridge: Roberts, Uddin, Patterson, Huke, Okuonghae, Boardman, Green (Strevens), Southam, Benson, Nurse (Taylor), Sloma

Goalscorers: Evans (24 og), Strevens (86), Taylor (90)

Wrexham: Williams, Pejic, Baynes (Aiston), Garrett, Evans, Hope, Llewellyn, Williams (Johnson), Roberts (Done), Proctor, Valentine

Attendance: 1,520

Our first-ever League meeting with Dagenham and Redbridge came during our last campaign in the Football League. The Daggers were trying to adapt to life as newcomers to this stage, but Wrexham were also struggling to keep their heads above water and had recently parted company with manager Brian Carey following six games without a win.

Enter Brian Little. He was appointed to kick start a revival that would lead us to safety using his wealth of experience. What could go wrong?

Three games into his reign and the signs were encouraging. Draws against Chester City and Rochdale, plus a 0-1 win at Bury meant that we arrived at Victoria Road in 20th position. Meanwhile the home side were on a dismal run of nine league games without a win that had left them in 23rd spot.

Little was forced to make one change to the side that had won at Gigg Lane as Eifion Williams was injured whilst scoring what turned out to be the winning goal. Marc Williams replaced him.

Dagenham adapted to the wet conditions better, caused problems with their breaks and dominated the first half. Goalkeeper Anthony Williams was on-call to deal with efforts from Dominic Green and Jon Nurse, but the boggy pitch was causing problems for Wrexham at the other end as Chris Llewellyn and Michael Proctor failed to make the most of potential openings.

After 24 minutes the Red Dragons were made to pay. The ball reached Nurse on the right wing and his teasing cross was turned in to his own net by Steve Evans from close range.

Dagenham were not content to sit back on their slender advantage as they continued to create chances before the break. Green made an audacious chip that just cleared the bar, Glen Southam cracked a powerful drive that was turned behind for a corner by Williams and Green got around the back of the Wrexham defence to cross from the by-line, but Southam failed to connect.

We were lucky to only be one goal in arrears at half-time after a lacklustre opening period in which we did not manage a single shot at goal. Little decided to replace Wes Baynes with Sam Aiston as Wrexham switched to a 4-4-2 formation for the second half. The rain was hammering down when Ryan Valentine saw his 67th minute drive deflected wide for a corner. Evans connected with the resulting corner and Neil Roberts tried to convert from close range but his effort was bravely saved on the goal-line by Tony Roberts.

Evans was called upon to make some crucial interceptions at the other end, but Proctor should have done better in the 74th minute when his weak shot was saved by Roberts. Robbie Garrett was wide of the mark with a drive from yet another Wrexham corner, but four minutes from time Dagenham doubled their lead.

Substitute Ben Strevens was allowed to run at goal unchallenged and let lose a ferocious drive from 25 yards that flew past Williams. There was no way back from this, but to rub salt in the wounds Jamie Taylor fired past Williams from a narrow angle in the second minute of injury time.

***

By the time the teams met for the return fixture at the Racecourse, Wrexham were in dire straits at the foot of the table and Dagenham were scrapping for points just four places above. Consequently, it was not a classic encounter as toothless Wrexham missed a succession of chances and were held to a 0-0 draw. Another golden opportunity had been wasted in the battle to avoid relegation and with only nine games left we were now seven points from safety…

 

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.

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.

Stars in my Eyes

It’s just another typical weekend where I enjoy spending my time wallowing in self-pity and bemoaning the structure of our couple-centric society.  My loneliness helps create a vile bitterness that I try to harness and turn into a positive creativity, whether this works or not is for readers of my book and this blog to decide.

I definitely have a “glass half empty” outlook, but deep down – below the negative surface – I know how lucky I am compared to many other people.  Once in a while, I am reminded of this in no uncertain terms and I find it to be quite humbling.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a birthday card and signed photograph from Jeremy Corbyn.  The card was a little late in arriving, but I didn’t mind because someone I admire greatly had taken the time to send me his best wishes. I think this is a measure of the man as even though he must have a hectic schedule in trying to fight the Tories, he still found a minute to congratulate me on my 40th birthday.

***

Cerys Matthews has been a very important figure in my life.

In 1999, I had a car crash in Huddersfield while listening to Road Rage by Cerys’ band Catatonia.   To read the full story of my accident in West Yorkshire, simply click here.  Then in 2008, I went to watch Cerys, who was now a solo artist, perform a concert in Llangollen while my wife at the time went to Birmingham to meet an old friend.

It was a great concert and Cerys was absolutely sensational.  I still have fond memories of that evening even though my ex-wife later admitted that she had been snogging the face off her old friend.  It’s a pity she couldn’t see what me and Cerys had got up to in my dreams.

In 2010, I went to see Cerys perform again in Glyndwr University and was annoyed to find out that my sister had stayed behind and met Cerys while I rushed home to placate my newly employed Personal Assistant.  I hope I will get the chance to meet her again soon.

Therefore, imagine my surprise and delight when I received a parcel from none other than Cerys Matthews that included two signed albums and a note apologising for the late arrival.  I was overjoyed to receive this and I will treasure these gifts, from such a talented beauty, always.

However, the real star of the show is none other than my good friend Valerie Leney who organised my celebrity surprises.  I am also going to watch Stoke City against Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium on April 8 thanks to Valerie contacting Eddie Niedzwiecki – former Wrexham goalkeeper and Stoke City coach – and encouraging him to mark my birthday with an unforgettable surprise.

I am lucky to have a friend like this.  Valerie is such a special person that I am fortunate enough to have in my life.  Indeed, the biggest achievement of my time at the University of Nottingham was not achieving a 2:1 in American Studies or spending a semester in the University of Illinois, but making such a close circle of friends that I am still in touch with.  These people helped me to enjoy my 40th birthday celebrations and reunited especially for the occasion.  This will no doubt serve as a constant reminder that when the chips are down, I can always rely on the bonds I created over 20 years ago…