Sunday, 30 September 2007

Surprise Surprise!

There were many pleasures to be gained from the win over Lincoln, but one of the most pleasant surprises was the performance of Michael Carville. Not that I didn't know he was a good player; he showed promise last season and has played well on the wing already this season.

What surprised me was he could do so well as a wing back. To say I was shocked before the match when I saw he was fulfilling the role is an understatement. In fact, I tried to work out a different syste which we must be playing, as I couldn't believe he'd be used there (My theory as based on the unsuccessful use of Garrett as a right-sided midfielder last season, and an assumption he'd be used as a wing back, which was something of a disappointment!)

However, Carville made me take my reservations back. I was worried his small stature would be a problem, but it was never exploited-he battled for everything, made some aggressive tackles and was typically feisty, while going forward he kept offering us a pacy outlet on the break.

Whether he'd be equally successful against a better side we might discover on Tuesday; if that goes well we might see if we can get away with playing him there in an away game on Friday too!

Friday, 28 September 2007

Garrett's Back!

Brilliant news! Garrett is still inexperienced, but he's a battler and mobile, two qualities we need in the centre of the park. His arrival gives Spann more time to acclimatise and takes a bit of strain off Danny Williams too. The sooner we can return to the solidity of the end of last season the better, and if rebuilding that side's what it takes, fine-as long as Jeff Whitley doesn't come anywhere near us again! Just don't stick Garrett on the right again Brian!

Who's first on your teamsheet?

I heard a phone-in last Wednesday on Talksport asking fans who was the first name on the teamsheet for their side. We get the usual replies-Terry for Chelsea, Fabregas for Arsenal. So I asked myself, who'd be my first choice, and the answered worried me. I haven't got one!

To not have one indispensible player suggests we've got a problem. No-one to rely on when the going gets tough? No-one whose form is so sound you couldn't contemplate the team without him? Great.

Until lately I'd have gone for Danny Williams, and I'm still a fan of his, but his bad back has an effect on him, I think, and he hasn't been quite so influential lately. Likewise Mark Jones, if in form, and Juan Ugarte, if fit and at his peak, would be dead certs. But they're not and we don't have what the Americans call a go-to guy. I think at the moment it'd be a toss-up between Matty DOne and Michael Proctor, but I'm not firm on this.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Racecourse Anxiety Syndrome

I'm getting worried by the noises coming out of the changing room about playing at The Racecourse. Too many people are saying they're desperate for the fans to be behind them, and I don't think they mean that in a critical sense. The line coming from the players is that they feel the fans have every right to be disappointed with the performances on the pitch and are anxious to give them something to cheer about.

The key word is anxious. It seems there's a genuine fear of upsetting the crowd, and judging by how many times we've heard such sentiments, it appears to be an all-pervading idea amongst the squad. Well, anxiety never leads to good performance, so it's an idea that needs to be purged from the club.

When you're in trouble, home form can haul you out, and the fans are, to my ears, not too harsh on the players. We need to make the most of home advantage and get the players to embrace playing at The Racecourse, not fear it.

There has been a lot of mockery in the press lately over Sammy Lee's decision to employ a hypnotist to prepare his players for the mental demands of the Premiership. The reports have been typically stupid, full of cliched talk of dubious characters with twirly moustaches making players think they're chickens. Seems to me that a person capable of getting through to the players that playing for our fans is not something to fear would be a big bonus.

I don't believe in early season 6-pointers but....

Saturday's an enormous game-Lincoln are the only side around with form so bad it can rival ours! They've lost four in a row and reading their fan sites it sounds like they're not looking too clever. We've GOT to beat them before we start to get cut adrift at the bottom of the table!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Robbo's still a key player

Dropping the captain is always a bold move, and often an indication of crisis.
Neil Roberts has not been on top of his game so far this season, and as we are finding goals hard to come by and Michael Proctor has been looking sharp, you could see where something was going to give.

I've been surprised by the enthusiasm of so many fans for him to lose his place though. Roberts has been apportioned an unreasonable share of the blame for our miserable start to the season, and the clamour in some quarters for him to pay the price has been unfair.

Yes, Roberts has not been himself this season. He hasn't been looking threatening in the box, but perhaps more crucially he hasn't held the ball up as well as usual, and that's his strong suit. I would have made the same decision as Carey, but to make him shoulder the blame is ridiculous.

There are plenty of reasons why we're struggling. A team functions well when all its constituent parts are working, and that plainly hasn't been the case this season. It's like when a player comes back from a lay-off and immediately succumbs to another injury. Because one part of the body has been weak, tries to compensate and, in acting unnaturally, creates a weakness somewhere else.

Likewise, while the attack has been taking plenty of flak for failing to score, the problem is much more deep-rooted than that. Has the service been good enough to allow them to flourish? While Roberts has not held the ball up as well as usual, is he totally to blame? We've been launching long balls at his head all season, which hardly plays to his strengths. If we wanted to play like that we ought to have brought in a six foot three target man.

Roberts might have lost his place for now, but he remains key to Wrexham's hopes this season. He remains a model professional and a leader at the club. For a measure of the man, look at how he has responded to being dropped. Rather than sulk, he went out and played in his old manner for the reserves on Monday against a strong Preston side. That's how you want to see a player respond.

Roberts has Wrexham in his heart; don't forget that he stayed in a hotel the night before the Boston game to ensure he was rested rather than brave the lung capacity of his newborn baby! In a time when fans have an unprecedented interest in what players get up to off the pitch, such commitment should not be forgotten.

Furthermore, he was responsible for one of the most crucial moments of last season, even though other, more eye-catching events have distracted us. With four games left we took on already-doomed Torquay knowing only three points would be enough to keep us on track to avoid joining them, but the performance was rather limp as the pressure got to the side. On came Roberts after an hour, returning from a three-week absence through injury, and with ten minutes left and a stalemate looking inevitable, he scored the only goal of the match. It wasn't a pretty goal, it was a testimony to his overwhelming desire to get his club out of the hole, as he forced his way onto a near post cross and got enough on it to squeeze it home.

That's just the sort of indomitable spirit we need to haul us off the bottom of the table. Roberts might not be firing on all cylinders just yet, but don't write him off.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Keeping It Simple

Everyone's debateing what's gone wrong this season; well let's get to the point.

We haven't kept a clean sheet all season, and if we don't score at Stockport today we will equal the second longest run of games without a goal in our history.

Not scoring+letting goals in=bottom of the table.


Thursday, 20 September 2007


Here's a thought. Would we be more dangerous going forward if we'd kept McEvilly?

Comedy Ref's No Joke!

Criticising the referee after your team lose is the easy way out, but I was always one to take the path of least resistance, so here goes!

At the end of the commentary on Tuesday's match I described Darren Drysdale's performance as the worst I'd seen at The Racecourse in thirty years of supporting Wrexham. It was the sort of rash thing you say on the spur of the moment without thinking it through. However, having sat down in the cold light of day and weighed it all up, it turns out I was right!

Errors of judgement are natural, but when everybody groans at the identity of the referee before the match and he then goes and performs like that you really have to wonder!

Let me make one thing perfectly clear; I am not accusing Darren Drysdale of cheating, or even of a conscious bias against us. However, when he has constantly been given grief every time he takes one of our matches, he might well build up an unconscious aversion to us. The fact that our complaints against him have tended to be justified makes no difference.

Mister Drysdale has been in charge of our games twice before. In August 2005 he sent Simon Spender off as we lost 1-0 at home to Carlisle, and United scored the winner from the subsequent free kick, but that was nothing compared to his earlier masterpiece!

In March 2005 we led 2-1 at Swindon before Mister Drysdale took a hand, giving a daft free kick from which the home team equalised with less than fifteen minutes left, then awarding an equally laughable penalty to allow Sam Parkin to complete a hat trick and condemn us to a cruel defeat.

That's three of our games he has reffed. We've lost them all and in at least two of them his decisions have been the decisive factor! They do say that if you don't notice the ref he's had a good game; I wish someone would tell Drysdale!

In Italy clubs were able to refuse to have particular referees officiate their matches. This is obviously open to corruption as referees try to please the big clubs rather than be blackballed from their matches. However, I wish the Football League might consider keeping Drysdale away from us, for the good of all concerned.

Still look on the bright side. Tomorrow's referee is Colin Webster, and we've done rather better under him. We've won five of the nine games we've played under him, including the 5-3 win at Oldham in the LDV Vans Trophy Northern Final, on our way to winning the cup. He also took a 2-1 derby win at Tranmere in 2003 and away wins at Macclesfield and Hull on the way to promotion the previous season. Furthermore, he's never felt the urge to send one of our players off! Let's hope he keeps it up!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Trouble Up Front

It's probably a bit naïve to be yearning for a goal-sniffer up front; after all, just about every team wants one. However, I can't help thinking that with a little more predatory behaviour in the box we'd have got off to a flyer this season!

That's not meant as a criticism of the current front two. Neil Roberts always worls hard while Michael Proctor has already been hitting the net as well as showing the qualities which have already made him a cult hero at The Racecourse.

The thing is, I see both Proctor and Roberts as the sort of strikers a fox-in-the-box would love to feed off, but how do you accommodate these two and a goal poacher in the same side? I sound like I'm just calling for Brian Carey to pack his side with eleven strikers on the basis that we're then bound to score lots of goals, as a five-year-old or Kevin Keegan might reason. 4-3-3 could be the answer, although I have reservations about that system.

So do we have a goal sniffer? Eifion Williams could be the man; his strike rate suggests he's the most likely goalscorer Carey currently has available to him.

His next league goal will be his seventy-fifth, more than anyone else in Carey's squad by some distance and although he missed a great chance aganst Hereford, at least he got into the sort of position consistent goalscorers get into.

Of course, it wasn't by accident that I said Williams is the most likely goalscorer available to Carey currently. It's not really healthy to speculate on the effect Juan Ugarte could make on League Two defences. After all, we've been asking that question for over a year now, so it's best to give him every chance to get fit and sharp again. However, seeing the ball rolling time and time again across the face of goal this season I couldn't help yearning for the Basque to be lurking in the six-yard box. Roberts and Proctor are both good strikers, but they're not that type of striker.

There is another option, though. Jamie Reed is a player who has consistently scored goals at reserve level, and I wouldn't mind seeing him given a go at some point. Being on loan at Aberyswyth should help his confidence. Already he's scored a hat trick in a 5-1 win against T.N.S. and followed it up wit a brilliant goal on his home debut.

I never felt convinced by Andy Morrell when he first broke into the team; his endeavour and enthusiasm were undoubted, but he looked to lack a bit of class to me. However, he had scored consistently in the reserves and the Welsh Premier Cup, and eventually that innate ability to stick the ball in the net showed through in the Football League, with spectacular results. I reckon Reed could well be on the same sort of career path.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Give Bri a Break!

The Hereford match was depressing but still, I can't believe there are people calling for Brian Carey to pay the price!
I suppose it shows that in football you're only as good as your last game but still, sacking the boss after your first home defeat of the season is hardly a rational response. Sure, it was a poor performance, but if Eifion Williams had taken that great chance Michael Carvill created for him then we'd have been level and pushing for a winner with twenty minutes left against a side who only had two shots on goal in the entire game. Football turns on incidents like that, which is why a man who oversaw our greatest escape just four months ago shouldn't be judged in the short term.
Perhaps it would be appropriate to mention that at this point in our finest ever season we were worse off than we are now! In 1977 we also had a new young manager, fresh from sterling service for us on the pitch, but after four games had three points and were still looking for our first win!
However, the board resisted the temptation to sack Arfon Griffiths and the result was a Third Division championship, a Welsh Cup win and runs to the quarter finals of both the F.A. and League Cups.
Likewise, in 1992 we had just four points after four games and had lost our two away games 4-0 and 4-1, while by this point in 2002 we had already lost 5-2 at home to Rochdale! Both seasons ended in promotion; evidence that rushing to judgement at this early point in the season is a foolish act.
I haven't agreed with all Carey's decisions, but that's hardly unusual. Show me a fan who agrees with everything their manager does and I'll show you a mindless sycophant! Football is a game of opinions; if we weren't able to argue at the pub or in work over the ins and outs of the game then it wouldn't be worth watching!
The decision to rotate the squad for the Aston Villa game was a misjudgement in my eyes, and perhaps we paid the price last Saturday. I don't think there's anything wrong with the idea of prioritising the league, but resting the spine of the side meant the team crumbled after an excellent opening half hour and morale was damaged.
However, we must remember that managers have to make big decisions. No manager in the history of the game has ever got them all right, but by the same token, fans have to bite the bullet and admit that sometimes we disagree with the gaffer and are proven wrong! For example, I remember the stick Brian Flynn received for signing Gary Bennett, but no-one could argue that it was a mistake now!
Carey showed excellent judgement in giving Levi Mackin a run in the side this season, and proved a few of us wrong. I didn't notice anything but praise for his summer signings at the time either. So shall we give him a chance to get the season going properly before drawing hasty conclusions? Sack in haste, repent at leisure.

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