Sunday, 28 October 2007

Racecourse Anxiety Syndrome

There's a big obstacle which Wrexham must overcome before they can stage a recovery this season: home advantage.

I don't care what anyone tries to tell you; I'm convinced that playing at home has become an issue to the players, and until it gets sorted we'll be struggling.

You can tell by what is said after matches. Naturally, players' post-match comments often reflect what has been discussed in the changing room after the game, and an edginess about playing in front of the Racecourse crowd has been a recurring theme. Even more so, Brian Carey has often made reference to the importance of pleasing the home fans, and although he has gone out of his way to argue that it isn't a problem within the squad, I suspect he may protest too much.

The ironic thing is that, considering how poor our home form has been this season, I feel the Racecourse faithful have been pretty easy-going about it all. I accept this is not an opinion shared by all, and you get different impressions of the crowd depending on where you are in the ground, but I'd have thought that generally speaking a side which has been on a losing streak at home like ours would get a rougher ride.

I think the three reasons why the fans have been fairly easy-going are simple. Firstly, they appreciate the effort the side put in to surviving last season, and can see that any failings this season are not down to a lack of commitment. Secondly, Brian Carey has, through his years of honest service to the club, earned the fans' respect. No true Wrexham fan would boo his side lightly, which leads us to the final reason why there has been no real rough ride for the players; we're down to the hard core of our support.

Of course there have been cases of abuse towards the players, and that's never a nice thing to deal with, but by the same token it's also inevitable that when a few thousand people get together in the safety of a crowd, some will act unreasonably. It hasn't mushroomed into anything more widespread though. That's epitomised by the fact that a brief spate of booing as the farcical second Barnet goal went in had abated by the final whistle into a low level disgruntled mumbling.

Furthermore, the attendance's have sustained a surprisingly healthy level despite our troubles. When I think back to the mid-eighties, when a mid-table Fourth Division side scraped league crowds around the one and a half thousand mark, the turn-outs have been pretty robust.

I understand the players' nervousness that the crowd could turn; of course they could. Yet the problem is that this nervousness seems to be transmitting itself into their game, which can only perpetuate the problem. Look at how we had to cling on at the end against a clearly inferior ten man Lincoln as we froze in sight of a precious three points. There's a fear of failure which leads to players not taking chances, and when a player consciously plays within himself he starts making bad decisions.

So what's the solution? Well, the wonderful thing about football is that happiness is always just a good ninety minutes away. A lucky early break, or a day when a few players click or the opposition press the self-destruct button is all that is needed to make our travails at The Racecourse fade magically away.

However, hoping for something to turn up is nowhere near as satisfactory an approach as doing something about a problem, so here's a concrete suggestion. Let's try to forget what's happened in the past and make a double effort to get behind the side. If they come out to a terrific racket which sustains itself throughout the game next weekend then the players might just get the lift they need.

No comments:

Wrexham Calendar