Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Memories Expunged!

Well I feel I've enjoyed a bit of a catharsis! Dearden's Spurs went into their last game with Watford needing a draw to get into the final, led 3-0, but lost 4-3! Dearden should have been sent off at the end for coming out of the box to save, but I've had my bit of schadenfreude, so I'm happy! Karma has been restored after ten years of hurt!

Painful memories!

What a way to start the day! I switch on the TV and Sky are repeating last year's Masters tournaments. Okay, no problem; my lad and I enjoy watching the old codgers (some of whom are older than me! sweating it out.

But then Spurs come on and who's in goal for them? KEVIN DEARDEN!!


That guy scarred me! I was a dodgy, short fat keeper, and it was always a shock to watch him and see a professional goalie pull the sneaky, unnoticed tricks I'd pull to try and avoid having to come for crosses, deliberately getting myself into a poor position so I couldn't attack it.

He made Brian Carey look like he was finished, because he made mistakes defending balls that the keeper should have come for, and once Dearden left and we had a proper goalie in Andy Dibble Carey got a new lease of life!

He hasn't let one in yet, not that he's had much to do! But he's already done enough damage this morning!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Come On Forest, Help Us Out

As we ponder a Christmas period in which we've dropped four unnecessary points and Burton have won both games, I wonder if some outside help might allow Dean Saunders to keep in touch with his ambition of actually winning The Conference rather than aiming for the play-offs.

The Brewers look unstoppable at the top, but they might be about the suffer a huge shake-up at the top. Nigel Clough is one of the hot tips for the vacant Nottingham Forest job; indeed he seems to be second favourite after runaway top tip Billy Davies, although one website has reported that talks with the latter have hit an insurmountable obstacle.

Clough has publicly said he'd be very interested in the post, which is a major development. It had been felt he was a non-starter as he held a grudge against the club for the way it treated his father on his departure, but it turns out he has decided it's water under the bridge.

The departure of Clough could hit the club he has led for ten years hard. It appears he leads through force of personality, not unlike his father, and that sort of leader is less likely to have left a functioning framework beneath him to allow a seamless take-over for one of the coaching staff. he has honed a side which shrugged off the loss of a key defender to the Football League just before the Summer transfer window closed and built an impressive momentum. He also produced the most cynically effective, one might even say unpleasant, side to visit The Racecourse this season, and as good guys come last, I assume that means they'll thrive!

I hope his move happens, not because the football romantic in me wants to see a Clough in charge at the County Ground, but for more hard-nosed reasons. Every little bit helps!

Dean's Striker Dilemma

Dean Saunders could be forgiven for thinking this management lark's not as tough as people ,make it out to be, given the tremendous start he's enjoyed at the helm at Wrexham. However, he's now confronted with a nice little conundrum to get his teeth into. What do you do if you have a problem taking chances, yet your team's one of the top scorers in the division.

It's an odd situation isn't it? Our strike partnership have twenty-six goals between them, obviously a tremendous total for halfway through a season, and only league leaders Burton Albion have scored more in the Conference this season, yet we clearly have a problem converting superiority and chances into goals.

So what do you do? It's hard to conjure with the idea of a change up front as an option when your two strikers are doing so well; I certainly wouldn't advocate that solution. Having said that, if Saunders can attract a striker whom he thinks will tuck away a good proportion of the chances that fall his way, then it might be hard to resist him.

In fact, after hearing the way he spoke after the Woking game I suspect that's what he'll do. So what about the Louis-Williams combination? Saunders has used Williams in a more withdrawn role, putting his energy to good use in midfield, and I suspect that might be something which he will look to do again if he's able to attract a striker that fits his requirements.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Woking Podcast

The Supporters Association podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Dean Saunders, Andy Fleming and Woking boss Phil Gilchrist.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Enjoying the Last Laugh

I got uncharactaristically annoyed before the Eastbourne game by the most snotty behaviour I've encountered in a press box! It needled me, and oddly also made me realise just how much I believe in the currrent Wrexham side!

I've seen more aggressive behaviour from reporters; about ten years ago I recall an F.A. Cup tie at Rochdale where someone sat in a regular local reporter's seat and he was so angry it nearly came to blows! Saturday was weird and different.

I was talking to the guy next to me, who like all the Eastbourne contingent apart from the protagonist was a thoroughly nice bloke. He mentioned that we had a huge squad, and it was then that the subject of this tale chipped in, announcing we had no chance of going up.

Mistakenly taking this to be a general conversational comment, I began to discuss his idea, only to find this wasn't an opinion, it was a FACT! Indeed, everything he said about Wrexham-all critical-was not up for debate. He was above criticism, beyond disagreement, and desperate to attack anything I said.

I ought to point out here that he hadn't seen us play all season, it was just prejudice, backed up by a couple of generalisations: no team relying on loan signings can possibly go up (he obviously didn't see Hereford last season); and we're not much good because we haven't hammered anyone-all we do is scrape lucky wins.

I got gradually more annoyed, but bit my lip. It made me realise that I'm a real devotee of the Saunders cause because, on reflection, my robust defence of his achievements wasn't just me sticking up for my team, or arguing with an idiot for the sake of it; I believed it.

I wondered if it reflected an attitude in certain parts of the non-league media. The majority treat us totally fairly, but there are some who resent the so-called big teams that drop down from the Football League. I can understand that; there are plenty of sides that drop down and act like they're superior to the Conference, which is utter nonsense. I don't think we've been guilty of that though; two years of suffering I think ensured we were suitably humble.

And perhaps I was. As I said, I bit my lip and got out of the conversation. Not that I didn't want to resume it afterwards; particularly when the final whislte had gone and the side which scrapes through to lucky victories had stuck five past the opposition, and ought to have got a lot more. But funnily enough he'd cleared off by the time I finished commentating, and never showed his face in the press conference afterwards. They never do!

New Dragon Talk Podcast

There's a new Dragon Talk podcast up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Alan Alger, Blue Square's Conference expert, on our chances of promotion, and the latest news from Woking ahead of our game on Sunday.

Success is a Double-edged Sword

It was my Dad that started it. There I was, basking in the glory of Wrexham's wonderful renaissance under Dean Saunders on Sunday afternoon, when he sparked the paranoia which is threatening to spoil it all for me!

"Great hat trick by Williams wasn't it?" I suggest.

"Yeah. League clubs will be after him now," comes the reply.


He's got a point, of course. You can't wish success away, but I must admit it was a cold hard slap of reality for me. Here I am, eagerly anticipating what gems might be attracted during the transfer window by Saunders, who has shown an impressively shrewd eye for a move already. All of a sudden I was forced to confront the reality; the transfer market's a two-way thing, and we're pretty low down the foodchain. If one of our players excels, the carrot of playing in the Football League might well tempt them.

And it doesn't stop there! It was a daft internet rumour, but when I heard the suggestion that Saunders himself could be tempted by an offer from Leeds United I can't deny that my heart sunk. Saunders has been such a rejuvenating influence at the club that to lose him would be a disaster. I don't honestly think it's on the agenda, to be honest; Saunders has made it pretty plain that he sees his current job as a valuable apprenticeship, and his personal commitment to getting the Welsh contingent in the Football League back up to three is obvious.

Furthermore, although anyone scrutinising events at The Racecourse would see Saunders as one to watch, I suspect there aren't too many people keeping a close eye on what's going on with us. If there was, how would Martin Foyle get a job so quickly after being Brian Little's right hand man in the fiasco we went through at the start of the season?

However, there's always an offer that can turn your head. Despite Saunders' committment to the club, some jobs would be extremely hard to turn down, and with results continuing to impress, heads will be turned.

I'll try to have a peaceful Christmas!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Eastbourne Podcast

The Supporters Association's podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Dean Saunders, Marc Williams, Gavin Ward and Eastbourne manager Garry Wilson.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Tremarco in the Cold

Sam Williamson has confirmed what we were told from the start: he wants to stay permanently at The Racecourse. That's good news: he has grown from game to game since his arrival on loan from Manchester City and continues to add to the impression that Dean Saunders has an eye for a good player.

The fact that he brought him in at all interesting though, as we already seem to have the left back position well covered. We know Saunders rates Neil Taylor; he made him a teenage skipper for Heaven's sake! And we've got Carl Tremarco as well, a player who is England C's current first choice in that position.

So why bring Williamson in? Is it because Saunders just wants to bring in his own men, or is their a deeper reason? Clearly Taylor, being a young lad, might be seen as someone you can't use for the whole season, and Saunders has often put him in a wide midfield position anyway.

Tremarco's the one in an interesting position. Okay, he has had a knock lately, but plainly Williamson is first choice anyway; the question's has Saunders seen a flaw in Tremarco's play. His last game was at Kidderminster, when Saunders complained that we let too many crosses come in from Tremarco's flank in the first half. Although he said that was remedied in the second half, had Saunders also decided that he should seek a more lasting solution?

Eastbourne Preview

The Eastbourne press preview is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

New Dragon Talk Podcast

A Dragon Talk podcast has just gone up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Mickey Thomas reminiscing about the Wrexham-Arsenal game and Colin Hutchinson, who for 15 years was managing director of Chelsea and responsible for signing such stars as Zola, Gullitt, Vialli, De Matteo, but is now on the Football Committee at Eastbourne Borough.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Dull Trophy Draw

How frustrating that the F.A. Trophy draw, quite apart from the fact that it sends us south for another awkward tie against lower division opposition (Dean Saunders record against sides in a lower league: W0 D1 L2!) is that it didn't pair lots of Conference together.

If we get through to the last sixteen and there are no shocks there'll only be two non-Blue Square Premier sides left in it. Let's hope there's lots of surprises in the next round-apart from wherever we're going!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Mansfield Podcast

The Supporters Associaion podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Dean Saunders, Ashley Westwood and Mark Stallard.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Mansfield Preview

The official press preview for the Mansfield game is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk

Just Our Luck!

My Dad reckons there's a conspiracy in football-we seem to play teams who have just sacked their manager more often than anone else does!

I'm not sure the stats back him up, but I'm certainly very sorry to see Billy McEwan sacked before our game against Mansfield tomorrow. I've previously mentioned the impressive Mansfield podcast "Stags Talk" and they seemed convinced that McEwen had no interest in the F.A. Trophy and would pick a weak side at The Racecourse. Now he won't get a chance to and the caretaker managers will pick as strong a team as possible to try and kickstart their reign.

Great! It sounds like The Stags have been utterly dreadful in recent weeks, and just when they looked like they were going to wander along, bewildered and bedraggled, to take a walloping from us, they go and make a change. Of course the caretakers might not be able to energise the side like the permanent appointment will hope to, but what a pity that they get to have a go against us!

Maybe I shouldn't care. Maybe I should just concentrate on our team and our capabilities. And as I've said before, maybe I just shouldn't care about the F.A. Trophy anyway. But I can't hekp it; I'm a fan!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Saunders Hits The Big Time!

The Independent's interview with Dean Saunders doesn't necessarily come up with much that is new, although it's still a good read, but getting national coverage just makes you realise what an advantage it is being a Welsh club!

Being one of the big clubs in a country means we have a much higher profile than clubs like, say, Oldham, who are clearly superior to us but haven't got that unique selling point.

Why should we care? Well put it this way; the fourth highest international goalscorer in our country's history decided to come to us to start his managerial career. Do you think England's fourth top international scorer, Michael Owen, would take the Oxford job?

An excellent day at the office!

What a great day this was for us! We didn't play in the Conference, but no-one overtook us, while above us Cambridge and Torquay both lost and Histon dropped home points to York!

Oh, I believe a Setanta Shield game was played at The Racecourse too, but who cares?

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Friday, 5 December 2008

Kettering Preview

The official press preview for the Kettering game, distributed to the press before home games, is now up here.

Fab Fact of the Day!

If you thought our fixtures were coming out rather peculiarly, don't mention it to a Kettering fan tomorrow, because their recent pattern of games is ridiculous.

Dean Saunders has been manager for ten games before tomorrow's, and only three were at The Racecourse. However, tomorrow's game is Kettering's their 6th away game in a row, and before that run they played 6 consecutive games at home!

Heroes on the Road to Nowhere

Congratulations-and commiserations-to the heroic 12th Man lads, who made their scheduled walk to Northwich, only to find the game was called off! Their gallery of photos is here, and they deserve our continued support.

Sums up supporting Wrexham doesn't it? All about devotion and ultimately a fruitless journey-but they wouldn't have it any other way. The more people we can find who share their ultra attitude the better; more power to their elbow!

Where Will The Backlog End?

The backlog of fixtures could cost us dear. We don't even know whether it stops here-if there's a bad winter we might have a number of other games to slot into the midweeks this season, and then there are international call-ups to consider; if the postponement of the Histon game is anything to go by we'll get plenty of help from the Welsh F.A. to ensure we'll not have to go into a game without our manager, so we could lose two more Saturday games.

Of course, this will have a financial impact as well, as the Barrow postponement already has.

It makes you wonder whether having runs in the F.A. Trophy and Setanta Shield will be worthwhile, although you can't field a weakened team in the latter tournament, which has strict rules governing how many changes you can make (if I recall correctly eleven of your sixteen must have been in your team or on the bench for one of the last two games.)

I've got a horrible feeling we'll end up playing Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday in the final week of the season. Better make sure we're up before then, eh?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Player of the Season So Far!

Driving back from Stevenage my Dad and I began to muse over the odd nature of the last couple of years, and the consequences for this season. There have to be repercussions from the massive turnover we've experienced this time around, with the side currently undergoing its third major reshuffle in the course of a calendar year (hold tight for another in January!)

To illustrate how dramatic the changes have been, consider this question; who could you realistically put forward as the Player of the Season So Far? You might argue it's premature to put such a point, but when you consider the field, you'll see my point. Is there anyone beyond Mike Williams, Marc Williams and Jeff Louis who could seriously be considered? Hopefully more players will stake their claim-once they arrive!

For every game we chose a man of the match on the commentary, and the results of those deliberations tell a story too. No player has been chosen more than twice, which suggests that plenty have impressed but no-one has really had an opportunity to settle into a pattern (it might also be a reflection of the erratic nature of Louis, who is invaluable but can often be up and down in the course of ninety minutes.)

Perhaps te most telling point is this though; of the three players I short-listed as our best performers so far, two didn't get a start between them under Little was sacked. Says it all really, doesn't it?
The fact that

We Are Real Madrid!

I was listening to the excellent Mansfield Town podcast Stags Talk the other day and was enormously heartened! They were reflecting on the F.A. Trophy draw which paired them with us at The Racecourse on the weekend after next, and you've just got to hear it to believe it. They spoke of us with such respect-and posters on their message board did the same.

I've never heard us described in such terms before-you'd think they'd drawn Manchester United or Real Madrid! They felt the journey was a waste of time-one of the reporters said he wasn't going to bother to go-and felt a draw away to us was the worst they could imagine. Cool!

An interesting point which came from their discussion was that they felt they might field a very weak team as cup competitions were very low in their priorities. Of course, we might do the same, but with the size of our squad we'd still have an experienced side; Brian Little's side in fact!

In fact, as a bit of fun, here's an eleven made up of players who weren't in the starting eleven against Stevenage. It smacks of the start of the season, but it's probably be able to trouble Mansfield Reserves!

Anthony Williams
Christian Smith Steve Evans Shaun Pejic Carl Tremarco
Shaun Whalley Levi Mackin Tom Kearney Neil Taylor
Patrick Suffo Michael Proctor

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

What an Opportunity

An interesting article in the Non League Paper on Sunday illustrated the unsettled nature of the Conference this season. Eleven teams have been top of the table already this season-that's twice as many as the total for the last two seasons combined! Furthermore, Crawley are the only side to last more than two weeks in the top spot!

If ever there was a season where you could safely say that any team which strings a run together will win the league, this is it. Hope it's us!!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Foyled Again!!

Reading about Martin Foyle's first game in charge of York City sent a shiver down my spine; there was a sense of deja vu as I relived the bad days of not so long ago! On the surface a 1-1 draw at Salisbury looks to be a good opening result, although the home side are in such awful turmoil at the moment, having lost half their side in the week leading up to the game as a cost-cutting exercise, that it might with hindsight turn out to be two points dropped.
What concerned me more was what Foyle said straight after the game. He told the press that he liked that part of the country which made it harder for him to get there and get a result. What??? Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that the right hand man in Brian Little's wishy-washy regime should come out with a comment like that!
It was also eerily familiar to see Salisbury's goal, which is worth looking out for. Despite the fact that he could have picked the ball up, the York keeper thought it was a backpass and tried to kick it clear. Unfortunately he sliced it back towards his own goal where it could be tapped in, forcing even the placid Foyle to criticise his lack of knowledge of the laws of the game. And the name of the keeper? Michael Ingham.
There's nothing new or surprising in football!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Maths Doesn't Add Up!

Up to seventh with games in hand on just about everyone above us. Not bad considering the fact that, incredibly, we've played more away games AND fewer home games than anyone else in the league!!!

Stevenage Podcast

The Stevenage podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Dean Saunders, Angelis Tsiaklis and Nathan Fairhurst.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Brown's Leaving Town

I don't suppose I should feign surprise at Simon Brown being farmed out on loan to Rushden and Diamonds. He strikes me as the sort of player that managers and scouts fancy, often to the bemusement of the fans on the terrace.

He appears, on the surface, to have an awful lot of the attributes which would attract you to a player. He's quick and very neat; his first touch is good and immediately after we signed him I enjoyed watching his tidy recirculation of the ball. Here's a player who's sound in possession and technically solid, I thought, and I was also encouraged by my previous memory of him. He came on as a substitute against us for Mansfield a couple of years ago and completely changed the game, running through our defence, setting up a goal and winning a penalty as The Stags came from behind to claim a point
And that's the problem. Scouts and managers go to games, see good technical attributes and perhaps catch a player on a good day, and buy them based on that potential. Indeed, there is something there, but the fact is that potential is a capricious mistress. Just because a player might be capable of putting everything together and devastating opponents doesn't mean they actually will do it consistently.
Brown had the qualities required but a glance at his career record-just 28 goals in 162 matches, roughly one every six games-suggested he didn't use them often enough.
Saunders has had to be harsh with players that he might be tempted to accommodate, and he's making the right calls, it seems to me. If only Little, who jettisoned players who had been performing, had done the same.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Foyle Bounces Back!

According to today's Non League Paper Martin Foyle is about to be announced as manager of York City! My first reaction was "Didn't they see what happened here over the last twelve months?" but I suppose it raises a wider question. To what extent should Foyle be tarred by the same brush as Brian Little?
I suppose the honest answer is to say it's impossible to tell. York are excitedly putting out the fact that they've attracted a manager with League One experience; well we had the extravagant splendour of a management team consisting of three Football League managers, one of whom had extensive experience at the top level, and look where that left us.

Of course, sometimes assistant bosses have their own ideas but aren't able to express them until they take over. I can't help thinking this wasn't the case at The Racecourse though. While we'll never know just how much of the Little disaster was down to Foyle, to be a participant in such a carcrash can hardly be seen as a positive on your CV.

Of course, we didn't even get a clue of his approach when he was caretaker as he stook slavishly to Little's selection of the game, a fact which, allied to his profession of loyalty to his old boss after the game, suggested he heartily endorsed Little's approach. Lucky for him that The Minstermen didn't follow events in North Wales too closely then, although they surely ought to cast their mind back to their experiences in Dean Saunders' first home game as Dragons' boss to see the value of his fresh start.

Perhaps the oddest element of York's decision is the NLP claims that Denis Smith was also a contender, but they decided not to go for him as they didn't want someone with prior connections to City. While I appreciate that "never go back" is generally sound advice, given the choice between someone who played a part in the Little regime and Smith, whose dismissal caused all our problems in the first place, I certainly know who I'd go for!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Kidderminster Podcast

The Supporters Association podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Dean Saunders and Carl Tremarco, plus what the Kidderminster stewards think of their keeper!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Wilson's Move Evokes Fond Memories

Mark Wilson has moved back into the area and I must admit the news causes me to expereince a certain misty eyed nostalgia. During his loan spell at The Racecourse he exuded class. He was a quality player who looked a cut above the level he was playing at, and it should be remembered that we were a side pushing for promotion to The Championship at the time.

The tantalising thing about him was that he was nearly attainable. Perhaps we could have signed him permanantly; it was a long shot but if we'd gone up it just might have happened, or at least we would have been in a position to snatch him fairly soon afterwards, once his Manchester United career was over. As it was, we went our separate ways and, like Jim Harvey and Robbie Savage (the Liverpool loanee, not Bradley's finest), he goes down as one of those near misses we'll always wonder about.

Still, perhaps we should understand that the past is best left undisturbed. After all, Lee Roche was a player that had a superb loan spell with us and returned to us bringing with us great hopes that he would bring those qualities to us on a permanent basis. He ended up being released and going to Droylesden.

Temporary Relief

Five wins out of five is certainly one hell of a start by Dean Saunders, and although a couple of the recent performances ahve been scratchy, there's no question that the Gaffer has made a fantastic impact on an ailing squad.

Indeed, he's in with a shot of challenging the club record for most consecutive league wins in a row-three more wins would do it!

And frankly, if he made it I'd feel very confident that we'd be in a position to challenge for the title as we'd not only have terrific momentum but would have earned tremendous victories at promotion challengers Stevenage and Kidderminster in the process, illustrating our credentials perfectly.

What he does in January fascinates me though, because our revival is built on peculiar foundations. Saunders has wisely chosen to raise the quality of the squad by bringing in young talent from the Premiership and Championship, but with the youngsters clearly not likely to stay with us on a permanent basis, the question remains whether he can build a successful side of players who will actually stay with us the long term.

Not that using the loan market is a bad thing. The transfer window, which I feel is a farcical idea in so many ways, restricts managers like Saunders who come in part of the way through the season, and anyway, I've been feeling for a while that we don't exploit into the loan system like some other do; after all, Hereford United built their side around a core of on-loan players from a higher level last season and were promoted impressively.

Mind you, when you take a look at how they've fared this season now the loanees have returned offers evidence that temporary moves doesn't bring lasting success.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Poor Old Kempson!

Poor old Darran Kempson doesn't sound like he's having the happiest of times at Forest Green. They lost 3-1 at home to Altrincham on Saturday; he deflected in the first, was guilty of a howler to give away the second and was given a rating of four out of ten by the Non League Paper.


It must be something of a nightmare for him. He drops out of the Football League and must assume he's going to be a big name in the Conference, he's immediately picked for the first England C squad and has a strong start for us. Yet a couple of months later he's suffered a massive downturn in form, had fans on his back (although his reaction might not have been the wisest) and clearly surplus to requirements, farmed out to a side plummeting down the table towards the Conference South.

You'd have to be particularly hard-hearted not to feel sympathy for the guy, and once again you just have to look closely at Brian Little's decision-making. We had a huge hole in midfield in the Summer, having released Neil Roberts, Danny Williams and Mark Jones, then lost out on Paul Carden. However, Little decides to bring in a seventh centre back rather than plug that gap, saying when a player of Kempson's calibre becomes available you just have to have him. Little's impulse buying has done no favours to Wrexham or Kempson, and Little's comment has a particularly ironic feel right now.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Saunders Tinkers to Good Effect

I'm finding the Dean Saunders experiment fascinating. You can see exactly what he's doing-frankly this is the first time since Denis Smith was boss when I can sit and watch us and see what we're looking to do, which has surely got to be a good thing! The pieces aren't fitting together yet, which is totally understandable as Saunders has only just got his feet under the manager's desk and has had no chance to really sort out the squad and make it his own. Yet while he tinkers and looks to find the different parts of the puzzle, he's getting results, which can't be bad!

The clearest clue to how Saunders wants his team to play can be seen in the type of midfielders he has brought in. Joe Allen, Angelos Tsiaklis, Nathan Fairhurst and Nathan Woolfe could all have been turned out of the same mould; neat, tidy little midfield ball-players who like to be busy and work the ball to feet. There was one passage of play at Weymouth which, I'll bet, delighted Saunders. Fairhurst, Tsiaklis and Woolfe worked a lovely little one-touch triangle down the left and nearly carved the home defence apart, but Fairhurst's eventual through ball was overhit.

The flipside is that they're all a little lightweight. Interestingly, Saunders admitted after the game that he was worried about exactly that issue. Yet he still chose to bring the two new men in this week and play them rather than the more robust Levi Mackin. As I said, the pieces don't all fit together yet, but isn't it great that as Saunders experiments we keep winning?

Weymouth Podcast

The Weymouth podcast is now up at http://www.wrexhamfan.co.uk/ featuring Dean Saunders and Nathan Woolfe.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Cup of Woe

Steve's blog makes an excellent point about fixture congestion, and I fear our improved form could make it even worse. After the first round of the F.A. Trophy there are no weekends set aside should we make further progress. The designated weekends seem to constantly clash with when we go down to the South East, so we could get a backlog of awkward games in the Home Counties to make up in midweek just when we're trying to pick up some league momentum.

Having said that, there is a way to avoid the problem. Dean Saunders' cup tie record is in stark contrast to his league efforts: league matches won, 100%; cup ties we go through 0%. So maybe I shouldn't worry about the Trophy after all!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Is the Writing on the Wall?

With Dean Saunders looking to clear out his squad, it's perfectly understandable for our minds to wander to who's in favour and who isn't. Well there's one player who must be very concerned after the Altrincham game.
Will Sam Aiston already be mentally packing his bags?
Think about it. I suspect an awful lot of fans, if asked who they suspect Saunders will be looking to offload, would suggest Christian Smith. Yet with Wes Baynes suspended last Tuesday, Saunders played Smith out of position rather than select Aiston, a natural winger. Of course if it didn't work out he'd have Aiston on the bench wouldn't he? Well, no actually.
Aiston's an honest worker whose direct style can force sides back, buthis lack of end product might just count decisively against him in Saunders' mind.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

New Dragon Talk Podcast

There's a new Dragon Talk up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk, a special report on Rhyl with Neil Roberts talking about life under Brian Little, Josh Johnson on his call-up by Trinidad and Danny Williams on going part-time.

Johnson Gets a Call-up

And there's more! Josh Johnson has had his first call-up to the full Trinidad squad! Going to Rhyl looks to have really done something for him; wonder if he's one who we ought to have held onto? With Neil Roberts, Danny Williams and Jamie Reed at Belle Vue too, there might be a few on the coast who feel that way.
Mind you, if they win their games in hand they'll be top of the league, so maybe they're having a gratifying time anyway.
With Gareth Owen, James Kelly, George Horan and Jamie Digwood already there (and no doubt many more I've forgotten!) it's more familiar to Wrexham fans than the current set-up!

Maxwell making an impression

Young Chris Maxwell looks like he's causing a stir at Connah's Quay, becoming the first Nomads player to achieve an international call-up when he was picked for Wales' Under-19 squad for their European Championship qualifier against Turkey. It's good to see the youngster making an impression-he will hopefully be one of the loaned players we'll want to bring back!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Monday, 3 November 2008

An Historic Anniversary

Today's a big date in the club's history; on this day in 1883 we enjoyed the biggest win in the club's history, 12-0 at Corwen.

We should have challenged it last Saturday though!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Fixture Backlog Could Return To Haunt Us

It looks like we could lose another game on November 18th, as our home match with Forest Green Rovers coincides with the Welsh Semi-Professional side's game with Finland in Llanelli. Confirmation is expected this week, but with three of our players expected to be called up-and I believe Silvio might also be called up that week-we're looking at another postponement.

With the favoured, November date for a rearrangement of the Histon game already ruled out for that game, there's a real danger that we could be struggling come the business end of the season. maybe losing to Eastwood wasn't such a bad thing after all-now we need to throw the Setanta Shield and F.A. Trophy matches!

Saunders Makes At Least One Family Happy!

Fab fact of the day: of the ten goals we've scored so far under Dean Saunders, six have come from the Williams brothers!

Proof of his motivational abilities, as he inspires both of them to achieve the best scoring streaks of their careers?

Or something rather more basic? It's hard to score if you're not on the pitch, and neither Williams brother made a start under Little this season. Perhaps it's all down to common sense; if you put your best players on the pitch you've a better chance of winning games. Are you listening Mister Little?

A Strangely Empty Feeling

Am I spoilt already? Four league wins on the spin and I'm sated enough to feel a little disappointed by a comfortable home win!
Beating Lewes 2-0 was a bit like beating Kerry Catona in an elocution contest. It was no more than what was expected, and perhaps we should have done better. After all, we failed to score past them in open play, and I'll bet not many sides can say that so far this season!
Not that we didn't have the opportunities of course. Marc Williams was named sponsors' man of the match, and I could certainly see why; again he was tremendously enthusiastic and difficult to handle, and Dean Saunders rightly praised him afterwards. However, if his decision-making had been a bit better in the last twenty minutes, as ten-man Lewes folded, we might have got six!
Saunders' decision to throw three men up front when Lewes switched to three at the back should have been rewarded with at least a couple of extra goals, so forgive me for my mixed feelings. It wasn't the most fluent performance; if we'd played like we did against York we'd have got a cricket score. But we did create chances, and it was a win. Whether it represented a first faltering step forwards after the Eastwood fiascos or was merely an indication of how poor Lewes are we might discover on Tuesday.

Lewes Podcast

The Lewes podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Dean Saunders, Shaun Whalley and Dean Saunders.

Friday, 31 October 2008

New Dragon Talk Podcast

There's a new Dragon Talk podcast up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk in which legendary Seagulls fan and anti-establishment performance poet Attila The Stockbroker tells us how Robbie Savage's loan spell at Brighton went, spills the beans on Lewes and updates us on their protracted move to Falmer, and Altrincham manager Graham Heathcote tips us for the title!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

New Dragon Talk Podcast

A new Dragon Talk is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk, in which Racecourse hero Lee Jones talks about the injury which has ended his career plus everything you need to know about Eastwood.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Mike's Day to Remember!

It was difficult not to feel a bit sorry for Mike Williams last Saturday! Dean Saunders' great line about not having to pay the concussed defender his winnings after their side-bet on him scoring got the headlines, but it must be pretty frustrating to score the first goal of your career and not remember it afterwards. I'll have to find out if he remembers now.

Maybe he won't want to though, as I felt for him when it went in. He'd just scored his first ever goal, but everyone ran over to congratulate Wes Baynes on the quality of the corner he whipped onto his head!

He also had to share the glory with his brother, who got the winner!

There was one final peculiarity about the goal, albeit on a rather private level, which made me think his goal was cursed somehow. I was editing the commentary of the game when I inadvertantly deleted Williams' header! I must assure you it was a genuine slip, and not an attempt to cover the fact that I immediately credited the goal to Michael Proctor!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Spann the Fans' Favourite!

Wrexham's fans have come under a lot of scrutiny in recent weeks, particularly over their anger at Brian Little and his side in the latter days of his time in the Racecourse hot seat. So it was nice at Mansfield to see the magnificent part they played in another enjoyable day.
Obviously the sheer number of away fans we took was impressive-how many other sides will take five hundred to an away Conference game this season? But for me the most memorable aspect of their support was their treatment of Silvio Spann.
Spann has divided Wrexham's fans like few others before him, and has come in for a fair bit of stick in the past. His reintroduction into the side against York by Dean Saunders raised a few eyebrows, and mine were amongst them, but he delivered and perhaps that persuaded the Racecourse faithful to give him another shot.
That might have been scuppered at 3.28 yesterday though, when his horrendous error gifted Mansfield the lead. We've seen how Wrexham's fans have turned on players of late, and often with justification-anyone who was at Grays will know the level of vitriol that can accompany a substandard performance. So I braced myself for the reception Spann would get the next time he got the ball.
I needn't have bothered. Incredibly, fantastically, wonderfully, the fans behind Gavin Ward's goal responded by serenading him at every possible opportunity. It was terrifically uplifting. To be honest, Spann continued to have a poor time for the rest of the half, but the fans' support never wavered and he repaid their faith in the second half with a performance which showed what he can bring to the side. He even provided one of the highlights of the last couple of weeks-oh, what am I saying, the last couple of years!-when he took a long ball on his chest, balanced the dropping ball on his instep, then poked the ball down the line to Marc Williams when the left back closed in.
It was a delicious piece of show-boating and it summed up the new confidence we're enjoying under Saunders. That Silvio Spann delivered it, to the delight of his newfound fan club, was terrifically appropriate. It seemed to epitomise the fresh start we're all enjoying at the moment.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

New Dragon Talk Podcast

There's a new Dragon Talk up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Stuart Hammonds of the Non League Paper giving us the lowdown on all things Conference, and John Lomas of the Mansfield Chad talking about The Stags, Jeff Louis, Simon Brown and Michael Blackwood.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Allen Shines Again

Having seen his superb debut on Tuesday it was interesting to ahve a second look at Joe Allen in the Wales-England Under-21 game tonight.

Admittedly he came on with only about twenty minutes left, but again he showed enough spark, movement and intelligence to suggest he's much too good for the Conference. Let's hope we can keep him for a while longer; after all, the postponement of the Histon game robs us of his services for a match unless we can rearrange it while he's still with us (November 11th is the favoured date I've been told by a number of people at the club by the way!)

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

York Podcast

The Supporters Association podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Dean Saunders and Joe Allen.

Our Youngest Ever Skipper?

As bold statements of intent, naming a nineteen-year-old as captain is certainly up there! All new managers want to shake things up and organise things their way, but picking Neil Taylor to wear the armband is a bold stroke. I like it, but it begs certain questions.

Firstly the positives. Taylor's a great lad, a very articulate young man and a fine prospect. It has bee apparent for a while that he's has an old head on young shoulders and he certainly has the attributes you'd look for in a skipper. Furthermore, his energetic approach epitomises the sort of qualities Saunders is looking to bring to the side, and I applaud that. I said a couple of weeks ago that we needed a more high energy approach, and I'm hopeful that Saunders is looking to provide exactly that. If he wants a captain on the pitch who will inject energy and desire into our performances, Taylor clearly is it!

There are certain questions to raise though. Firstly, is this a permanent move, or is the armband to be a moveable feast, passed from player to player as it was in pre-season? If it is it hardly says much for Brian Little's recruitment policy-if we have to play pass the parcel with the captaincy then he hardly packed the squad with leaders did he?

If Taylor is now the permanent team captain, I hope the decision has been carefully explained to the incumbent for the last two games, Nat Brown. Tom Kearney, being out of the side, won't need to have the situation explained to him, of course, but Brown certainly will; it would only be human nature to have your nose put out of joint if you were demoted in favour of a teenager, after all. Mind you, if Brown was just told that as he had led the side out last time he'd be skipper for a game while Saunders got to know his squad, then fair enough.

Clearly it's a gamble to pick a young lad as captain, and there is a nagged doubt in the back of my mind about his propensity to pick up knocks. However, as a clean break from the Little era it's a pretty effective gesture as Taylor certainly hasn't been a first team regular this season. Maybe that's the main reason why my gut feeling is this is a good move.

Have We Turned a Corner?

Early indications are that Dean Saunders is able to inject some energy and enthusiasm into the side going forward, and after the rather aimless long stuff we've played of late it was good to hear him say that he wasn't about to criticise Levi Mackin and Andy Fleming for losing the ball in their own half as they tired as he he'd told them he wanted them to pass the ball about.

If you want to see how a long ball side should set itself up, have a look at Histon next Saturday. Any side whose assistant manager is John Beck is bound to play that way,although he has taken a step back from his landmark spell at Cambridge where he took direct football to its ultimate conclusion. Players were instructed to kick for touch when they had the ball, aiming for markers he'd put on the advertising hoardings, rather than pass to team mates on the basis that the more time the ball spends in the opposing half the better chance you have of scoring.

By contrast, if you want to see how a team shouldn't set themselves up for route one, look at what we were like against Grays Athletic. I'd already been concerned at the Ebbsfleet game, assuming that we were launching long balls at Shaun Whalley's head because of lack of passing ability in midfield only to discover Little had instructed the side to get it forward early irrespective of the quality of service. Grays was the apotheosis of this pointless approach. Tom Kearney, a player brought in to link things neatly in midfield, had clearly been ordered to lump the ball forwards early rather than move it around the pitch in one of the most obvious cases of a square peg in a round hole I've ever seen.Sadly we played the long ball game incredibly poorly.

We just didn't observe the basics of such an approach, with our midfielders launching long balls from deep in their own half so that even if Jeff Louis was able to bring the ball down, he was so isolated he had no chance of using it. Take a look at how the game at Salisbury turned around for an example of what route one teams need to succeed. For the first twenty minutes they murdered us; they owned midfield and therefore were able to put long balls into the box from high up the pitch, meaning there were plenty of players in the danger area looking to poick up the bits and pieces from the target man. However, we then got a grip on the middle of the pitch and the game changed dramatically. All of a sudden they were launching long balls from deep in their own half, an it was easy to pick their strikers off. Little did we know on that promising afternoon that a couple of weeks later we'd be doing exactly the same thing!

A look at the Forest Green game suggested Saunders might be able to bring the most important attribute required at the moment; organisation. The second goal was a wonderful example of how the long ball should be played. I've felt all season that players don't really make runs off Louis to benefit from his flick-ons, which is ludicrously wasteful as I'm really warming to the big man; he certainly wins his fair share in the air. When Nat Brown launched a long ball through the middle two runners sprinted into the channels either side of Louis, Whalley down the left and Marc Williams down the right. If Louis got the flick there was a good chance someone would be in on goal, and that was exactly what happened; it fell to Williams who prodded in his second. It was a treat to see Louis being used correctly. Not that it seems Saunders wants to go down that route, but it's good to be able to mix it up, especially at our level, and if you have a target man like Louis you'd be daft not to use him!Saunders still has plenty of work to do at the other end.

We've only kept two clean sheets all season, in our first two home games, against sides that played a good chunk of the game with ten men. Saturday was too early to judge Saunders' defensive impact, as he'd not had time to sort the back four out, and the wind hardly made it an easy game for defenders, but he must be aware of a continuation of recent unacceptable patterns which the first goal represented. It was the third time in our last four games that we've conceded a goal from a straight ball over the top of our defence. That's a basic situation, and we can't let it continue to happen. Furthermore, of the seventeen goals we've conceded this season, nine of them have come from set pieces. That is another sequence we can't allow to continue. Ludicrous as it might sound, if we were solid from set pieces we'd be very well placed in the table-after all, we're only four points off the play-offs. That's an indication of the fact that, with everyone beating everyone else, the Conference is wide open. We've been playing badly yet we're still in the mix, which suggests this division might not be quite as tough to get out of as people think.

Let's hope the new manager effect can kick in and kick-start us!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Saunders Finds His Man

Terry Darracott! Now there's a name to conjure with! As a child watching football for the first time, Darracott's arrival at The Racecourse was quite something to me. It was the second season that I'd been watching Wrexham, and he was the first player I'd actually heard to sign for us. My horizons were pretty limited so to see a player from the First Division, a player whose Panini sticker I'd collected the season before, was quite something!

My first sight of him didn't let me down either. This was one brawny guy! He was built like The Thing from the Fantastic Four (scouring Marvel Comics being another of my childhood pastimes) and tackled accordingly! I was immediately in awe of this guy, and his forthright style meant he made a much greater impression on me than someone who made just ??? appearances for the club ought to have done.

He was also an interesting indicator of the different technical requirements of the modern game. Quite apart from his robust tackling, the thing I remember about him is that he would pick the ball up in his own half and switch play by effortlessly pinging it across to the left back. These days it would seem a pretty routine manoeuvre; most defenders at Conference these days are capable of doing that. However, back in the crash, bang wallop seventies it was sophisticated enough to impress this Second Division fan enough to still be stuck in my head thirty years later!
The mythology of Darracott was not compromised by the manner of his retirement. A serious injury brought a premature end to his Racecourse career, indeed his entire career. And yet what stands out to me about that was a quote from a specialist, saying that most people would be banging their head against the wall in pain with such an injury, but Darracott calmly sat in the waiting room, unflappable.

As you might have gathered by now, I'm pleased with Darracott's arrival. He has been coaching at the top level since his playing days ended-for years he was a noticeable figure in the backroom staff at Everton, and an experienced, firm, fresh presence in the changing room will certainly offer valuable support to Dean Saunders. Indeed, he'll be in charge on his own a few times this season; this was an appointment we had to get right, and on paper we might well have done.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Do the Maths

I've seen the future and it's pure maths! There's a clear mathematical progression to Wrexham's managerial appointments, and following it allows us to work out just who will be appointed in the future!

Just take a look at our last five managers:

Brian Flynn
Denis Smith
Brian Carey
Brian Little
Dean Saunders

So it's Brian, DS, Brian, Brian, DS. Logically then, the pattern will continue like this:


So I can exclusively reveal that our next four bosses will be Brian Kidd, Brian Talbot, Brian Horton and Dave Sexton. We'll have to get through our next four quickly though, as Sexton's seventy-eight already!

Don't be Mean to Dean!

I felt a little guilty after writing today's Evening Leader column; I'd questioned the process which led to the appointment of Dean Saunders before he'd even taken charge of a game! I guess my attitude was part of the cynicism which has become inured in Wrexham fans over the last couple of years. We're used to failure, conditioned to expect new initiatives to crash and burn, so what can you expect from us except a disgruntled shrug of the shoulders when the next big change comes round?

I should even confess to feeling a twinge of sympathy for those who were excited by the news! "Poor lamds, they'll soon come crashing down to earth!"

Of course, such feelings are wrong and unfair. Any new manager should bring a wave of optimism and hope with him. The least you can do is give him a fair crack of the whip. And Wrexham will come again; of that I'm certain. We are a big club in Conference terms and eventually that will see us back into the Football League.

So one day the correct appointment will be made. Maybe it was made yesterday!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

We Might Go Up A Place!!

I know it's a touch desperate, but we might go up a place in the Conference without kicking a ball! The season starts here!

Alright, I'll drop the sarcasm, but there could be real upheaval in the table if Mansfield are docked points for fielding an ineligible player in Aaron O'Connor. They gained eight points in the games he played before the matter was addressed, so if the usual precedent is followed they'd lose them and the table would look like this.

However, an interesting article in Non League Today by John Moules, the ex-chief executive of the Conference, suggests that might not be the end of it. He feels the Carlos Tevez judgement sets a precedent for the damaged parties being compensated, and that the sides Mansfield took points off should be given them back, leaving the table looking like this:

And that's not factoring in the fact that Mansfield might be charged with fielding a second ineligible player! Or any ten point deduction for financially precarious Oxford! Or the mooted voluntary relegation of Lewes. Then it would really get complicated!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Who's Next?

So now we enter the strangely enjoyable process of reading rumours about our future.
Some names linked to the job are ridiculously over-ambitious, some are horrendous, some are nice ideas but never likely to happen. We're told that Geoff Moss' Liverpool connections will be used to the full, and rumours abound about John Aldridge, Jan Molby, Dean Saunders, Ian Rush and host of others. It's all pointless speculation though as people draw conclusions from all sort of false clues. Eddie May was seen in the directors box last Saturday, so the job's his. But no, Andy Legg's agent has been an audacious bid to put his name in the frame through some branches of the media, while there's strong rumours claiming Jim Harvey will be at the Forest Green game! And then what of reports that Robert Mugabe was spotted buying a signed photo of Levi Mackin in the club shop last Tuesday?

So let's be forensic about this and try to use reason to deduce who the next manager will be. You'd expect someone who's experienced, has good connections and is linked to Liverpool. Well, it's obvious really! Surprise, surprise, it's Cilla Black!

Actually, nothing would shock me at the moment.


I must register my surprise at what happened last Saturday. Not at the fact that Brian Little left the club; in fact the odd element of that was how the news seemed to shock people. I was under the impression that it was the worst kept secret in football; as I understand it he hadn't seen the players since that awful night against Rushden, and I've been led to believe that some of them drew the same conclusion as I did. Namely, he wasn't there because he was being eased out of the way.

No, what amazed me was the fact that the Torquay game wasn't used as a job application by Martin Foyle. How strange that the ghost of Brian Little still hung over the Racecourse, selecting the team even though he was gone. If you were Foyle and you were after the job, wouldn't you look at the situation and think that if you picked your own eleven and they improved on the last couple of games (not a tall order!) then you'd be in the box seat?

Perhaps I'm being naïve. Perhaps the team had been set up in training all week and it was too late to change it, but if that's the case it goes totally against a strong rumour in the Racecourse press box last Saturday that there was dissatisfaction when the team was announced. Anyway, even if the side had been set up all week in training, so what if we changed horses in mid-steam? After all, we were often told by Little that the entire week's training had been spent setting the side up in a particular manner, and all that intense preparation hardly led to success!

I don't know what Foyle's intentions are. It seems logical he'd throw his hat in the ring, and plenty of people have installed him as their favourite, but his press conference last Saturday gave me the impression that he was standing in as caretaker merely to ensure the club isn't left in the lurch. He certainly wouldn't be drawn on the question of whether he was interested in the job.

It might be logical to argue that a fresh start seems to be the obvious direction to take. After all, we were in a remarkable position of being led by three men who had all managed Football League sides, but having all that experience on tap didn't work out did it?

Martin Foyle after the Torquay game

Martin Foyle after the Torquay game
Video sent by WrexhamFCTV

Saturday, 27 September 2008

New Dragon Talk Podcast

A new Dragon Talk is now up at www,wrexhamfan.co.uk on the demise of Brian Little and Kyle Critchell's injury.

Wrexham Calendar