Wednesday, 30 January 2008
I also enjoyed the brawl in the Bradford game. Sorry for abandoning the principles of the beautiful game, but for too long we've looked a bit soft-to see all the outfield players go for Omar Daley after his shocking challenge on Phil Bolland was encouraging.
The only really frustrating aspect of the last couple of days was, after snatching a bonus point against Morecambe, we then find Dagenham and Mansfield had won and we were five points adrift of safety. Still, climbing off the bottom's a patient game. We have to focus on what we're doing; if we can keep grinding out results and accumulating points, even if a lot of them are through draws, we'll catch some of the teams just above us eventually. After all, they're down there for a reason; they're not much good!
If only Chester hadn't made such a good start to the season. The way they're in freefall now those early points in the bank are stopping them from joining us!
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Saturday, 26 January 2008
Friday, 25 January 2008
That's the first ever side Brian Little selected, just two months ago. Only four of them survived last Saturday, and they've got two more new players to contend with now!
Thursday, 24 January 2008
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Monday, 21 January 2008
On the other hand, we shouldn't be scared of any upcoming fixtures. We've just beaten the top team, and the second side can play like that, so we shouldn't be in awe of anything this division can throw at us.
Sunday, 20 January 2008
It carried on after the game, I can confirm courtesy of my co-commentator Rich. Firstly he overheard a comment from one of the their players as he trudged in from what looked from a distance like the most depressed, perfunctory warm-down I've ever seen. I've cleaned it up substantially, but it went along the lines of “We should lose to the bottom side in the country.”
Perhaps he was preparing himself for the salvo they were about to receive from their boss. Ince came stomping out to do the post-match interviews out on the pitch, brushing past a gang of us who were waiting in the tunnel on the way. He didn't take long to offer his words of wisdom as a couple of minutes later he came back in, and that's where it got really scary!
As he came back in he banged into Rich's back. Not a man likely to back down, Rich gave him a withering glare you might expect to see if Rafa Benitez opened his mail to find an invitation to a barbecue at Jurgen Klinsmann's place. Ince inevitably responded in kind and suddenly I felt like I was standing between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney. I'm not saying I'm a stranger to confrontation; I once had a row with ex-Manchester City striker Darren Beckford while on air which nearly turned very nasty. However, standing between one of the world's most renowned nineties' midfield hardmen and a bloke who's well over six foot and is likely to attack first and ask questions later isn't my idea of a stroll in the park. After what felt like an hour, but was probably just enough time for the director of a Spaghetti Western to cut across increasingly tightly to the two protagonists' narrowing eyes, Ince turned on his heel and made his way back to the changing room. Phew!
Wrexham fans will be keen to vouch that the game often defies any sense of justice too, considering the number of cruel blows we've suffered lately, but Saturday restored my faith in the order of things a little. To see Neil Roberts rewarded for a bravura performance with the sublime winner was almost spiritually appropriate. He has been fighting his heart out all season, and his totemic stature at the club and in the town has meant he has often been the brunt of the fans' frustration too. Hopefully Saturday reminded a few people that the fact that he cares so much makes him like us, so we should cherish, not target him.
Friday, 18 January 2008
All credit to Little for acting so swiftly. Common sense tells you that totally overhauling a team in a matter of days is a recipe for disaster, but in our circumstances all bets are off. If Little hadn't taken the cleaver to his team we would have sunk without trace. Maybe we still will, but at least there's an element of doubt now.
Of course, the team will take time to gel, but at least when Little promised to rearrange the squad he was true to his word. Usually when a player looks to change a squad around in a one month window he brings in three players or so. Little certainly can't be accused of not committing to his task.
Thursday, 17 January 2008
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Part of me says that taking him back would be the most noble act of forgiveness you could imagine. After failing to play in that huge showdown on the last day of last season you would think he was persona non grata. To welcome him back, to understand he was a troubled man and give him another chance, would be remarkable; it would be gesture which, in its humanity, would be incredibly out of place in the cut-throat world of football.
Or, if you want to look at it in a more hard-nosed way, if he shows on Colliers Park that he can be the player he was last season, he'll be able to make a difference to the side and we should bring him in for that reason alone. Adding Whitley, Danny Sonner and Sam Aiston to the midfield, not to mention Neil Roberts, would be a big stride forward from what we had available at the beginning of the season.
On the other hand, can we afford to take a chance with someone in recovery when we're in this situation? If we were mid-table we probably could, but we're not. We're in a position where we have very little margin for error, either on the pitch or in the market place. Can we afford to commit a chunk of our salary allocation on someone who might disappear if he has a relapse?
Please God that he doesn't, because we have a tendency as football fans to forget we're dealing with human beings, and I'd hate to see the anger Whitley would attract from people who put the team ahead of his tragedy. But it could happen, and that thought scares me on many levels.
All sorts of rumours fly around a football club and if you have any sense you soon learn to grade your sources in order of reliability. One guy I know constantly tells me the inside line from The Racecourse, and is always wrong. In fact, he's so reliably ill-informed that I've often taken solace when he has said a key player is leaving as I know he will be staying! However, when the most reliable person I know, the person who measures his words more carefully than anyone else I know, said in the Summer that Whitley should never show his face at The Racecourse again you know this is a gamble!
I guess on balance my hopes for this are predictably inane. I hope he can return, offering a glorious story of redemption which shows we can be big enough to shrug off petty issues and offer someone another chance. Then he plays a central role as we get out of trouble. But then I spent my childhood reading "Roy of the Rovers"! It was such romantic thinking which brought poor Juan Ugarte back despite his fitness problems, and sadly we all know how that has ended.
Whitley is an intelligent, articulate man who has been on a terrible journey and his ability to articulate it might be a big factor in his chances of recovery. I truly hope that this is the case and he can have a happy ending. If it turns out to be ours as well, so much the better!
The announcement by Juan Ugarte that he has to call time on his career is sadly predictable and embodies the frustration we have suffered over the last couple of years.
Ugarte's return was, with hindsight, a triumph of wishful thinking over common sense, and most fans have long felt it was a terrible mistake, but who wasn't excited when he returned by the prospect of him getting back to form and returning to his previous goalscoring form? I don't think you can blame Denis Smith for gambling on the return to fitness of the best goal poacher we've had since Andy Morrell, especially as he waited until he'd been given the go-ahead by the medics before offering a contract. However, the writing was on all the wall long before Ugarte's last appearance, when he came on at Stockport this season and looked horribly off the pace.
What a huge shame for Ugarte to have to give up such a promising career. His genuinely moving open letter on the club website shows the measure of the man and we can only hope that he finds satisfaction in whatever he does next, and never forgets that he will always be welcome in this corner of North Wales.
Sunday, 13 January 2008
Friday, 11 January 2008
Well, Brian Little's transfer policy is laid pretty bare now; bring in as much experience as possible to try to get us through. If there were any doubts as to whether that is what he intends, they're laid to rest today by the arrival of Danny Sonner and Paul Hall, two players who have a combined age of seventy-one, have represented a total of twenty-three clubs and have played in 1,111 club games and earned over fifty caps between them.
Factor in the purchase of Phil Bolland and Gavin Ward three days ago, plus the identity of his other signing, Sam Aiston, and Little has brought in half a side of thirtysomethings in an effort to stabilise the side. There's certainly logic to it: the squad's confidence has collapsed so having a core of new players who have seen it all before to steady the ship seems wise. No-one will argue against the hasty nature of this rebuilding either; even the most cautious Wrexham fan will have wanted to see root and branch revision of the team.
Of course, the question is whether the new men still have the legs to deliver the goods. Of particular interest is Hall, whose main attribute as I recall when he caused us numerous problems for Rushden and Diamonds was his pace. The problem is that was at the start of the decade, and he was the wrong age of thirty then. Assuming Father Time has cut down on his speed, how he has compensated for that, and how his compatriots have aged, may decide our Football League future.