Sunday, 24 February 2008

Broughton To Stay?

Always be wary of internet rumours, but I've heard a strong hint from MK Dons that Drewe Broughton will be signing until the end of the season with the intention to stay longer-I would assume depending on the outcome of the relegation struggle!

I hope that's true as losing him would be a huge blow. At last we have someone with the ability to make the ball stick up the right end of the pitch. We can't afford to lose him.

Oh great!

There was a post on Red Passion after we played at Peterborough earlier this month which made a very good point. As Darren Ferguson made his rather pathetic attack on us, there was a danger that some of the mud would stick. We weren't a voilent bunch of thugs, Steve Evans certainly didn't taking a running jump and butt their goalkeeper, who of course was able to play just three days later despite the suggestion that he was fatally wounded after the game, and we played much more good football than Peterborough did.

However, the poster suggested that if referees see Ferguson's comments then our card might be marked.

Bearing this in mind you can see why my heart sunk when I saw who our referee is for the rematch on Tuesday.

Mick Thorpe has reffed us four times, and each one was traumatic in one way or other. To be fair, generally the events which hurt us were nothing to do with Thorpe, to be fair, but

The first game he took charge of was at Scunthorpe on the first day of the 2002-3 season; in fact it was his first game as a Football League ref. It was the game which was marred, like the Birmingham-Arsenal match yesterday, by a terrible injury, as Waynne Phillips' career was ended. It wasn't a foul, just an unfortunate accidnet, and Thorpe could do nothing to prevent it, but bad luck seems to have followed him around ever since as far as we're concerned.

When we kicked off against Grimsby we were unbeaten for forty-one days, the longest length of time we'd been without tasting defeat, discounting Summer breaks, since November 2004 when Thorpe took charge of the spectacular collapse of an in-form team as we lost 5-1 at Luton.

Again, I don't recall anything Thorpe did to upset us in that game; our hammering had more to do with Simon Spender being used as a makeshift centre-back in a back three and being exposed in the air by Howard. However, Thorpe played his part in our next encounter, at Notts County in August 2005. In injury time Dennis Lawrence was fouled, but Thorpe didn't give it, didn't stop the game to allow the centre back treatment, and as Wrexham protested County scored the winning goal. Thorpe must have felt some guilt as immediately after the restart Dave Bayliss, giving us a first glimpse of his unreliable temperament, launched into an idiotic assault on a County player which Thorpe failed to punish with a red card despite the victim having stud prints on his kidney!

One more game to throw into the pot, and this one amazes me. Thorpe was ref for our spectacular meltdown at Peterborough in the F.A. Cup last November. Why has he been chosen to officiate the same fixture again so soon? It seems odd, as does a certain geographical matter. Thorpe is from Suffolk; let's hope by the end of the game we don't suspect that he cadged a lift to The Racecourse from his Peterborough neighbours!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Glorious Mud!

A Midfield Scene From Wrexham v MK Dons

I miss the mud that helped us beat MK Dons and Darlington, and I want it back!

When it was sopping wet and cutting up against MK Dons and Darlington we seemed to thrive on it. Dry, rutted and smothered in sand today it just wouldn't let us play football and we struggled to piece our game together. If it doesn't improve soon we could find it a real handicap as we try to haul ourselves to safety.

Unable to pass as we would have wished, with touch players like Jeff Whitley and Danny Sonner struggling to come to terms with the surface, it was all a bit ugly and we were forced to launch more and more long stuff at Drewe Broughton.

That's not necessarily a bad idea as Broughton is a monster of a target man and will always create crumbs for players near him to feed off. However, it didn't click properly today in that respect either. I think a big part of the reason for this was the absence of Neil Roberts. We missed his whole-hearted commitment in midfield, as a few rousing lunges from him got the crowd going against Darlington and MK Dons, setting the tone early on. Not only was his tigerish effort missed though, but he is able to get up and support Broughton, trying to latch onto the loose balls he creates. Sonner and Whitley are very good footballers, but they are not box-to-box midfielders, and quite apart from their natures as footballers, you can't ask either of them to try to get beyond Broughton due to age on Sonner's part and lack of match fitness in Whitley's.

So it just wouldn't all hang together today. Still, don't worry too much about it. It wasn't a performance, but it was a point, and every one we win might be crucial by the end of the season. Wouldn't the table look a lot better if we had scraped three extra draws from that awful succession of early season defeats we suffered earlier in the season?

Our games against Hereford, Rotherham, Barnet, Stockport and Shrewsbury all followed similar paths: we were drawing 0-0 at half time, and at the very least were the equal of our opponents. However, in the second half we conceded and, despite the fact that the other side didn't really show a great deal out of the ordinary, we were unable to respond and were beaten. Imagine if we'd drawn half of them; we'd be well and truly in the mix. So don't worry about dropping two points today; they're all small steps in the right direction.

Brian Little after the Grimsby game

Wrexham 0 Grimsby Town 0

The Grimsby podcast is now up at featuring Brian Little, Steve Evans and Rob Duffy.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Small Crumbs of Comfort

At least all the other games were called off tonight, so we didn't drop any further behind!

Interesting Timing

I can't help noticing that Hereford called tonight's match off at roughly the same time as MK Dons called off our afternoon kick-off last Saturday. Nice to see a club that treats us with a bit of respect.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Saturday, 16 February 2008

A Wasted Day

There#s something no Wrexham fan got to see today-the inside of stadiummk. The question is why not?

When Wrexham arrived at the ground at 1.20-about five minutes after me-they thought they were going to be playing a game. Can you believe this? When Borras Park Under 10s have their game called off I get a call in advance so I don't have to take my lad to the park. Are we really to believe that MK Dons are less capable of organising themselves? Apparently half the pitch was frozen solid at 1.30 so why wasn't there an early inspection? Surely that's just basic common sense. Are MK Dons so new at running a football team that they don't know what to do if the pitch doesn't look good? Apart from the fact that a local ref could have gone and had a look in the morning, the match referee was only from London-why wasn't he contacted?

I'd hate to think, after the sour grapes when we beat them last month, that this was more than just incompetence.

So, a pointless round trip of just over three hundred miles, and I get back to find that another run of bizarre results by the sides at the bottom of the table-ten goals in five days for Dagenham, Mansfield winning at Darlington-leave us seven points short of safety. What a great day!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Happy Days?

Click here to see Thursday's Papers

The media's packed full of positive news today! Hope it isn't a false dawn. It's an odd feeling isn't it? I can't help feeling positive, after all, our performances have picked up enormously, yet a glance at the table tells a totally different story. I don't mean our position; that's the residue of the first half of the season, when we were literally a different team. It's the gap between us and safety that scares me. We seem to be the most consistent side at the bottom of the table, but with all the others pulling results out from somewhere, they all have to be respected.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

...and furthermore

Following on from that last post, maybe we should take a leaf from Hillary Clinton's book!

She's the solid campaign warhorse in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination against her polar opposite, an inspiratinal force of nature in Barack Obama. Obama is capable of flashes of rhetorical brilliance which lift his supporters, something Clinton is not really equipped to do. What she has is a capacity to shrug off set-backs and keep fighting on.

That's what Wrexham can learn when teams above us pick up points. Clinton said the Civil Rights movement and the campaign for women's votes triumphed because people "just kept going", and that's what we need to do. We hopefully have the type of experienced squad that can ignore what others do and "just keep going". We've just got to keep our minds focussed on ourselves; to fail to do that tempts disaster.

It's still in our own hands!

I said a while ago that you have to be patient when climbing from the bottom of the table, but sometimes I have to remind myself of that fact so I don't lose faith. Last night's result sees us four points shy of safety with two very tough away games to go, but we just mustn't panic.

I must admit that if you'd told me five games ago that we'd still be unbeaten now I'd have thought we'd have climbed off the bottom at least; some of these sides are getting results are getting ridiculous results. I mean, Dagenham 6 Chester 2! We're playing more consistently tan any of them though; we've just got to stay calm.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

It's Duffy Time!

With Drewe Broughton ineligible to play against his parent club on Saturday, is it time for Rob Duffy to show us what he can do?

Michael Proctor might disagree, as he has found some form from the bench, looks to be ahead of Duffy in the pecking order, and having drawn compliments from Little about the way he has knuckled down and impressed the boss, might feel that it's only right that he should get the nod.

However, if Little makes the decision based on the balance of the team rather than whose turn it should be next, then surely Duffy gets the nod. Having Broughton up front has made a big difference; he's big and awkward and makes the ball stick up front, allowing our creative players to get around him and hurt the opposition. Furthermore, even if he can't win the ball, he makes it difficult for the opposing defenders to get it away.

Duffy looks to be cut from a similar cloth. He doesn't have the physical presence of Broughton, but he does have strength and also brings and ability to take free kicks and penalties to the party. He has also scored twice in each of his reserve games since arriving from Oxford, and there must surely be a curiosity on Little's part to see how he shapes up in the Football League.

It's harsh on Proctor, but surely this is Duffy's moment.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Evo is Innocent!!!

Glad to hear Joe Lewis is fine after his collision with Steve Evans, but the fact that he's looking to be available for Peterborough's game on Wednesday puts things into context somewhat.

Never mind Ferguson's rather vague post-match comments on how he "thinks he might" have concussion(!!) Sounds like-heaven forbid!-he was making a mountain out of a molehill.

Anyway, did anyone really think that Steve Evans would launch himself in the air from a long run-up and headbutt the guy? I know he's a tough guy, but even Evans would surely draw the line at doing something which would probably fracture his own skull!

Giggs' International Commitment

Watching Ryan Giggs play in the Manchester derby reminded me of why I don't miss him in a Wales shirt.

Perhaps it's a fit of unreasonable optimism, fuelled by an impressive performance by Toshack's youngsters last week, but when I saw that Giggs was in the crowd at The Racecourse I couldn't help seeing the irony. He chose not to represent his country any more, and was hardly a reliable attender when he was available. At least he turns up now he's not needed!

The thing about Giggs against Man City was that he was his usual Man United self. Any decision that goes against him is followed by a stunned expression and a volley of dissent, no matter how clearly correct it was; every decision against a team mate when Giggs is in range is followed by the winger chasing an haranguing the ref.

I'm not saying he's the worst offender in football in this regard by any means, although his wounded expression does get under my skin a bit! What gets my goat is that he never seemed to do that when he was in a Wales shirt! I can't help feeling that his behaviour suggests he cared more about his club than his country; even if that's not fair, noticing his less committed demeanour in internationals made me wonder whether it was linked to his subdued performance for Wales compared to what he did for United.

Add in how rarely he turned up for friendlies in the past and the case builds furter momentum. How can he justify retiring from international football early to avoid burn-out? He saved himself countless hours on the pitch as a young man by not attending internationals-he should be fresh as a daisy!

It all made his stage-managed departure from his final international stick in my throat. He was given the privilege of an early substitution so he could enjoy a standing ovation, which shocked me. Quite apart from what I have just said, this was a competitive game. We were drawing at the time, there was still enough time to get a winner and at the time we still had a faint hope of qualifying for Euro 08 (Oh yes, did I neglect to mention he deserted his country aklf way through a qualifying campaign?) Even if our chances were slim, yoru final position in the group determines how tough your group for the next tournament will be, so there was plenty to play for. Maybe we shouldn't have turned what was a mediocre game into a sideshow for saying farewell to a mediocre international career.

To be fair to Giggs he didn't dump on the nation like the shameful Mark Hughes apparatchiks who deserted the scene when John Toshack, a gesture I genuinely admire him for. It's just that every time I see him snarl at a Premiership referee I feel a lot more proud to be Welsh than he is.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Brian Little after the Peterborough United game

Darren Ferguson after the Peterborough game

He's not happy you know!

Peterborough podcast

The Peterborough podcast is now up at featuring Brian Little, Darren Ferguson, Danny Sonner and Neil Roberts.

Touchy Fergie!

I know I'm supposed to take one game at a time, but I can't help looking forwards a couple of weeks to the return to The Racecourse of Darren Ferguson!

It would have been quite an event in itself, but after what happened a fortnight ago at London Road, I can't wait! We added Ferguson to our list of hard-nut managers we've annoyed as he followed Paul Ince's lead with what can only be described as a strop after the match.

Before I continue my diatribe I must inject some perspective. Ferguson is one of the greatest players ever to play for Wrexham and was perfectly entitled to be disappointed that the offer to manage us was not forthcoming. None of that excuses his comically petulant behaviour yesterday though!

Basically, before the game Fergie tried to play mind games like his Dad does, but they didn't work. He might have succeeded in getting under the skins of a few people previously, but Brian Little's sang froid looks a terribly difficult thing to disturb.

He might have expected us to roll over and die for him again, but we weren't willing to make a birthday present of the match to him this time!

Ferguson was furious last November that comments he'd made had been interpreted as an attack on Brian Carey, but his remarks in the lead-up to the goalless draw made me wonder how badly he'd been misrepresented. They suggested that he has learned how to stir things up before a game from his Dad. All week he'd claimed that he knew what would happen in the match. They'd play all the football and we'd just lump it long. Oddly enough he stuck to that line after the game, despite the fact that we'd played a lot of good football. Didn't Rooster's scouting tell him that Roberts can pass the ball, or that Sonner is the closest thing we've had to Ferguson since the genuine article left?

Ferguson emerged for the press conference with a black cloud spewing out thunder just above his head. Having already kicked the ball onto the prostrate Chris Llewellyn's head and mouthed at Steve Evans and Neil Roberts during the match, quite apart from any argy-bargy in the tunnel he might have involved himself in, he was still in a state of high dudgeon. As questions were asked of him he ground his teeth furiously, his temples throbbing. His answers always came back to one thing; how we played and how he'd known all along that was exactly what we'd do! Well he knew everything we were going to do beforehand why on earth didn't he come up with an effective strategy to combat it?

Perhaps it was also the Ferguson family instinct for self-preservation kicking in when he focussed so squarely on the incident between Steve Evans and their goalkeeper. After all, it was only once United's adrenaline got pumping and the crowd woke up following the altercation that they actually injected some tempo into their game and started to look threatening. Ferguson's tactical preparations had managed to make his side look second best to a side which would end the game bottom of League Two for the first seventy-five minutes. No wonder he looked to deflect attention from the first hour and a quarter of the game!

Just like seeing Paul Ince stomp off after we beat MK Dons, it was highly amusing to see us get under the skin of someone who loves to do that to others. Fergie was a legend; maybe he would have been a great manager for us, but he'll lose a lot of friends if he continues like this. But then that's not why he's in the game.


I'm sailing close to the wind this week: my columns in the Leader for the next two weeks will be elongated moans about two ex man united hard men-paul ince and Darren Ferguson!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Look alike central

This is getting creepy now-there's bernie ecclestone and I've also seen Giant haystacks and Worzel Gummidge! mind you, every side has a Gummidge in the stands!

Fabio Capello spotted at Wrexham game!

Ready for action!

The team out on the London Road pitch on a beautiful day, preparing for battle.

Posh's Odd Recruitment Policy!

What do Craig Morgan and Chris Llewellyn have in common? They're both good players, but they both consistently have off days at Peterborough, so the Posh try to sign them!

They succeeded with Morgan, of course, who had a absolute nightmare in our 6-1 loss there and was almost as dodgy when we drew 2-2 there the season after, though to be fair he did play the first twenty minutes in the unfamiliar position of right back.

Likewise, I thought Llewellyn looked rather disaffected when we played at Peterborough last November, but that didn't put Darren Ferguson off sniffing around him again during the transfer window.

Or was Llewellyn's performance at London Road typical of him? Out of nowhere he made an incredible run, from the edge of our box to theirs, before lashing in a superb shot which the keeper just about deflected round the post.

Llewellyn has never been consistent, but has often come up with flashes of brilliance, and has the capacity to step up to the plate when required, as we saw at the end of last season when his form went into a lengthy dip but he performed heroics on the last day against Boston.

Why a side clearly investing heavily in players to help them establish themselves in League One pursue an erratic player so enthusiastically can only be explained by what Kevin Russell and Ferguson know of Llewellyn from working with him. Which perhaps is the highest compliment of all.

Fergie Mind Games

Is little Darren taking the lead from his Dad? Last November when we played Peterborough in the cup, he came out with those infamous comments about how he should have been offered the Wrexham job and would have done a better job than Brian Carey, which he was furious about as he said he'd been taken out of context.

I accepted his explanation, but before today's game he's on about how they'll play football while we'll just thump it long. Same again? I suspect focussing on the job in hand is how to handle it!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Wrexham's Global Positioning

Following the exciting news that the Premier League will be playing a round of games abroad to capitalise on the global football market, Wrexham have decided to take a similar initiative and appeal to new, untapped and exotic markets.

From the 2011-12 season an extra home game will be played in Prestatyn.
Fans flock to the Prestatyn Superdome to enjoy a unique retail experience by buying a Levi Mackin t-shirt and seeing Wrexham play Barnet.

Jeff Whitley on Sky Sports

I've already said how much I admire the return of Whitley to The Racecourse, but here's an incredible interview on Sky Sports which sums it up:

National Anthem

The National Anthem before Wales beat Norway 3-0.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

View from the Away End

I had an odd experience tonight! Watching Wales from the Eric Roberts Stand made me realise that the last time I'd watched a game from there was the match when it was opened! It was back in the early 1980s and we beat West Ham in a classic: 4-3 with John Lyons scoring a hat-trick, as I recall!

The stand was virtually sold out when my Dad and I went for tickets, so we had to get seats right up in the corner, but I remember seeing us pull the Hammers apart little knowing that I'd be sitting by my Dad again, with my lad in the terrace in front of me with his Borras Park team-mates, over thirty years later when I next parked my backside in there!

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Mental Strength Required

We needed mental strength when things looked pointless, but funnily enough, we need it just as much now, when some good performances have given us genuine momentum for the first time this season.

The win against MK Dons felt like a high point we couldn't possibly rival this season, but last Saturday we went and did it. MK Dons were two games into the sort of blip in form that even the best sides suffer when they were beaten by us, but Darlington arrived at The Racecourse on a roll. Having dropped just two points in their last fifteen. And we hammered them!

While commentating on the game I couldn't help drawing attention to the notes I was keeping throughout the game. I split the page in half and write Wrexham's chances on one side and the opposition's on the other. Our side was covered in ink, theirs had just three entries, and one of those was a rather trivial incident when Gavin Ward had to rush out of the box to make a clearance! Ward has now kept clean sheets against the top two sides in the division and only had to make one save in the process, albeit a superb one!

But we need to stay strong now. The Darlington match was the first in what looks like a very nasty stretch of games, and the side mustn't fear them. There's no suggestion that they will; Brian Little has wisely put together a squad packed with character, as the footage inside our changing room on ITV's “Championship Goals” show last Sunday showed.

The brawl in the Bradford game was further evidence of our spirit, and there was a similar reaction when Neil Roberts was being kicked from pillar to post last Saturday.

Furthermore, we're one of the form side of the division, so why should we fear anyone?

The important thing is to not worry if the gap to safety widens. 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 above us eventually. After all, they're down there for a reason; they're not much good!

So no matter how the next few games go, we have to keep focussed on doing our part of the bargain, and not worry about the results of other sides. If we can get through this little run of games in decent shape there's a much more promising look to our end of season run-in. We've only played one of the other sides in the bottom seven at home, so there are plenty of opportunities to claw back any deficits.

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