Sunday, 27 April 2008

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Ever Felt You've Been Cheated?

I have to confess I haven't paid to see a Wrexham game for about ten years. Having commentated or reported on them for a bit, on and off, I've been lucky enough not to have to cough up for what they serve up. That doesn't stop me thinking about value for money though.

Part of the way through commentating on today's game I had to ask myself "Do Wrexham fan's deserve to be treated like this?" The fans paid full price to watch the game, and what did they get? An experimental side in a meaningless game which offered up a fiasco and were comfortably beaten by what looked to me like a very poor team.

Furthermore, this has been happening for the last two games as well. Never mind the protestations of battling till relegation's inevitable; we stopped picking a proper side after the Shrewsbury fiasco.

I'm lucky; apart from petrol money I'm not out of pocket. What we've been forced to watch this season, even with a proper side, brings the fans' loyalty and our impressive attendances into sharp focus though. And yet we're not fit to hold a place on the board and try to safeguard the future of the club. Odd that.

Team

M jones, pejic, s evans, g evans, m williams, Llewellyn, fleming, mackin, done, roberts, carvill subs marc williams, murtagh, taylor, baynes

Friday, 25 April 2008

The Cull Begins


So the first tranche of players released has been announced, and although there are some sensible decisions (and one which is a blessed relief!) I'm still left with a basic concenr about whether Brian Little's decision-making is what it should be.


Don't get me wrong; I don't think Michael Proctor is God's gift to football. However, he was the only player last season who looked like he'd score goals and please don't try to tell me he wouldn't have some impact in The Conference! Perhaps more confusingly, if Bolland hasn't done enough to be offered a contract then what more could he have done?


The decision to get rid of Aiston's an interesting one. I thought he looked alright personally, and if he's not got what it takes you've got to ask why he was considered good enoug to be given a contract to Summer 2009 just four months ago.


I'm sad to see Sonner and Whitley go. Sonner's injury took the decision out of Little's hands to be sure, and I don't think anyone could make a full judgement on Whitley without seeing him regularly on the training pitch, though I can't help wondering what a full pre-season might have done for him.


The offering of Silvio Spann on a free is inevitable-sadly he always felt like a luxury we could hardly afford, while all I can say about the decision to do the same for Richard Hope is why did Little constantly select him ahead of the likes of Mike Williams when he was lacking?


The Summer was always going to bring some eyebrow-raising decisions. I just hope he's vindicated once the dust settles.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The Supporters Association podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Brian Little, Graham Turner, Mike Williams, Michael Proctor, Wes Baynes, Shaun Pejic and Mel Pejic.

Monday, 21 April 2008

New Dragon Talk Extra Podcast

We've put a quick Dragon Talk out to look at whether the Notts County win means we could actually pull off a miracle! It's at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk or you can subscribe with itunes.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

If The Kids Are United

Was beating Notts County the start of something amazing or just a cruel, teasing moment of hope before the inevitable? Committed as I am to the club, and desperate as I am for something to turn up, in the cold light of day I have to admit it was the latter.
The commitment that the young lads showed, the energy they threw into the cause, might have embarrassed some of the more senior players who were overlooked yesterday, and made Brian Little's revelation that he pondered making a similar change after the Barnet game rather poignant. If he had done so would the team that beat Notts County have got any fewer points in the subsequent matches? I suspect not.
Having said that, we mustn't get carried away. County are trying to avoid the drop themselves, so it was hardly a win against testing opposition, and we created little until after the goal, when they were over-committing and Danny and Conall were bringing a freshness to the centre of the pitch.
However, Brian Little was right to signal an element of caution for Tuesday's game. The impetuousness of youth-seven of the starting line-up plus one of the subs used are eligible for our young player of the year award-if a promotion-chasing side hit us hard early on then it'll be hard to recover.
On the other hand, as Neil Roberts suggested afterwards, the only way to find out if the kids can withstand such a test is to pitch them in and see!
Anyway, we can't go down on Tuesday, so we live to fight another Saturday. Another chance for the South Wales media to swarm over us like vultures, ready to record our demise! I'm surprised the season will still be alive with only eight days of it left; wouldn't it be great if a miracle happened at Edgar Street and we really had something to go for?
Don't hold your breath though!

Robbo Stays!


While the win over Notts County might have been a false dawn, there was at least one definite positive coming from it. Neil Roberts' unequivocal announcement that he wants to stay at The Racecourse come what may is a delight (hear it on the latest podcast at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk). I'm wary to say it was unexpected as we all know what the club means to him, but logic suggests a player of his calibre would be reluctant to drop out of the Football League.
As I've already blogged, Roberts is my choice for Player of the Season ;his commitment is unrivalled and he offers a quality in midfield that has been sorely lacking in some of his colleagues. The Roberts-Sonner-A.N. Other partnership in the centre of the pitch could have rescued us if Sonner's fitness had held up, and if Danny Williams or Whitley had been able to contribute fully Roberts might have had another worthy partner in there.
As it is, we'll need spirit for a fight in the Conference, and there's no doubt that Roberts offers that. I might stick a bit of early cash on him as Conference Player of the Year 2009!

Last Chance to Vote For Player of the Season

Admittedly the field's a bit thin, but there's one day left to vote for the Player of the Season online. Go to www.wrexhamfan.co.uk and click on the link at the top!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Notts County Podcast

The Supporters Association podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Brian Little, Neil Roberts and Conall Murtagh.

Team

Ward, pejic, s evans, roberts, mike williams, mackin, fleming, done, marc williams, taylor, baynes subs d williams, proctor, carrots, murtagh, g evans

Squad Confusion

Or maybe my last post is miles off the mark. There seems to be no consensus over what the actual squad is today; the official site's story is what I referred to below, but in the Daily Post Mark Currie appears to know the starting eleven, and it is totally different! It sort of sums up where the club is at that we can't even agree on a squad list!

So Much For The New Broom

If, as has been widely suggested, the squad for today's game is the nucleus of the side Brian Little wants at the club next season, it's interesting to note that of the twelve players he's brought in, only three have made the cut! Draw whatever conclusions you wish from that!

Friday, 18 April 2008

New Dragon Talk Podcast

There's a new Dragon Talk podcast up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring an interview with Hinckley United boss Dean Thomas on the form of returning keeper Michael Jones, a look at the less than enormous field for Player of the Year and a preview of the Notts County game.

Face The Facts

A long lingering death like we've experienced this season is particularly hard. For a long time we've known there was little hope, but naturally we tried convince ourselves otherwise. I've constantly been looking at the fixtures, arguing that we can haul ourselves out of trouble if we win certain key games, and even before the Notts County game I believed in that argument. The difference was that, by then, I'd finally realised that although it was true, the team weren't going to deliver their side of the bargain. I think we'll look back at the end of the season and see that if we'd won our last four games we'd have stayed up. The problem with that equation's very simple; there's no way we'd win all four. One would be pushing it.
It's perhaps a natural way of coping with dropping out of the Football League that I've actually started to look forward to next season. It'll be nothing if not an adventure, after all! Of course, if it turns out to be not a brief interlude but a new, permanent level we have sunk to then the novelty might well wear off!
I've found myself in recent weeks hoping the dropping into the Blue Square Premiership might actually be enjoyable. We might actually get to watch our team win a few games and not have to look over our shoulders at the bottom of the table. Maybe so. Non-league football is no longer the black hole it has been, and there's a decent conversion rate of clubs able to haul themselves back into the league. However, we shouldn't assume that just because we're Wrexham we'll just be able to swagger into the Conference and bully the teams that are down there. That sort of attitude's a recipe for disaster. Relegated League two sides have no God-given right to succeed in the Conference. Just look at Halifax, who are currently locked in a battle to avoid the drop to the Conference North. You might argue there are extenuating circumstances, that their financial problems and ten-point penalty for entering administration are responsible for their diminished status. If you do you haven't learned the lesson of history; where are the guarantees that, with our ground as ripe for purchase and development as it was ten years ago, we won't follow them to the brink of the abyss at some future point?

Goodbye Jonah



Brian Little told us to be prepared for some of our favourites to leave, and this morning I had to break the news to my ten-year-old lad that his favourite player is on his way.
Ben's attachment to Mark Jones is possibly historical; his first season watching football coincided with Jones' annus mirabilis, scoring nearly twenty goals from midfield in a mediocre side. In fact, maybe they weren't even that; as we slipped off the play-off pace two years ago, dropping points hand over fist, I wondered what would have happened to us if Jones hadn't scored all those goals. In the following two seasons we've found out.
Our failure to make the most of Jones' talent is a huge factor in our demise. There's no question that his form has not held up, and bearing that in mind the talk of Championship sides sniffing around him is interesting; could his agent be looking to work up an interest? It seems to me that Jones' shy personality and, more importantly, a tendency towards self-criticism, have worked against him. His lack of form looks to have played on his mind, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. There's no doubt that he's a whole-hearted competitor, and that he desperately wanted to succeed and to help the club. Perhaps he tried too hard. Out of form or not, the question of whether he should still have been in our midfield ahead of Chris Llewellyn is a reasonable one though.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Shrewsbury podcast


The Supporters Association podcast is now up at http://www.wrexhamfan.co.uk/ featuring Brian Little and Marc Williams

Nicholson's Future Looking Clearer

After speculating on his future yesterday, I understand we won't see Stuart Nicholson at The Racecourse next season.
It was interesting, apart from the Shrewsbury fan in the Aiston shirt below, to see a lad after the game in a Shrewsbury top with "NICHOLSON" on the back. His parents must have money to burn-"Dad, can I have a shirt with a name on it? I want that ineffective lad we've got on loan until the end of the month."
Maybe it was bought when he arrived in a magnificent act of blind faith in a bloke they'd never even seen play. That reminds me of a guy I saw in the crowd at a test match at Old Trafford a couple of years ago. It was before the season had begun but he was wearing a Port Vale shirt with the name of their new signing on the back-Hector Sam! I didn't have the heart to tell him.
(Maybe I should take the end of that paragraph back-few people shed a tear when he left, but most of us would welcome him back now!)

Joey Speaks For Us All

As we waited for Brian Little to come out after the game Joey Jones made a rare appearance wandering out of the tunnel and was plainly furious about something. We soon found out what-the team!

Joey didn't expand on it, but it transpires that he marched into the changing room after the game ended to tell the players exactly what he thought of them; Wrexham runs through him and he hurt as much as any of the brilliant twelve hundred on the away end today.

As Brian Little said, there's no point in having a go at the players as they are trying their best; they're just not good enough, for whatever reason. If you thought seeing a whole team arrive in the transfer window was exciting, wait until the Summer. The revolving door at Collier's Park will be a blur!

Aiston fans of the world unite!

Aiston got a great reception when his name was announced-unlike Hope. I'm taking about the home fans here by the way! As you can see from the picture, some shrews dressed up for him too!

Getting ready for action

Team

Ward, spender, hope, bolland, taylor, roberts, aiston, done, broughton, marc williams, proctor. Subs whitley, hall, s evans, mike williams, d williams

Saturday, 12 April 2008

On the other hand

As the three teams above up all got something today, maybe They're better than I thought! Good old chester persist in their "too little too late" campaign to save us though!

All Eyes On Stanley!

This slow death is deeply confusing. Realistically speaking we've been down for a few weeks now; it might turn out that everyone else exceeded our final points total last month. On the other hand, it's very easy to construct and argument for our survival! With Notts County coming up next weekend it has already been pointed out that should they lost at Accrington today and we win tomorrow, we could close to within one point of them with a game in hand.
The sides above us are poor; despite some good results by the sides we've been chasing, the table has finally filtered the rubbish to the bottom and the likes of County and Dagenham might hardly pick up another point all season. The problem is that there's one team which has sunk lower even than them. Basically, a team capable of getting decent results from our reasonably easy run-in would still get out of this mess. But does anyone really think we are that team?
My point's supported by a post I made last month. I decided to play the mug's game of predicting results, and looking back I was pretty good at it! I didn't see Macclesfield saving themselves, but I actually got all Notts County, Mansfield and Dagenham's results right, apart from Mansfield beating us!
The conclusion I drew was that survival was very much within our grasp-indeed, if we won the six-pointers against Mansfield, County and Macc it'd be virtually assured. Franly, I was right; problem is Wrexham didn't live up to their partof the bargain!

Friday, 11 April 2008

Nicholson's Last Hurrah

Stuart Nicholson leaves us after two more games. Is he part of Brian Little's future plans?
He has nothing lined up after West Brom let him go last week, and plainly he'd like to stay. That's not awfully surprising; he doesn't look full of goals at League Two level, although to be fair to him, he has brought certain qualities to the side. He has a lot fo energy and decent pace, and works terrifically hard. No wonder Little has used him in a right-sided attacking role which hardly helped him to get into goal-scoring positions.
Surprisingly though, considering the fact that he doesn't really look too dangerous, he is equal top of our assists list this season. Admittedly, he only needed three to achieve that feat, but at least he achieved it in a couple of months; plenty of players have had all season and haven't set more goals up than him!
Little's relationship with him is interesting. he clearly feels he's a player who can do a job. Managers, of course, see much more than we do, and their impressions of a player in training can help them into the side. Of course, this can often be a positive thing as the manager sees the player's attributes more fully, and managers are employed to use their professional judgement on such matters.
On the other hand, sometimes this can be a disadvantage. Managers occasionally can't see the woods for the trees. Attracted by the ability a player shows in training, seduced by glimpses of talent or promise, bosses will sometimes select them in a forlorn hope that they can replicate it on the pitch. However, in a competitive element, some players don't shine as they do when the pressure is off.
When I was playing in the deep and distant past there was a lad in the Wrexham Schoolboys squad with me. He was massively gifted and in training regularly dazzled. He was a good mate too, so I saw plenty of what he could achieve at close quarters; we'd have the sort of kick-abouts that teenage lads have and he'd always be head and shoulders above anyone. The coach kept picking him for games, but he just didn't perform in matches though, and in the end he lost his place.
Little also, I suspect, likes the look of Nicholson because he ticks a lot of boxes. He has an excellent work ethic and pace. These attributes are what you fancy in a striker, especially when you are looking to build up a weak side and want a team that will work for you and make life difficult for the opposition all over the pitch. The problem is that these players don't always quite fulfil their potential. I've often felt Rafa Benitez has had the same thing going with Harry Kewell. In theory he fulfils a lot of the criteria Benitez was looking for as he looked to replicate the formation he succeeded with in Valencia. He had wide players like Angulo had Vicente at the Mestalla who could do good work out wide but also effectively come inside to link up to a lone striker. Kewell appears to have the qualities required to do this; good pace and heading technique, an ability to carry the ball and a goalscoring record. The problem was that he didn't really live up to those qualities on the pitch. However, Benitez persisted with him for a long time based, I feel, on his theoretical qualities.
Perhaps Little has done that with Nicholson, I don't know. I just hope that, if Nicholson does sign, he will get a chance to play in the middle and get some goals. Maybe, like the likes of Stuart Fleetwood or, whisper it, Rob Duffy, he'll find defences in the Conference more likely to yield when tested.

Two More Years of Little

http://www.wrexhamafc.premiumtv.co.uk/page/NewsDetail/0,,10311~1287208,00.html

As reported above, Brian Little has signed a two year contract with the club. I hope it's the beginning of the end of the grimmest period in our history, but there've been so many false dawns lately that I feel I can only feel hopefully once something concrete has been achieved.

Little rightly points out that we should judge him once he is able to put together his own side. I accept this to an extent; most managers like to put their mark on a club and ensure there's a turnover of players to suit their taste. However, a manager also has to be able to work with what you inherit.

We've paid a heavy price this season for the period between Little's appointment and the opening of the transfer window. After the three-game false dawn at the start of his reign we equalled the second longest run of consecutive defeats in the club's history; if we'd lost at home to MK Dons we'd have equalled it! The failure to pick up any of the twenty-one points available in that period is a huge factor in the position we find ourselves in today.

To be fair to Little he inherited a squad which was bedraggled to say the least, their confidence completely shot. Also, he did well to reshuffle the side in January and is unfortunate not to have hauled us up the table; while the danger that aging players could creak and break down was always there, nobody could question the thinking behind bringing in the likes of Danny Sonner. However, the underachievement of the side before they were drafted in is what really left us playing catch-up. Over the next two years that must never happen again

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

MK Dons podcast

The Mk Dons podcast is up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring Brian Little, Neil Taylor and Dons assistant boss Ray Matthias.

Vote for the Player of the Season

Time's running out if you want to vote for the Supporters Association's Player of the Year (vote here), and as I ruminated over who I would plump for, I realised that the nature of the field revealed a lot about our season.
Perhaps I should say the nature of the fields, as there are two awards. The young player of the season is recognised too, and a look at the contenders for both awards is rather revealing.
To be honest, there really aren't too many real contenders for the senior award, which tells you all you need to know about a disappointing season. Too few players have lived up to expectations and as a result we've suffered a grim campaign.
The exceptions are interesting, but there are conditions attached to a lot of them. Plenty of people favour Simon Spender, and his whole-hearted commitment to the cause certainly would make him a worthy winner. It's interesting that he has been left on the sidelines for a fair chunk of the season and yet emerges as a strong contender to be our best player though!
Likewise Michael Proctor, the only player to have managed a consistent goal threat in the campaign, is a possible candidate, yet he has regularly been left on the bench by both Brians. Phil Bolland, whose contribution since arriving on a free from Chester makes you seriously doubt the judgement of erstwhile Deva boss Bobby Williamson, has made a real contribution, yet he has been here for less than four months! That players who have put in a good half season can be strong contenders for the accolade shows that the field is thin; if Danny Sonner had stayed fit for a bit longer he would have walked it! Mind you, if he'd remained fit we might just have dug ourselves out of this mess!
Though I considered all of the above, my vote goes to Neil Roberts. Nobody could doubt his commitment to the cause, which was encapsulated in his performance at MK Dons last week. Clearly frustrated and enraged as basic defensive errors handed the game to the opposition in the first ten minutes, he snapped and snarled around midfield, angrily dissenting the referee's decisions in a manner I've never seen before. When he was given a chance to pull his side back into the game from the spot, having typically won the penalty himself, he seemed to take all his frustration out on the ball. He usually places his penalties, but this one he thrashed into the roof of the net so hard that it seemed he might uproot the posts! Even though he often doesn't wear the armband, Roberts is truly the captain of the club.
When you see the contenders for the young player award a couple of things occur to you. Firstly, the field is a lot more convincing! The likes of Neil Taylor, Wes Baynes, the Williams brothers and Gareth Evans can all genuinely be pleased with the progress they've made since August, and one might argue that some of them merited more opportunity to impress. Likewise last season's winner, Matty Done, has continued to show promise despite limited opportunity, but for his great promise it has to be Taylor for me.
However, the sheer number of candidates for the junior award tells its own story. Eleven of the players (Wes Baynes, Mike Carvill, Matty Done, Andy Fleming, Gareth Evans, Robbie Garrett, Marc Williams, Michael Jones, Mike Williams, Stuart Nicholson and Neil Taylor) we've used this season were under twenty-one years old at the start of the season; that's nearly a third of the players we fielded and remember that we were just one player short of equalling the record for the most players fielded in a campaign. With a big chunk of the squad over thirty as well, you can see the problem. Allan Hansen was made to look foolish when he suggested you win nothing with kids, but a mixture of kids and aging players has been a recipe for disaster.

We Don't Deliver

Stelios Haji-Ioannou's philosophy on launching Easyjet in 1995 was simple: “under-promise and over-deliver.” It seems to me that we've been guilty of having the opposite approach.

We've spent the last couple of years convincing ourselves that once Ugarte finally gets fit we'll run away with the league, that Eifion Williams will return as fresh as a daisy, that players will eventually regain their lost form or experienced signings will find the form they once had. Such triumphs of hope over logic have got us where we are today.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Glory!

Wrexham win european cup! Well the kids do, but it's a start!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Simon Spender

Spender stayed out for ages after the game, looking gutted.

Away Support

Team news

It's 442! ward, spender evans, bolland, williams, hall, Llewellyn, roberts, aiston, broughton, nicholson. proctor, done,danny williams, hope and marc williams on bench.

I'm Bernie Slaven

Not that they haven't taken the press seat signs down from the middlesborough game!

Brian leading the team out of the wilderness?

Well, hopefully! It's quite windy up here, and it's hardly buzzing about the place! I thought there'd be more here by now for such a high stakes game.

D-Day

Well, this is it! About to set off for a game that could well leave us out of the Football League to all intents and purposes. Mansfield's home form is abysmal and they'll have a capacity of less than 5,000 to try to roar them on, but then we've played teams in this sort of form before and generously played them into form-remember Dagenham?

At least in the last two games we've been creating chances, and at barnet we even started taking them! Sadly, we also defended as poorly as we have since Brian Little was able to rebuild the side.

Anyway, we have to raise it a level. A draw's just not good enough. If we have six more points by Saturday evening the whole picture will look very different, but anything less and, frankly, it won't!

New Dragon Talk Podcast

The new Dragon Talk podcast is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk featuring previews of the Mansfield and Macclesfield games, a look at Mansfield's off-the-pitch problems and a farewell to Eifion Williams.

Wrexham Calendar