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.

Torquay Podcast

The Torquay podcast, featuring Martin Foyle, Simon Brown, Marc Williams and Levi Mackin is now up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Give Murtagh A Go!

I'm still coming to terms with what happened yesterday. A lot of people have asked me if it was as bad as it sounded, and the only possible answer is a resounding yes!

The total lack of creativity in midfield is a huge concern, although to be fair the blame should be laid squarely on Little's door; he set them up to play that way. Having said that, I'd like to see Conall Murtagh given a go in there-I know he missed pre-season, but he's ready to get on the pitch and he can both tackle and pass. Actually, maybe that means he doesn't suit the gameplan!

With Christian Smith not looking the part and Tom Taylor apparently lacklustre in the games he's managed behind closed doors, it's starting to feel like a no-brainer to me!

If I was suddenly asked to be the new manager for Tuesday (not as unlikely as you might think-I've got a terrific record on Football Manager!) I'd look to play a high energy 4-4-2, pressing and discomforting the opposition. Pushing high up the pitch would leave us in danger of being caught on the break, so we'd need pace at the back, but that doesn't really worry me because I'd have Pejic and Brown in there anyway. Pejic was the only member of the back four who did okay at Cambridge, yet that remains his one appearance this season.

Likewise Mike Williams is still waiting to have a go in the first team. I'm not advocating he should jump the queue ahead of Carl Tremarco and Neil Taylor-left back seems to be the one position we look secure in! However, he's never let us down, and plenty of players who are doing that are getting a chance.

Likewise, can't we give Michael Proctor a start? He's a penalty area opportunist, the one striker we've got who is the type to link off Louis. Shaun Whalley has done okay, but he's more of an individualist and doesn't seem to read Louis' flicks. In fact he's more of a winger to me-he looks as likely to score cutting in from the flank as through the middle I feel, and the stats bear me out-he has scored two goals from each position.

But then what do I know? I don't even think long balls onto Shaun Whalley's head's a good idea!

Grays Podcast

The Grays podcast is now up at http://www.wrexhamfan.co.uk/ featuring Brian Little and Levi Mackin

Grays Vlog

Grays Vlog
Video sent by WrexhamFCTV

A good moan from a Gray day

Saturday, 20 September 2008


I'm not one to rush to judgement but, sitting in a train travelling across Rainham Marshes after watching THAT, I feel I've hit a turning point. I've said it seemed to me that last Saturday was the breaking point for a lot of fans; for me it was today. It was awful, disjointed, pointless, clueless. And they're the good points!

Talking to DaveRoberts before the game we pulled apart the current tactics and said why it wouldn't work-and that was exactly what happened! I even said Grays would be 2-0 up at half time and we'd fight back and lose 2-1! Sadly, I can take no pride in making that prediction!

I'm not one to complain that we should be beating teams like Grays. The fact was that they were orgamised, hard-working and had a gameplan, so they were ahead of us in at least three key aspects. We can't afford to assume we should beat certain teams in this league because we're in it for a reason; we're no better than them. However, I will say that the way we set ourselves out to play, the way we defended, the way we hoofed long balls onto Shaun Whalley's head and left he and Jeff Louis isolated, made me feel more depressed, more angry than I have at any point in the last three, grim seasons.

A final question, one I've asked before, but which I feel is still relevant. I know we had to have a clearout in the Summer, but are Neil Roberts, Danny Williams and Phil Bolland actually worse then that? I think you all know the answer.

View from the Grays Press Box

This is the life! Turning up nice and early at a ground, finding a dicey unsecured wireless connection and watching some comical centre circle preparation by a particularly unco-ordinated dance troupe who seem to have met each other for the first time when they went on the pitch!

Wonder which Wrexham will turn up today. We're so erratic, and addressing that is Little's main task. Will we be the Wrexham that tore into Stevenage and Salisbury or the Wrexham we've seen so often otherwise?

Louis seems to epitomise this side. He looks wonderful sometimes, but can also infuriate. Still, the figures are stacking up for him at the moment; I hope the team can follow suit.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Away to Grays!

Oh what a treat! A long trip on the train to Grays, which I know virtually nothing about (apparently it's Russell Brand's birthplace-I'll add his name to the tags and see the hits roll in!)

Apparently there's a block of flats overlooking the ground and the locals come out onto their balconies to shout at the away fans! However, a reporter I interviewed for this week's podcast said his wife sends a lemon cake to the press box for every game, so I'll be able to watch the Wrexham fans getting grief while I put my feet up and tuck in! Life's cruel!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Spirit Wins The Day

As I've coughed up for a share of Myfc, I suppose I was bound to be satisfied with the result however it went yesterday!
Ebbsfleet certainly played the better football, something which is happening too often this season for my liking, but apart from Long's delivery from corners, which was terrific, the final ball wasn't as good as the excellent approach play. In fact according to my notes from commentary the only two chances which didn't come from set pieces were down to glaring defensive errors. Shakes squandered so many good positions it was untrue!

I'm finding this in the Conference-teams are passing it around well but aren't penetrating like League Two sides do, and the finishing isn't punishing us as much as last season either. Also, there are more defensive lapses which allow us chances, and that was what happened with our second goal-Opinel switched off and allowed Whalley too much space to cross, and the centre back lost Louis, who had a free header.

Ebbsfleet were the better side, but it was sheer bloody-minded determination (possibly to avoid provoking the crowd, who are turning against them) which won it, and I guess that's not a bad attribute to have!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Time for Proctor

It's time to give Michael Proctor a chance, isn't it? I didn't totally understand the decision to release him and I thought his efforts in the pre-season friendlies merited him getting a go in the squad earlier than he did.

He didn't get that opportunity, and we've been rather up and down going forward. I think, to be fair, that's down to erratic service from midfield more than anything else, but we've yet to see antone rally link effectively with Jeff Louis. Obvously this is down to one of two factors. Either it's impossible to combine with him, or we haven't found the right partner yet.

I don't think the first theory holds water. Granted, Louis is unpredictable and something of an individualist, but he does win his fair share in the air and we haven't exploited that. I think that fact that he has no assists to his credit so far this season illustrates that; Simon Spender, levi Mackin and Carl Tremarco all lead him in that field!

As for the notion that we've yet to find his perfect match, I think it's evidently true. Shaun Whalley is best employed on the flank, I think, although he is a decent finisher. Likewise, Simon Brown looks a neat, technical sort of player who makes good runs and has pace. Sadly, he isn't going to hurt defences, I suspect. It tells you something that he scored the fastest hat trick in Mansfield's history last January, but hasn't scored since!

Proctor would surely score more goals than him, given the same opportunity, and has more experience up front than Whalley. So what's stopping you Brian? Saturday's time to give him a go!

Man of Steel

There are some things you don't grow out of; for me, hero worship is one of them. No matter how much I try to pretend I'm a grown-up, present me with one of the Wrexham players I adored as a kid, whose autograph I waited for in the pouring rain after games, who made it into my Great Britain XI which won three consecutive World Cups in the 1980s on my Subuteo pitch, and I'm thirteen again.

That's why I've spent weeks quaking about next Friday. It's the Hall of Fame evening which the Supporters Association put on annually, and obviously an occasion for me to go weak at the knees and dust off my “I LOVE LES CARTWRIGHT” banner. Every year there's a variety of players from different eras present. I can cope with the players from before I watched football and communicate with the likes of Alan Fox on a human level. I might know their names and achievements, but to me they're just nice men who enjoy a good chat about football. Likewise, players like Phil Hardy from a more recent era are more easy to relate to as I knew them when I was older and my relationship with the side had changed; I've got to know some of them through post-match interviews too, which helps. However, usher me into the presence of a player from the time when Arfon Griffiths was manager and it's a different matter!

There's a particular reason why next Friday fills me with that particular mixture of dread and excitement. My favourite player will be there, and I'm making the presentation to him. Jim Steel. I worshipped that guy, and I think he influenced the way I watch Wrexham. Despite the fact that I am a fan of considered, passing football, I am hard-wired to hanker after a big man up front who will put the wind up the opposing centre backs.

That's exactly what Steel was. To me, no target man of the past fifteen years or so has quite captured that raw-boned aggression which was Steel's hallmark. No-one intimidates defenders like he did, or has such a mastery in the air. Perhaps it's because the game has changed; perhaps it's because the nature of being a fan robs you of perspective. I don't know and I don't care. Jim Steel is God.

Funnily enough, there are few moments of his which are clear in my mind. I recall a spectacular diving header he scored, but have no recollection of where it was or against whom he scored. Also, I remember thinking how appropriate it was that a rugged character like him should score the winner in a grim, poorly-attended midweek game against Hartlepool in freezing conditions. I'd never been in a crowd of under a thousand before, and felt proud that I was one of the loyal few who turned up, and that Steel had repaid me with a certain inevitability; some softies couldn't hack it on or off the pitch, but Our Jim was made of pure Scottish granite and a bit of hypothermia would never distract him.

I imagined him retiring and getting a job on oil rigs, shinning out of the murky North Sea like King Kong to pull rivets out of the rig's legs with his teeth. (I have no idea why there would be a call for that profession, but give me a break-I was a kid! I thought I was set for a career as an executive taster in an ice cream factory!)

My clearest memory of Steel was his greatest moment. For me, nothing will quite match the sheer wonder of Steel's winning goal against Porto. It had everything. Obviously it was a great moment in the club's history, but more than that, the sheer simplicity of the goal was beautiful. Steel takes it on his chest in the centre circle, back to goal, and volleys the dropping ball to John Muldoon on the right wing. Muldoon bombs down the wing and swings the ball into the penalty area. And Steel is there, rising imperiously to plant a powerful header past Petar Borota. I still I close my eyes and see that goal sometimes.

So I get to finally meet the man next week and present him with a well-deserved accolade. I hope I don't embarrass myself. And I hope no-one tells him I wrote this!

New Dragon Talk Podcast

There's a new Dragon Talk podcast up at www.wrexhamfan.co.uk looking forward to Saturday's game with Sparky from Ebbsfleet's podcast. Last week I called the USA to talk about Tom Taylor; this week I called Sparky in Dubai! My phone bill's going through the roof!

Wrexham Calendar