Friday, 31 October 2008

New Dragon Talk Podcast

There's a new Dragon Talk podcast up at 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, 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 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 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!

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