Monday, 15 August 2011

New Blog

We won't be putting any more blogs on this site: to keep up with us, go to our new blog at

Friday, 29 July 2011

Weekly View from the commentary box

Well as I sit writing this weekly view from the commentary box Wrexham fans are doing everything they can to raise sufficient funds to pay the players, who perhaps understandably, are reluctant to play pre season friendlies in case they get injured and are unable to find a new club should the worst happen. What a shame that a promising pre season has been interrupted by a situation which has been building up for some time now. Who can blame Dean and the players for thinking about themselves at this time as it would appear that their employers are certainly not taking that course of action.
The problem is from my perspective that all the public posturing by the owners is alienating them from the fan base more and more each day yet as employers they have a duty to ensure the people they employ are paid for their efforts. The players, and indeed staff, have turned up for work each day and have been unbeaten in the last 4 pre season games, they therefore deserved to be paid. Yet the owners are saying the pot is empty.
I, like many other fans, do not know the true facts and circumstances around the takeover bid by the WST, but I do feel that they have so far acted more professionally and with more dignity than anyone else in this god forsaken mess that surrounds the football club I love and have supported for over 30 years. The trust are surely almost there and for the sake of a few more days or weeks then I feel that I must continue support them in their actions. We have elected the board to represent us as members and we have to rely on them to do their best for the membership and the club. They are true supporters and not money mad property tycoons with an eye for a quick buck.
Who knows if there is a benefactor out there who can help us through the next period in the clubs history, if not then we will not die for the want of trying. Robbie Savage has already pledged his support and fans can donate to the WSF initiative to raise money for the wages by donating cash or cheques at the club or by paypal to Wrexham fans may be small in number but they are huge in heart and will do everything they possibly can to ensure that come 13th August The Racecourse is packed to the rafters to cheer on Dean and the lads. Come on you Reds.


Friday, 22 July 2011

A weekly view from the commentary box

Well this is the first of a weekly blog I intend doing this season which could once again be one of the most momentous in the clubs history for a variety of reasons - both on and off field. It would be nice to be sitting here at the end of May next year with the club safe in terms of its very existence and having just been promoted back to the Football League in fans ownership. As I write this though both seem a very long way off as the Trust board are in depth negotiations with the owners and Dean and the players are busy with their pre season preparations. With the former so uncertain I intend to focus on the latter for this blog and give my early thoughts on the the two away pre season games at Aberystwyth and Eastwood.
The Aber game saw the Reds netting six times, all different scorers and it was good to see a good standard to the finishing. We will certainly face far tougher opponents than the side from Mid Wales in the coming months but you can only beat the opposition in front of you and Saunders men did that comprehensively. Eastwood were a better standard and passed the ball very well, especially in a competitive and entertaining first half at Coronation Park. The Badgers had a starting eleven with plenty of experience at a higher level and certainly made The Reds work hard for their victory. Wrexhma continue their pre season with home games this weekend against Rochdale and Wolves and we will be providing full match commentary on both via Wrexham Player.
The highlight of the pre season build up so far for me has been the superb form of Lee Fowler who looks as if he has lost some weight and is showing an inclination to be able to run games for Wrexham. He has a good eye for a pass and likes to pick up the ball from deep. With Keates, Harris, Blackburn and also possibly Glenn Little competing for places in the midfield area this looks like one part of the team Saunders has sorted. The strike options are there as well but both Danny Wright and Jake Speight will take time to settle. My main concern at present is the goalkeeping spot where Maxi's future at the club is uncertain. I am not convinced that Mayebi is the guy to keep goal for 46 tough BSP league games and is still very unproven, whilst Danny Ward is undoubtedly talented but again unproven and very inexperienced. If Maxi does leave then will Deano be able to bring in an experienced replacement? Only time will tell. Time to sign off now see you all next week.


Monday, 13 June 2011

The Return of Stability

The off-pitch tensions at The Racecourse this Summer have distracted us from a remarkable fact. It’s been an unusually stable close season on the playing side, and Dean Saunders deserves a lot of credit for that.

This is the first time, since the idiotic decision to sack Denis Smith turned a disappointing season into a chronic five-year tailspin, that we’ve had stability in the squad. Every close season since then, and at least three January transfer windows in between, have seen the squad completely ripped apart and the manager start again.

Obviously the main cause of this recurring nightmare, as players spin rapidly through the revolving Racecourse door, was an astonishing recklessness on the part of the board. Honestly, how could they allow this to happen? It certainly prompts you to ask questions about the decision-making processes at work at the club.

Take for example Brian Little. He was given free hand in January 2008 to bring players in to save the club from relegation to the Conference, and took full advantage by bringing in an astonishing thirteen new players. Of course, the rescue mission failed dismally, but he was not only allowed to continue in his post, but to rip the squad up and start yet again in the Summer! It must have been a remarkable conversation when Little went cap in hand to the board to ask for permission to rip it all up and start again:

“I’m sorry that I didn’t keep us up chaps, but I’ve got a plan that will get us straight back into the football League again! You know those players I told you would save us four months ago? Can I get rid of the lot of them and buy in a completely new squad?”

“Why, of course Brian! Here’s a bottomless pit of money; help yourself.”

Stop me if I’m wrong, but if I was running a business and a middle-manager got me to spend lavishly in January to back his project, then came back in May having failed and asked me to do the same again, I’d tell him to get lost! Surely the logical answer to Little’s question would have been “You wanted these players, make them into a decent team!”

With Dean Saunders also allowed to completely dismantle his squad in three of the first four transfer windows of his tenure at The Racecourse, is it any wonder that the squad has been massively instable? And don’t even get me started on the financial implications of paying the wages of numerous players who were surplus to requirements, not to mention the pay-offs for those we got rid of. You won’t find much sympathy from me over the spiralling running costs the club has been incurring.

As time has passed, I’ve been inclined to forgive Saunders his shake-ups of the squad though. After all, he inherited a dysfunctional unit from Little, and had to make changes. By the time he arrived, a pattern of decline which had already seen us collapse to our lowest ever league position was already established, and it took something special to turn it round. It’s tempting to look back and see Saunders as a lone figure on a runaway rollercoaster, desperately trying to apply the brakes. Yet he has done so. Last Summer he rebuilt once more, but prudently, and the squad he put together then is still pretty much intact now. At last there’s stability on the pitch, and that’s the best way to set ourselves up for a promotion push. It’s yet another reason why the success of the WST’s bid to take the club over is crucial; now we need to match that stability in the boardroom.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Save Supporters Direct

How alarming that, just as negotiations to turn Wrexham into a fan-owned club reach critical mass, the rug’s being pulled from under one of the WST’s most trusted sources of advice.

The decision by the Premier League to withdraw £1.2 million of funding from Supporters Direct is a bizarre one if taken at face value, but as we all know, taking the people who run football and footballs clubs at face value is a mug’s game.

There’s no question that the comments made on Twitter by SD’s chief executive Dave Boyle were unwise and in bad taste. It’s equally plain that they were the comments of a private individual, though, and not purporting to represent the body which employs him. Would a hairdresser lose her job if she posted that Jordan’s a tart at the bottom of a story on The Sun’s website?

The argument that the SD board’s response to Boyle’s comments was inadequate, leading to the conclusion that they’re not fit to distribute the cash responsibly, is not only completely nonsensical (what influence would my reaction to a workmate’s comments in the pub have on my handling of my bank account?) but was also drawn suspiciously swiftly, as the FSIF admit they consulted only one member of the Supporters Direct board, and rushed to make their judgement public before SD could hold a board meeting.

In reality, the Prem clubs are withdrawing their funding because they don’t support SD’s aims. They’ve clearly been corralled into offering the money because the public and political wind is blowing in favour of more fan ownership, but it simply doesn’t fit in with what the clubs’ owners want. They want docile consumers who stick their hands mindlessly into their pockets to fund the clubs, but have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, nor any desire to influence it. The business model they aspire to isn’t Barcelona, it’s Tesco.

So to react so dramatically to Boyle’s comments appears suspicious; the action of a body which doesn’t want to offer funding and was waiting for an excuse to withdraw the cash to come along. If they stick to their promise to award the money themselves to individual schemes as they see fit, they’ll be able to control the sort of supporters’ organisations that get funded. I’m sure there’d be lots of publicity stunts to help out nice, polite, non-aspirational groups that have no intention of rocking the boat, rather than grass roots organisations which want to have a voice. No doubt, before distributing their largesse to the peasants, the Premiership clubs would consult club owners to see if the group was friendly or not; can you imagine the reference the Wrexham Supporters Trust would have got if Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts had been asked for one?

Before the funding promise was reneged upon, "When Saturday Comes" wondered whether something was up, suspecting there might be a suspicicious motive for the Daily Mail suddenly jumping on Boyle's comments a full fortnight after they'd been made. They wondered whether the story had been planted in the paper by bodies looking to discredit the upcoming publication of the Select Committe Inquiry into the governance of football to which Boyle had given evidence. It looks like it was also a cynical prelude to the withdrawal of funding.

Of course, I might be doing the Premiership a disservice. Despite the fact that its most obvious function is to make money at any cost, perhaps it does have a conscience, and that's why they couldn't possibly imagine funding a group that could employ someone who says unpleasant things. Maybe they do care about doing things the right wat, despite the fact that it was willing to compromise the integrity of its own competition by adding a 39th game abroad in order to make money (try telling Wolves that would be a fair framework if, having survived on the final day on goal difference, they were then told the 39th round would see them play Manchester United for a third time, in Qatar, while Birmingham would get to play West Ham in Dublin!)

So maybe the Premiership, in making this stand, is showing its moral side. Maybe we stand at the dawn of a remarkable era of honest leadershi in the game. It would make a nice change if the Prem made a stand against greed, theft, dishonesty and hypocrisy: here’s just a small, random selection of the sort of morally ambiguous or downright unconscionable behaviour it doesn’t punish or prevent:

  • Portsmouth were allowed to play in the Premiership under the following squeaky-clean fellows: arms-dealer’s son Sacha Gaydamak; Ali al-Faraj, whose claims to be a billionaire didn’t stack up, and who put convicted fraudster Daniel Azougy in charge of the club; and Sulaiman al-Fahim, "close friend" of a man with accusation of human-rights abuse and fraud, Thaksin Shinawatra. Hang on, isn’that the Thaksin Shinawatra who owned Manchester City in the Premiership?
  • Two days before signing Robbie Keane from Liverpool, having publicly stated his liking for the player, Harry Redknapp complained: "I don't know why Rafa Benítez gets so upset - it's strange. I just said Robbie Keane's a terrific player, but he belongs to Liverpool. It was never a goer." Then, on deadline day a year ago he said: "I thought it was April Fools' Day with some of the players we've been linked with. We're not doing anything today." By the end of the day he’d bought Raphael Van der Vaart!
  • Frank Lampard became the standard-bearer of a new £75m child obesity campaign, stating "You're never too young to get fit". Then he signed up as the face of Walkers Crisps, telling those obese kids to augment their salad butties: "Any sandwich is more exciting with Walkers!"
  • West Ham boss David Gold claimed, a month before he sacked Gianfranco Zola that he “has been through hell and back. But he knows he is part of West Ham. We couldn't ask for any more. I'll be asking him what he needs from us for next season."
  • Rio Ferdinand was paid £2.4 million in wages while he was suspended for eight months for going shopping instead of taking a drugs test by a club which supported his failure to do the test.
  • And don’t get me started on Joey Barton.

Hopefully the government, which has supported Supporters Direct, will prevail upon the Premier League will reconsider, and SD have already stated their intention to reapply for funding. Hopefully The Premier League’s Chief Executive Richard Scudamore will be reminded that it was less than a year ago that he made a commitment to fund the body; in the meantime, join the Save Supporters Direct Facebook group, work that #SaveSupportersDirect Twitter hashtag, and do your bit to show the Premier League that the little man does have a voice.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Beware The New Crawley

I'm going to allow myself the luxury of thinking about football for a bit, although it's patently obvious that what happens off the pitch is of infinitely more importance.

Should the WST takeover come to fruition, it's encouraging to see that they feel the budget already agreed with Dean Saunders is realistic and can be honoured. While all bets would be off if the takeover doesn't take place, the fact is that I'm cautiously optimistic after hearing the WST's initial assessment of the situation.

So, if they do take over, what are the prospects for next season? Dean Saunders hoped that Luton would go up in the play-off final, as they have more money behind them than AFC Wimbledon (the excellent Stuart Hammonds had an interesting article in the Non League Paper the other week where he compared his predicted league table at the start of the season, based on the clubs' budgets, with where they actually finished. His prediction was uncannily accurate: Luton had the second biggest budget as I recall, we had the fifth, but AFC Wimbledon were the biggest climbers, as they had the fourteenth largest budget in the division!)

I've got to say that, although I follow Saunders' logic, I'm not too bothered that Luton are still in our league, though. Their parachute payments end this season, so their spending will surely be curbed. And anyway, were they actually better than us last season? They finished just three points clear of us and got past us in the play-offs because we froze in the first leg. I didn't see anything to particularly scare me from them last season to be honest.

In fact, until the last few days I thought that, if we were able to keep hold of most of our squad and make the odd judicious addition, we'd be serious contenders for the title. After all, the artificial impact of Crawley's spending is no longer a factor. However, I fear we might be up against another side which is willing to spend beyond it's means to go up in Fleetwood. The Lancashire club's got even less history and support than Crawley, as last season was their first in the Conference and they struggled to attract decent crowds despite reaching the play-offs. However, when you've got money sluicing in from other areas that doesn't matter, at least in the short term.

They were bankrolled in the Conference North, when they gazumped us for Anthony Barry, they spent lavishly on a side last season which was capable of playing very attractive football, and already this summer they've splashed out for a big name striker in Crawley's Richard Brodie, not to mention outbidding us for Andy Mangan.

Also, in contrast to Luton they did impress me last season. They out-played us at The Racecourse and although their winner in the return match was offside, they looked dangerously swift on the attack and we never looked like scoring past them. If they address the rather cumbersome nature of their central defence, which was torn apart in the play-offs by AFC Wimbledon, they'll be the team to beat next Summer.

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Waiting Game

My problem, I suspect, is I draw too much of my knowlege of business from watching "The Apprentice". Alan Sugar seems value an ability to operate in a straghtforward manner and get a deal done. Clearly it's a simplified version of reality.

Obviously, I didn't assume the WST would take Wrexham over with a click of their fingers when the Poole bid collapsed and it was announced they were in negotiations with the club's owners. My suspicion, though, was that it would be the trust's honesty which might make the deal impossoble.

Let's be frank: the trust are the only body throughout all this mess who have been straightforward, transparent and realistic about the process. They don't shoot their mouths off or make promises they can't keep as they alone understand the concept of having a responsibility to the supporters of the club. Therefore, I suspected that, should their due diligence reveal a black hole in the finances, the deal would flounder. After all, they're aware they can't squander the fans' money and therefore won't make silly commitments.

However, before that situation could develop, we've run into a different problem. It would seem that simply getting their hands on the books to determine whether they have any nasty surprises in them is no simple matter. Part of me wonders whether this is just a natural part of any business deal, especially a complex on like this one. But if that's the case, why have accountancy and law firms with experience in the field apparently felt the need to let it be known that progress is slow?

The elephant in the room is why would people who want to sell their business be tardy in handing over the books? The best case scenario is that it's an innocent mistake, and as we're talking about a company which doesn't pay its taxes or its employees wages on time, I suppose that's a possibility. Not a best case scenario to fill your heart with hope though, is it?

However, the other possibilities hardly bear thinking about. The only thing I feel confident about is that the WST board will do what is right once they have all the facts in front of them. I'm bracing myself for the terrifying possibility that they'll conclude the terms of this deal are unacceptable.

Monday, 23 May 2011

I'm Right Naive Me!

As Reeves and Mortimer used to say "I'm right naive me".

You see, I assumed that when a bid to buy a business is turned down, it's because a better plan has been submitted by someone else. Judging by the last few days, perhaps that's not always the case.

The WST were, of course, the losers in the bidding process for Wrexham Football Club. They were rejected, according to Geoff Moss, on two grounds: a lack of experience in running a football club and a financial inability to fund it in the medium term.

As a key tenet of the WST's bid was that they would appoint professionals to run the club, the argument that they could not do the job as "the people who run the Trust all have full time jobs" is surely irrelevant. And as for the lack of a financial plan, well if the thoroughy professional pitch, supported by a top table packed with experience in running football clubs, made in the William Aston Hall wasn't good enough, then Jon Harris' must have been stunning! Considering the fact that he seems to have nothing in his background to suggest he's worth more than the trust, he must be able to sell icecubes to eskimos! And we all know he's operating alone, apart from the odd expert advisor, of course.

And there's the strange thing. It seems Geoff Moss has, since opting for Harris' bid, has asked for funding from the trust. That seems a bit like Simon Cowell picking Leona Lewis as his winner and then asking the runner-up to sing us out! But wasn't Harris' bid water-tight? Didn't it contain sufficient funds to provide for the club's medium and long term future? And isn't long term future what the Centre of Excellence is all about?

I know there's been a funding gap at Colliers Park since the Football League's money dried up. I also know that it's sometimes hard to get people to invest in the future when they're fixated with the present, something football fans are more guilty of than most. But I also know that if you want to raise funds, it helps if you have credibility. If there's one body which fans are happy to give their money to, it's the trust. Pity they weren't in a position to run the club and tap into that deep well of goodwill, eh?

But like I said, I'm naive. I'd have thought the sheer professionalism of the WST bid, its moral mission to give something back to the community, and its enhanced financial potential as a result of the goodwill the trust enjoys, would have made it a very attractive bid. Yet it turns out a bidder who's begging for funds before the contract's even been signed is more attreactive. Like I said, I'm right naive, me!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Long Summer Begins

So now the football season is over, and the real action begins.

What's happening now is far more important than whether we go up or not at the end of a long season of endeavour. It's about the long-term future of the club, and indeed whether it has a future or not.

While the armchair fans have been enjoying the drama of the last day of the Premiership season, we've also seen a weekend of remarkable drama as the Dismal Jimmies paid a visit to Colin Poole, a man who seems happy to make it plain to everyone that he's the power behind Jon Harris' throne despite the fact that he's legally precluded from such a position.

Poole is the latest in a long line of suitors for the club who have a history which is less than saintly. In fact, stop me if I'm wrong, but isn't the WST bid the only one which isn't backed by at least one person who is currently banned from acting as a company director?

The reaction to their visit was highly illuminating. Let's get something straight: I'd never condone the actions of anyone who broke the law or acted in an intimidating way; even if they felt their target deserved it, behaving like that means they stoop to their enemies' level.

However, there's been absolutely no suggestion that the Dismal Jimmies did anything illegal or intimidating; they attended what appears to be a public event and there's no report that they were threatening in their behaviour. Yet they report that Wrexham fans were characterised as "peasants" by Poole's wife, who exhorted her husband to bankrupt the club in a manner which suggested this was something which had already been discussed.

It would have been a massive PR disaster for Poole in other circumsances: quite apart from the alleged bankruptcy threat, it would be easy to present this as a case of the landed classes looking down their noses at the grubby oiks who support football teams and disrupt their cosy lives. Yet there won't be any PR repercussions from this: the mainstram media are unlikely to pick it up, and anyway, football isn't a democracy: the club has been sold to whoever the owners fancied as their successor. Public opinion didn't come into it.

There has been some crucial fall-out from the affair, although it's difficult to interpret. A purported press release from Harris has appeared on Red Passion, claiming to reveal that Poole has withdrawn his backing. Heaven knows if the press release is genuine, and if it is, whether it's a sincere message or a smokescreen to deter further interventions into Poole's private life. If it is genuine, the Dismal Jimmies' intervention has clearly had a dramatic effect.

It's hard to imagine Poole would get cold feet so easily though. Having surfaced, sunk and bobbed up again during the bidding process, surely he wasn't put off by this incident; indeed if he'd done his research he must have expected it. More likely he's retreating into the background, as you'd think a banned director would have done in the first place, in the hope of returning to the easy life.

We'll soon know the truth, because if Poole's money has gone Harris' bid surely collapses. Should Poole actually withdraw his support, we're back to square one, except that the WST now know that they can afford the club if they set £1 aside from their funds!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Dead End Up Front

As we stagger edgily towards the play-offs, Dean Saunders makes a fair point as he complains that, unlike other managers at the sharp end of the Conference, he’s handicapped by his inability to bring in new players.

Just have a quick look at the Non League Paper from a couple of weeks ago for proof of the benefits of freshening up the squad: AFC Wimbledon’s manager, Terry Brown, attributed his side’s second wind on the arrival of ex-Wrexham triallist Kaid Mohammed from Bath. His goals and performances have enlivened a side which was expected to wilt as its small squad was stretched to the limit. Meanwhile, Saunders manages with his hands tied, unable to freshen up an attack which struggles to take chances.

So what can Saunders do in the circumstances? There are options available to him, although drafting in a goal poacher sadly isn’t one of them. I assume that’s the case anyway, as there’s a Wrexham player banging the goals in at the moment. Obi Anoruo is playing in the division below us, for Vauxhall Motors, and despite being in a team which is struggling at the wrong end of the table, he has fifteen goals to his credit. I assume we can’t recall him though: if he’s on a season-long loan then I believe one of the conditions is he can’t be called back.

There are other options at the club though. Marc Williams has hit two hat-tricks in recent weeks for the reserves, but remains outside the first eleven. At least he returned to the squad against Kettering, but I continue to be confused over his continued absence from the pitch. There have been some away performances lately when I’d have thought his spirit would have been valuable, and even if he isn’t accommodated in attack, he might have been given a run in midfield when Jordan McMillan, a decent player but to me a defensively-minded full back, was given the role of running box-to-box recently.

However, I also understand Saunders’ reservations to an extent. The way we’re playing at the moment might not suit Williams: with the ball spending a fair bit of time in the air, Gareth Taylor was a more obvious replacement for Mathias Pogba aerially, and although he lacks Pogba’s pace, Williams is no sprinter either. Wrexham's long ball approach requires strikers who are either big or quick. As Williams is neither, it might be that his hopes of breaking into Saunders' side are limited.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Wrexham Needs a Steady Hand

I am so confused! Could someone please explain to me why the WST get so much grief? They seem to me to be the only ones who are emerging from the ongoing WFC farce with any credit or dignity to me.

Okay, I suppose I'm being a little disingenuous. Some of the concerns fans voice about the trust make sense, even if I don't agree with them. I understand some people's anxiety at a perceived slowness on the trust's part to act as it's based on a fear for the club if someone doesn't sort it's future out quickly. However, it's hard to see what else the trust can do. It can't act as quickly as an individual investor or consortium could, as it has to canvass opinion from its membership and also has a responsibility to them to fully investigate all possible options rather than being able to act unilaterally.

Of course, their ability to move swiftly is also limited by their reliance on the incumbents at the club. They can't carry out due diligence until they're allowed access to the relevant information, and the timing of that simply isn't in their hands.

The trust are damned if they do and they're damned if they don't. If they divulge that they are talking to an interested party they are criticised for doing so, or not showing such urgency to talk to others; if they don't make a public statement they are attacked for inaction.

I think it's fair to say that the trust board, made up, let's not forget, of fans with their own lives to lead and jobs to maintain, are doing a sterling job of representing their members' interests and trying to protect the club. Surely no one should be able to dispute that they're doing all they can. Furthermore, they show the sort of professionalism, discretion and restrain you'd hope for in such a delicate situation. They don't make inflammatory public statements, unsubstantiated claims or provocative gestures. And they're the ones without a background in such matters.

I'm as anxious as anyone to see a favourable resolution to the current disgraceful mess the club is in. But I'm also trying to maintain perspective, and ensure I can see the wood for the trees. While dramas like the claims of a winding up order spring up at us regularly, it's easy to be panicked into rash decisions which could prove costly in the long term. I'm glad the trust has a measured hand at the tiller as it tries to negotiate its way through the storm.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Learning from the Pirate Club

I’ve already said I’d like to see Wrexham run by the fans. I’m not saying I’d exclude the experience and knowledge that a well-intentioned businessperson could bring to the party but they’d have to be willing to work with the WST and accept that, ultimately, the club belongs to the fans and is run for their benefit.

I’ve also already offered up AFC Wimbledon as a superb example to follow. Well, here’s another club we can learn from.

Saint Pauli is, through no fault of its own, in danger of becoming a cliché. The venerable German anti-institution has stood for all things counter-culture since it was, as the club badge says, “non-established in 1910” in the red light district of Hamburg.

As word of its famed rebellious attitude has spread, it has become increasingly the subject of media attention, and that has changed how it is perceived. That doesn’t necessarily mean the club itself has altered, but the world’s view of St Pauli seems almost to be taken through Disney-tinted spectacles. They’re seen as that cute, naughty club who don’t play by the rules. However, they’re much more than that, and in many ways offer a blueprint which a club like Wrexham would do well to heed.

Simply aping another club would be madness. You can’t recreate the set of circumstances which brings a club with a certain je ne sais quoi into being. The St Pauli attitude was born from a close proximity to the Reeperbahn and accentuated by its association with the Hafenstrasse protests of the 1980s, when anarchists, punks and a wide range of liberal and left-wing thinkers occupied some houses which were scheduled for demolition and fostered a radical non-conformism which seeped into every corner of the suburb. That can’t be recreated. But some of the positive innovations that have developed from that certainly can.

Certainly, St Pauli the club and St Pauli the neighbourhood are indivisible. They share a common outlook on life and support each other. The club runs a project, set up by fans, which supports kids with problems in the area, for example.

The fans have real power at St Pauli too, so when the idea of the Millerntor ground being renamed was mooted by the club president, the idea was swiftly shot down. Are you starting to see why there are elements of Saint Pauli’s approach which appeal to me?

Another innovation at St Pauli is one which shows this is a club mature enough to break from the accepted, mindlessly unquestioned way of doing things, and is also able to have a clear view of what is actually important at the club. Fifteen minutes before kick-off at every home game, the PA system s switched off, not to come back on until the bells of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” toll the teams onto the pitch. The idea is that the fans then can have a quarter of an hour to sing, getting themselves ready for the game, and creating a proper atmosphere.

Can you imagine how blissful that would be? No inane chatter from pitch-side. No artificial attempts to whip us up into a frenzy. Just pure fan power. Anyone who has been through the New Wembley experience would surely prefer such a genuine atmosphere would be to the artificial racket generated by being told to make some noise for your team (do we have to be told to do that?) over blaring play-backs of the Black Eyed Peas and Status Quo.

One accidental but potentially beneficial side-effect of having such a clear identity is that St Pauli has become a brand. The skull and crossbones, apocryphally first hoisted at a match by a punk who, strolling through a fair to the ground, stole a children’s flag on the way, has become synonymous with the rebel state whose national team plays in the Bundesliga.

Clearly having such a clear identity, backed up consistently by the club’s actions, creates something you can sell. Not that St Pauli have been too successful in doing that. When they were on their uppers they sold away their merchandising rights for thirty years, a move which almost defies logic. After all, what club operates without being able to fully exploit its commercial potential? Which club would hobble itself in its ability to benefit from its own name? It’s like a club running its stock down in an embarrassingly empty club shop, isn’t it? And which club would do that?

Oh yeah.

We do have a brand though. We’re the only club of our scale in North- or Mid-Wales, a fact I notice Stephanie Booth has been quick to pick up on. Andy Gilpin wrote an excellent piece in the Daily Post a while back discussing how we ought to exploit the unique position this puts us in to become a genuinely inclusive community club with a wide-ranging remit.

I’ve grown up with stories of how the club treated local businesses badly, and heard more tales than you could imagine of disgruntled sponsors turning their backs on The Racecourse after being messed around. Well, a club run on decent principles and values, which treats people well, is the sort that creates loyalty. And when that loyalty is manifested in people being willing to sponsor the club, or fans proud enough to want a quarter of an hour before the game to create their own atmosphere, you know you’ve got a club to be proud of.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Trust The Trust

There’s not much point in writing this. By the time I’m half way through another fifteen consortia will no doubt have been announced as being in control of the day-to-day running the club, having preferred bidder status, or being about to lower the price of Yorkies in the snack bars.

It’d be a joke if it wasn’t so crushingly unfunny.
The least amusing part of it all is being taken for a ride like this. If the ongoing farce proves anything, it’s that only a fan-led movement could actually be trusted to have the interests of the club at heart. Ignore the bluster and positive sounds of businessmen; all they’re trying to do is win us over. There’ve been enough broken promises over the last few years to show that they mean nothing.
Perhaps it’s futile to support the WST. After all, it seems to me that Moss and Roberts would sell to Colonel Gaddafi before they sold to the fans, no matter how much they protest they want a fan-led consortium to take control in order to deflect attention elsewhere.

However, if something’s futile but morally correct, you should still do it. Don’t do what’s expedient; do what’s right. Take the course of action which, even if it’s doomed to failure, at least allows you to look in the mirror in the morning with your dignity intact and know that you did the right thing.

Never mind the divisive games which profiteers have played to dazzle and divide the supporters. They’re only acting in their own interests, looking to manipulate us to protect their profits. There’s only one group we know have only the best interests of Wrexham Football Club at heart. That’s the trust. Trust the trust.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Good Tolley

Have you noticed how unsung heroes don’t get much credit for what they do? Ain’t that something? Well, let me point you in the direction of someone who deserves a bit more credit than he perhaps gets.

I’m impressed with Jamie Tolley. I think he was an astute signing by Saunders, although at the time I must admit that I had my doubts.

The circumstances weren’t terribly auspicious. He arrived on trial in the Summer, didn’t look particularly fit, and after scoring a superb goal in our first pre-season friendly, at Vauxhall Motors, didn’t really catch the eye again.

However, he was given a contract, and I worried that Saunders might be falling into a familiar trap; one which has made a habit of catching a succession of Wrexham managers out in recent years. Basically, what happens is you see a player with a bit of quality, whose pedigree suggests he should be playing at a higher level, and you ignore the fact that he isn’t fit, blinded by the prospect of what he’ll be like when he actually does return to his best. The problem is, of course, that they rarely do rediscover their mojo. There might be the odd exception, I suppose, but there are many more gambles like that which don’t come off. Juan Ugarte anyone?

I was therefore rather bothered that Tolley might fit into this category. He looked a bit laboured in the middle of the pitch as he looked to get his condition back, and that great strike which was burned in all our minds was beginning to look a little bit like a fluke.

However, as he started getting games under his belt, he showed us a few things. Firstly, that goal wasn’t a one-off. He has chipped in with goals from midfield, including a screamer against Southport, and looks to have the technique to trouble goalkeepers from distance.

More encouraging though, is his ability to run beyond the strikers and get into goalscoring positions. He gets into the box well, and you suspect there are more goals in him as the season progresses. In that respect he reminds me of players like Terry McDermott or John Wark (showing my age here!), who often would be fairly peripheral in general play, but would consistently pop up in scoring positions.

Perhaps more crucially though, the amount of ground he covers in getting up and down the pitch these days shows that he has worked hard to attain peak fitness, and you certainly couldn’t fault his attitude as you might some players who’ve arrived in similar circumstances. (I can’t imagine why, but the words “Lamine Sakho” just drifted into my mind! Tolley’s scored five times more goals than he ever got in a Wrexham shirt already despite the fact that he plays in a deeper position!)

Furthermore, I think Tolley does an important job when we haven’t got the ball. Quite apart from his height, which is a useful asset in a physical league, we’ve shown an impressive ability to keep our defensive shape when we haven’t got the ball, and Tolley has often been part of our most determined rearguard action. He reminds me of what people used to say about Mel Sutton in that respect; he does a lot of the dirty work that people often don’t see, but team mates and managers appreciate.

The value his team mates put on him shouldn't be under-estimated either. I get the impression he's a genuine changing room character.

Now you might read all this and wonder why I’m praising someone who isn’t holding down a place in the first team. Fair enough, but I think that’s the main reason why I’m positive about him. We’ve seen already this season that Saunders has compiled a decent starting eleven, capable of sustaining a position near the top of the table. Now we’re seeing that he also has a good squad; there are back-up players at his disposal who, when injuries, suspension or loss of form kick in, are more than capable of stepping up to the play.

Teams like AFC Wimbledon are flying high, but they know their squads are thin and a congested fixture list could hurt them. whereas the cover we’ve got in most positions means we probably don’t have to fear that eventuality quite as much. The sound recruitment Saunders carried out in the Summer is now bearing fruit.

Wrexham FC v Eastbourne Borough FC Podacst

featuring Dean Saunders and Chris Maxwell

Wrexham FC v Eastbourne Borugh FC Audio Highlights

fweash10x.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A Call To Arms

My Leader column was online again yesterday (But the ancient photo they use of me's horrendous!) However, I had to edit it down as the original version was twice as long as it shpudl have been: here's the rest!

My appeal doesn’t limit itself to tomorrow. I hope we can get good crowds on Tuesday and next Saturday too. Part of my reasoning is that there’s no point making a big effort for one game and then putting the club back on the shelf. A club’s for life, not just for the weekend. I’m also looking at how the next week could pan out, and it could be pivotal to our season.

The next three games are absolutely massive. In fact, never mind the Crawley double-header or any of the other six-pointers we’ve played: I think the next week could go a long way to deciding our fate this season.

We’re in a six horse race for the five spots at the top of the table. Winning the league seems unlikely, although not impossible. Our first priority is to ensure we don’t end up being the one side which finishes six and misses out completely.

We find ourselves with three matches in a row at home, all against sides who are out of the running for promotion at best, staring relegation in the face at worst. None of them are easy games, but all are certainly winnable. Contrast this with what’s happening across the Blue Square Bet Premier at the same time. All five of our promotion rivals are playing three games in the same period, and all of them will, at some point, face at least one of the other contenders for a Football League spot. Indeed, Kidderminster play Luton, Crawley and Wimbledon this week! So the sides around us have got to drop some points over the next eight days. If we can make the most of our three matches, we will have either opened up a gap between us and sixth place or narrowed the gap to the top of the table. In an ideal world, we might have done both!

I’ve got a gut feeling that it’ll be the two sides in fifth and sixth that will suffer most this week. Kidderminster and Fleetwood have the toughest trio of games, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, after playing them, they still haven’t overtaken the fifty-nine points we currently hold. As we also have a game in hand on both sides, you can see how beneficial a good haul of points would be over the next week. It would leave Fleetwood and Kidderminster trailing in our wake, fighting over the final play-off spot, and we could stop having to look over our shoulders.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

We Should All Be Wombles

How wonderfully serendipitous that, when Wrexham FC stands at the crossroads. we should find ourselves going to AFC Wimbledon!

As Stephanie Booth makes encouraging noises about a community-led venture, we were offered a wonderful glimpse at how well such a venture can turn out.

First and foremost, AFC Wimbledon are tenants. But, unlike the norm in that situation, they appear from this distance to be welcome tenants. The relationship between them and Kingstonian seems to be mutually beneficial, and it's my understanding that, as the tenants' status has overtaken that of the landlords, they have gone out of their way to ensure the switch in status doesn't cause friction.

That sort of approach encapsulates what the club is about. By showing that sort of consideration, by being aware of the feelings of their neighbours, fans and business partners, they show themselves to be a proper, decent club run by proper, decent people. The sort of club that generates goodwill and positive PR naturally through its actions, rather than thinking that employing PR consultants and issuing rambling press statements means you'll make a positive impression.

The whole matchday experience at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday was a pleasant one, and not merely because we played so well. I'd say it's true in general that non-league clubs are more welcoming than those in the Football League; however, the high incidence of nice people I bumped into on Tuesday suggests there's something particularly good going on in that corner of Surrey!

From the friendly apprentices joking with me about my camera, through the highly attentive press officer who couldn't do enough to help, to the AFCW fans who applauded and laughed at Mathias Pogba's comical goal celebration when most fans would have hured abuse at him, this was a club packed with warmth and dignity.

A couple of particular incidents really stood out for me though. Mike T - website commentator, PA announcer and all-round top bloke - made an announcement in support of the Wrexham supporters at half time on behalf of the Dons Trust. It was a typical gesture from a big-hearted club. Most clubs are part of the same, tired old boys club and wouldn't dream of making such an announcement for fear of provoking an awkward atmosphere in the boardroom. The Wombles aren't constrained by such concerns though; they follow their consciences. Imagine how good it would feel to follow a club which not only says what you feel, but reflects your wishes in its every action.

The other example of Wimbledon's fundamental decency was a lot more mundane, but touching because of that. At half time there was a ceremony for a young Japanese lad who had contacted the club looking for a chance to develop his coaching skills. He was given that opportunity, but the time had come to say goodbye. The youth players formed a guard of honour for him and a genuinely touching ceremony unfolded in which he said his farewells, tears streaming down his face. When did you last go to a football match and feel the host club had enhanced someone's life? When did you last feel touched by a halftime presentation? Come on, when did you last see a guy on the pitch with a microphone during the break and not think"What a goon"? It was...and here's a word I don't think I've ever used before about something I've seen in a football stadium....lovely!

AFC Wimbledon are a template we should look to follow. They have engaged their fanbase, and as a result they get excellent crowds and support.

Obviously, they have been given a sense of purpose by the fact that there is a common enemy: the repellant MK Dons. But haven't Wrexham fans also got something pretty significant to share? Hasn't going through the trauma of the last seven years or so given us strength? The crowds which gathered at The Racecourse to watch the dross served up during our last season in the Football League suggest we already have a committed core of support. After all, if you subtract the away supporters our home crowds actually went up that season!

There are other examples from AFC Wimbledon that we could do well to follow; just have a look at the Dons Trust section of the club website to see an example of transparancy in action, for example. But in recognising the good in something, you should resist the temptation to mimic. Therein lies the path to failure. Instead, we should aspire to the values the Dons represent, and think of how we can also come to stand for them, in our own unique way.

I genuinely believe that there is something special about Wrexham Football Club, forged from being the one large club in North Wales and having gone through a painful process which has politicised us. I see this special quality in the support the club gets, the remarkably active and informed contribution of Red Passion, a remarkable resource which fans of much larger clubs would be jealous of, and in the pockets of superb work which fans have already done, such as with the programme team of the recent past.

Now's the time to crystallise those qualities. To make them integral to what our club stands for, not merely circumstantial pockets of excellence. To put our club at the heart of our community, and our community at the heart of our club.

And you know what? It doesn't matter how the events of the next few weeks go really. Olly Hides might comically try to push Stephanie Booth on BBC Wales about how all Wrexham fans want is to go up, and if she can't guarantee that then we'll revolt! Too few people from that body bother to pop up here to see what's actually going on; a lot of us would take a hit on the pitch in exchange for a club we can be proud of. After all, that's what happened to AFC Wimbledon, and they didn't turn out too badly, did they?

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