Saturday, 22 January 2011

Friday, 14 January 2011

Following York's Disturbing Example

The names on the bricks are still there, stretching down the Mold Road. Sadly, while fans cling to the notion that their club is part of the local community, and a fitting repository for family memories, the sad truth is that the current generation of club owners just don't see it that way.

We aren't the first set of fans to fear for the future, and we won't be the last by a long chalk.

There's been plenty of comment on how our position is similar to Mansfield's, as they suffer the consequences of renting their ground. Fair point, but to me the scenario which I fear we might stumble into is that which befell York City at the turn of the Millenium.

It was a tale explained with typical clarity by David Conn in his book "The Beautiful Game?" York's owner and chairman, Douglas Craig, had been in charge for twenty years, and although there were the usual gripes about the chairman not putting his hand in his pocket enough, and an inability to warm to him as a person (he was a rather uncommunicative, cold and autocratic character) there was no sense that he'd be someone to sell the club down the river. He had bought the club from a chairman who, in the great Football League tradition, hadn't run the club for himself, and he was thought to be cut from the same cloth.

However, he began to object to criticism from the fans. Clearly he was closely reading the internet forums and taking exception to what he saw, speaking of "the foul-mouthed few and the media-obsessed people, who also appear to have nothing else to do except play with the new toy called the internet".

In 1999 he transferred the ground to a holding company, for the long term good of the club, he claimed. Uniquely, his justification was that he wished to avoid FA Rule 34, still in existence, which says that if a club is liquidated its assets are passed to the FA, who will redistribute them to a local charity or sport. In reality, quite obviously, he'd opened up the possibility to liquidate the club but keep Bootham Crescent in his possession to sell for himself.

The accounts hardly offered much of a defence against the charge that Craig was running the club into the ground. Before the creation of the holding company, York had been run very carefully; the fans' frustration had been at a lack of extravagance on Craig's part. Suddenly, their wage bill rocketed. It reached 151% of the club's income; Deloitte & Touche described their situation as "one of the worst in the history of British football."

Next Craig announced he'd kick the club out of its ground, which he'd paid £165,000 for. If any new owner of the club wished to buy Bootham Crescent back it'd cost them £4.5 million! The four majot shareholders, Craig included, had paid less than £200,000 between them for their 94% stake in the club. Not bad business!

Members of York's supporters trust often met Craig to try and talk him round. They reported back on strange conversations: Craig clearly, somewhere deep inside, had a love of the club, and would talk wistfully of its past or discuss the prospects of a promising youngster. Yet he wouldn't budge from his plan and spoke of it as "payback time".

This is what scares me. I've plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest Geoff Moss has a long-standing commitment Wrexham Football Club, much from personal experience. I've always found him, when speaking to him, to be interested in the players, the ins and outs of its daily running, and particularly the success of the youth policy. He just doesn't fit the profile of someone looking to run us into the ground. Yet people hit tipping points, change their minds, decide the possibility of making money for the family outweighs other factors.

I really don't know what's going on at the Racecourse. I do know that recent developments are very hard to see in a positive light for the club.

Yes, York City are still with us, but have they recovered from the traumas Craig put them through? And can we, still wounded from the days of Hamilton and Guterman, expect to emerge unscathed if we go through another life-threatening experience?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Everything's Going Egg-Shaped

I'm not going to go into the details of what's going on at The Racecourse at the moment: the previous links on this blog do that perfectly well.
What I can do is express horror at the thought that a parasitic rugby league franchise dumped onto our club, dangerously entwined with ours and deposited into our ground, could now drag us under.
I recall the concern I felt at the first fans' Q&A held to discuss the arrival of the Crusaders.
To be honest, my experience that night put me off attending any more. The answers were utterly unacceptable. A merger of the two clubs was essentially admitted to, no transparancy about how their finances would be divided was offered, just a vague promise that Wrexham FC would be seen right, and we were told the brilliant marketing genuises of the Crusaders would bring the cash pouring in.
That would be the geniuses who engineered the financial disaster which necessitated their flight from South Wales and would lead to administration, a state they bought themselves out of by securing their future against our assets! For asking questions about these issues I was rounded on as being one of those negative people who stops the club from moving forwards. Well, I prefer my vision of how the club should move forward, as a sustainable club at whatever level that realistically puts us, than the future our mickey-mouse-sport-playing chums are propelling us towards.
I'm sure I'm just being pathetically negative though. After all, what have we to worry about? Why would securing the future of a basketcase rugby club which has just crawled its way out of near-bankruptcy with our home worry me?

The Fight For Wrexham Football Club Continues « Twohundredpercent

The Fight For Wrexham Football Club Continues « Twohundredpercent

Wrexham Supporters Prepare To Man The Barricades Again « Twohundredpercent

Wrexham Supporters Prepare To Man The Barricades Again « Twohundredpercent

Friday, 7 January 2011

Wrexham FC v Bath City FC Video Tactical Report

YouTube - Bath Tactical Report

Is Maxwell The Greatest?

Chris Maxwell plays his fiftieth game for Wrexham tomorrow, and in doing so highlights a remarkable achievement.

On the statistical section of I've got a record of the most efficient goalkeepers in the club's history, sorted by how often they concede goals. In order to ensure the figures aren't corrupted by keepers who made just a handful of appearances, I set the cut-off point at fifty games, so Maxwell becomes eligible tomorrow, and goes straight to the top of the list!
In fact, in terms of the frequency of goals past him, he's comfortably the best goalie in Wrexham's history, a decent amount ahead of the only other man to have conceded goals at a rate fewer than one per game, Andy Dibble!

It's a terrific achievement, but statistics always need context; what do the figures really tell us?

Well, obviously Maxwell is playing at a lower level than any keeper since Wrexham entered the Football League in 1921, so what does that tell us? Well, it means that the table doesn't prove he's the best keeper in our history; Dai Davies, for example, is third on the list and played all his Wrexham career three divisions higher. Clearly he faced a better quality of opponent.

However, Maxwell has certainly been the most successful keeper we've ever had in the context of the level we're playing at. Okay, he should be facing poorer strikers, but by the same logic he ought to have worse defenders in front of him.

Of course, that's another point; this is a record which is shared by the whole defensive unit. Dean Saunders has consistently built sides that don't concede goals, and Maxwell has benefited from that. However, he shouldn't be painted as the fortunate beneficiary of a solid back four; the other keepers we've had at The Racecourse during Saunders' time here have worse ratios of goals per minute. As I've previously mentioned, Scott Shearer conceded at double the rate Maxwell has done this season. If you really want to take liberties with statistics (go on, indulge yourself-every TV commentator does!) then Maxwell hasn't let a goal in since November!

So massive credit goes to Maxwell. Where he lies in terms of talent compared to his predecessors is an open subject for debate, but one thing is certain. No Wrexham fans have ever watched a more successful keeper.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

YouTube - Wrexham 2 Bath City 0

YouTube - Wrexham 2 Bath City 0

Is Saunders The Mainz Man?

Raphael Honigstein's consistently fascinating Guardian column on the Bundesliga recently offered a pen picture of Mainz's intriguing coach, Thomas Tuchel. It got me mulling over what is required to succeed in football, and what it told us about our very own manager

At first glance there's little comparison between Tuchel and Dean Saunders. Their backgrounds appear completely different; a well-decorated international who spent his playing career at some of the top clubs in Europe against a modest player forced to retire at 24.

Yet Tuchel's endearingly humble approach to earning his coaching spurs is more similar to Saunders' path to The Racecourse than you might think. Humility is, admittedly, not something Saunders has been regularly accused of, particularly in the first year or so of his time as Wrexham boss, but he also paid his dues, working under Graeme Souness and John Toshack, and certainly developed a constant system of play.

One possible difference, although I'd have to have a more intimate knowledge of Tuchel's apprenticeship to know for certain, is that Saunders has had to deviate from his theory. He arrived at Wrexham with a similar approach to Tuchel, valuing the technical abilities and superior physical attributes that youthful Premiership loans and cast-offs could offer. At least, that was the plan, but as they were raw talents, some of whom would not blossom, Saunders found that, like the kids he brought in, the idea didn't have legs in the long term.

Perhaps Tuchel hit that wall and had to adjust his plans. Maybe the fact that he's working with higher quality players means he never did. However, it was certainly a wall Saunders hit. To his credit, he learned from the disappointment and recovered from the poor fare his side subsequently put out for the closing couple of months of his initial season and the whole of the 2009-10 season.

With hindsight, the foundations of Saunders' new philosophy were laid last season, although it wasn't really discernible at the time. The sound defensive foundations he laid were reassembled when last season's record-breaking defence was dispersed, but it was no longer based on such ferocious pressing. Wrexham certainly still work hard when they don't have the ball, but their defensive shape is the real key. When we lose the ball we drop into position superbly.

It's very hard to find the space to break a disciplined rearguard and the idea is that with three attack players still poised to capitalise when we get possession back, we are able to break with speed, Mainz style.

Of course, that's where the plan has broken down rather. Adrian Cieslweicz's first run in the team this season is surely an attempt to inject pace into the side, and we have been counter-attacking more effectively as a result. However, the Altrincham match showed that, although we're very hard to beat and are likely to take points off the teams at the top of the table, we also find it hard to cut loose against sides we would hope to thrash.

There are two possible solutions: either we'll find new thrust when Saunders pairs the pace of the returning Andy Mangan with Cieslewicz for the first time; or a new man will breathe life into the attack.

If neither of those possibilities occur, Saunders might find his fate at the end of the campaign is the same as that which awaits Tuchel: having made a big stride forward, he'll have fallen short of the tantalising dream which dangled just beyond his reach for the first half of the season.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Spreading The Wealth

Last season we couldn't score for the life of us. Now we're hitting the net regularly enough: the Altrincham game was only the second away game this season in which we didn't score. The problem is that, while we're getting goals from midfield now-something which simply wasn't happening last season-we don't have a striker leading the way and getting into double figures.

That fact is illustrated by the graphic to the left. It shows where each goal has come from this season. As you can see, we're getting plenty from the middle of the pitch. Indeed, the thirteen goals we've had from midfield so far is a vast improvement on last season, when we managed just five goals in the whole campaign from the centre of midfield.

Mind you, we might want to look at our effectiveness from set pieces. We got seven goals from our defenders last season, but this time round we only have two strikes from Marvin Andrews to show despite the fact that we've got more height to throw forward for dead ball plays now.

Still, the main issue is up front. We need someone to hit the net more regularly. If we can find a player capable of doing that, and keep the goals coming from midfield, our play-off hopes would rise dramatically.

Wrexham FC v Altrincham FC Tactical Report


Time To Savour A Rapidly-Maturing Cheese

Adrian Cieslewicz has only started our last two games this season yet he looks as likely a catalyst for a push into the play-offs as we've got. Whether that illustrates that you have to be patient as young players develops, or just shows how desperate we are for a bit of attacking spark is a moot point.

There's no doubt that the pace of Cieslewicz got us off our seats against Kidderminster and Altrincham. He's always possessed that attribute, of course, but seems to be more able to utilise it effectively now.

A number of fans at the end of last season were sceptical as to whether he'd ever do that, but I feel that in thinking that they forgot that he was still very young. After all, he was just seventeen when he signed for us, although his lively form in pre-season friendlies after his arrival probably built up too much expectation too soon. As a result he was straight into the first team, and when he struggled to replicate that form he dropped out of contention and many began to draw negative conclusions about his potential.

That was unfair. Admittedly, he still might not fulfil his potential. Plenty of pacy youngsters are exposed when, once their formative years are passed, it becomes apparent that speed is all they've got. Perhaps that will be the case with Cieslewicz, but I hope not. So far this season, in his substitute appearances as well as his recent starts, he has shown that there's starting to be a bit more end product to his thrilling runs. For evidence, have a look at how well he took play from the defensive to attacking phases in my tactical video review of the Kidderminster match.

He showed signs of doing so in those pre-season matches the Summer before last; his danger lay not solely in his pace but in the way he and Marc Williams dove-tailed neatly, their movement creating space for each other. In those games Cieslewicz was used as a right winger, while Williams was a striker, but they have a history of combined successfully in other positions too; by some distance Cieslewicz's best performance of last season came when he and Williams were paired up front against Kidderminster.

As one might argue that his other outstanding performance for us came in the F.A. Trophy tie against Kidderminster last month (poor old Kiddy-he must have something against them!) when he and Williams were each given their first starts of the season, there seems to be a pattern forming. There's every chance, having seen how drained both Gareth Taylor and Andy Morrell looked yesterday, that a Williams and Cieslewicz will start up front against Bath, with Mathias Pogba the third man up front. Could it be that the Williams-Cieslewicz double act will give Saunders something to chew over before he dives into the transfer market?

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