Rough guide to
About this rough guide
How our predictions went
Rough guide to...Wrexham
8 July 2003
Relationship with Division Two
Wrexham will be in Division Two next season courtesy of promotion, but they already know it like the back of their hand: for most of the 90s they were a consistent upper-second team, and missed out on the play-offs by a whisker a couple of times. They should be kick-your-shoes-off and scratch-yourself comfortable here.
Wrexham isn't perhaps a name that springs to mind when talking about European competitions, but they actually knocked Porto out of Europe in 1984, and can also brag about victories over Hadjuk Split and Anderlecht. Some lucky fans will be able to show you programmes from the Real Zaragoza and Roma matches too. Heady days. But let's not forget some great cup runs, sweeping aside the likes of Arsenal, West Ham and Middlesbrough. Only Chesterfield stopped them getting to the FA Cup semi-final in '96-97 (see below).
As one would expect, Chester and Shrewsbury get the jibes for reasons of geography, but there seem to be a lot of other grudges bubbling under: a brief chat with only two Wrexham fans revealed grievances with Tranmere, Cardiff, Swansea, Port Vale, Crewe, Chesterfield and Northampton. Don't spill this club's pint or look at it in a funny way.
Man City spotters will recognise the names of Andy 'Officer' Dibble and Jim Whitley; while those with a penchant for Manchester's red side might want to ask midfielder Darren Ferguson if he can get his Dad's autograph. Last season's 35-goal hero Andy Morrell went on a free to Coventry this summer, and his strike partner Lee Trundle is trundling down to Swansea as I write; but second division defenders' sighs of relief turned to screams of abject terror when they were replaced by ex-Spur old boy Chris Armstrong and Chris Llewellyn from Norwich. And let's not forget right winger Carlos Edwards, who will complete a very dangerous goalscoring triumvirate.
Points of interest: Shaun Cunnington has been both a Mariner and a Dragon; and Terry Cooke was once on loan at the Racecourse Ground, where the fans found him to be "a bit of a waster". When he left, a national football magazine ran an interview with him, in which he got all sulky about the fans' anti-English chanting.
One of Wrexham's defenders is Brian Carey. Didn't he used to be Archbishop of Canterbury?
Wrexham AFC - like Grimsby Town - was formed in the 1870s by a bunch of bored cricketers down the local boozer. Looking for an excuse to get together and drink beer in winter, they unanimously decided to form a football club. A mere six weeks later, they trounced Grove Park School 2-0 in a 12-a-side game. A school? They played against a school? The big bullies.
Wrexham fans are - as Terry Cooke will testify - very proud of their Welshness. The club has two nicknames: the Robins and the Red Dragons, of which the latter seems to be more popular. Chants you might hear at the Racecourse include 'Men Of Harlech', the old favourite 'Oh fluffy sheep', 'Same old England - always cheating', and perhaps their finest work to date 'We'll never be mastered, by no English bastard'.
As with so many other second division sides, the accounts department has a big say in how the club is run. Having said that, last time the Mariners played at the Racecourse, one side of the pitch was a boarded-off building site and the disabled supporters sat in the rain, dangerously close to the touchline. Since then, the shiny new 3,500-seater Price Griffiths stand has been completed, with bars, executive boxes and disabled facilities - and very nice it looks too. Maybe they're not as skint as they make out, eh...
Of the management, there has been a fairly recent change, Brian Flynn and Kevin Reeves having resigned in September 2002 after a successful 12 seasons in charge. Denis Smith became the new man in charge, bringing with him a wealth of experience from managing York, Sunderland, West Brom, Oxford and Bristol City. He's done pretty well so far - no doubt fans will be expecting more of the same.
In 1877, Wrexham became the first ever winners of the Welsh Cup, and gone on to bag said trophy a record 23 times. Let's not forget that Tranmere won it once though, eh.
Moving on to the 20th century, then, and the football was free and easy during the second world war - like sex in the 1960s. Players used to turn out for a club if they just happened to be stationed nearby, or just passing through the area. And in the 1943-44 season, one such 'guest' player for Grimsby was Peter Baines of Wrexham FC, who has the honour of being the first black footballer to appear for the Mariners. Later, in 1956-57, Manchester United's Busby Babes visited the Racecourse, drawing a record crowd of 34,445, which still stands today. That's the record which is still standing, not the crowd. Then in 1962 Wrexham beat Hartlepool 10-1, with three different players grabbing hat-tricks.
Key item of trivia in modern times is, as ever, the club's celebrity fan - namely Tim Vincent, he of Blue Peter and Emmerdale fame.
How will they do?
Against Grimsby, things could barely be closer: 46 meetings have given Wrexham 17 wins and Town 18. Record wins stand at 5-0 and 5-1 respectively, and the two teams have scored exactly the same number of times - 55 - in the other's net. It could be close.
As for the Red Dragons' chances in the division: at the end of the promotion season, they won eight league games in a row. Many fans are expecting the team to pick up where it left off, and are hoping for at least upper mid-table. One fan thinks: "I expect us to do well but I think our squad will not be strong enough to maintain a play-off place." This was before the signings of Armstrong and Llewellyn, however, and I'm sure he'd now change his tune. I'm going to say second.
Red Passion is an excellent and comprehensive independent site, based on a brilliant but sadly now defunct fanzine. 1-0 to the Sheepshaggers - their words, not mine - is worthy of a mention alone for the wonderful page containing a potted history of the song 'Men Of Harlech' and its adoption by Wrexham supporters. Finally, if you can't be arsed travelling to north Wales, the website of Wrexham County Borough Council has a virtual tour of the town you can take from the comfort of your computer desk.