Growing up supporting my local football team Wrexham has taught me two things. The first was how to cope with disappointment and loss!
Regular trips to the Racecourse Ground was great education in a period of time where I witnessed Wrexham slip down from the old Division 2 (League 1 these days) to Division 3 in 2005, before dropping out of the Football League into the Conference in 2008 with a big thanks to one Mr. Alex Hamilton.
Saying that, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I experienced plenty of special days at the Racecourse. An historic 2-1 win over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup and an epic 5-3 victory over Oxford United in the league were memorable highlights.
And who can forget the big final at the Millennium Stadium? After a goalless 90 minutes, a cheeky header by Spaniard Juan Ugarte and Darren Ferguson’s left foot was enough to bring the LDV Vans trophy on the bus back up the A49.
But in 2008 Wrexham found themselves in the lowest position they had been in since being elected to join the football league in 1921. The reds had hit rock bottom, which meant only one thing – ‘the only way was up!’ Although my expectations were high it took two poor seasons in the Conference before Wrexham showed any real intention to compete for promotion.
For the last three years Wrexham have been one of the front runners. It was Crawley Town that took the title in 2010/11 with their heavy pockets leaving the Dragons in 4th place and into the play-offs. The excitement didn’t last too long as Luton scored three early goals in the first half of the first tie to shatter any hopes of escaping the Conference.
Fleetwood were the money club last year, and Wrexham’s impressive 98 points surely would’ve been enough to secure the title any other year. Despite that they ended up in second place behind the Cod Army and once again qualified for the play-offs to face Luton for the second year running. And although Luton had finished the season in 6th place, 17 points short of the Dragons, Wrexham fell at the final hurdle once again and lost 3-2 on aggregate.
So this year is our year. Third time lucky they say, so this season Wrexham can go one step further than the play-offs to be crowned champions of the Blue Square Premier. No English club will waltz over the border with clinking pockets to steal the title from under the Dragons’ noses this year.
No, it’s not an English club that worries us these days, but the new enemy from the depths of Gwent! There’s a fresh competition in the shape of Newport County and the wind is beneath their wings and they’ve flown out of the blocks this year.
Newport were very keen to welcome new chairman Lee Scadding to the club in July. Who better to lead the club than a local man and a life-long supporter (did I not mention that he won £45 million in the EuroMillions back in November 2009?!) With this influx of money invested into the club it’s no surprise that Newport are sitting nicely on top of the Blue Square with 33 points out of 16 games.
But don’t worry too much my fellow Dragons because Wrexham are tight at their heels, only 4 points adrift with a game in hand. Wrexham’s two month unbeaten run came to an end in their last league match against Lincoln City. Meanwhile Newport are going through a rough spell only taking 2 points out of their last 4 matches.
Wrexham can look back and proudly say that Newport have never managed to beat them in past meetings, but looking back rather than looking forward might have played a big part in Wrexham’s downfall.
By concentrating on the present you can see that Newport’s top scorer Aaron O’Connor’s 12 goals is much more impressive than Danny Wright’s 4 for the reds. You can’t help but worry that next time around, Newport are going to be a much trickier opponent to beat.
Yes, it’s going to be a tough battle for Wrexham yet again this year, but there’s nothing better than some healthy competition from our neighbours down south! Third time lucky I said, but who knows who will be celebrating come May… we’ll have to wait and see!
On this day in 1900 one of the biggest characters in football made his debut for Wales.