Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Poor Old Wrexham

So at least they have been put out of their misery. Wales' oldest surviving professional club have been relegated into the Conference, following Newport County who went awol twenty years ago.

So let the mud slinging begin. Who's fault is it? Dickens the Chairman? Brian Little the Manager? Complacent players sloshing around Chester's bars suuporting the rumoured piss-up culture at the club last season? I think the answer lies closer to home unfortunately.

Wrexham FC have just never had the support of the North Wales public. The front cover of the North Wales Daily Post led with Liverpool's draw last night, announcing Wrexham's demise as an afterthought. That just about tells you everything you need to know. Liverpool are the main side in North Wales, followed closely by Manchester United, Everton and even Manchester City. Wrexham might be looked on as a plucky second team, but they're not even that for most.

A lot of South Walians reading this will find it strange. If you're North-Walian, you must be a Wrexham fan they assume. I mean who else is there? Well there are lots of teams actually. And somebody from Holyhead or Bangor is generally no more likely to have a connection with Wrexham than Cardiff people are to follow Swansea. Indeed, if they want to follow a professional a Welsh team then they are more likely to look further afield to Cardiff.

So the average North Walian will be a fan of a big Lancastrian club. He may have a season ticket, or he may go to Anfield three times a year. Every other Saturday will probably be spent following his village side. His two sides are Liverpool and Ragged Arse Rovers. Wrexham don't really come into it.

I'll attempt a curious analogy. Take a theatre-goer from Anglesey. She loves the West End shows, and will often go to Llandudno Theatre for big opera productions, or performances of Oliver. She will also help run the local amateur dramatics society in Llangristiolus and will attend events in the Church Hall. But somehow, the performance of Siwan in Theatre Gwynedd this weekend won't be so attractive. It falls between two stools, just like Wrexham FC. It's neither part of her community, nor glamorous enough to warrant a bit of slap and a fur coat.

I fear for Wrexham, I really do. They have one chance. One season with an umbrella payment. But the Conference is a very strong league, and I'm not sure that Wrexham have the backing to compete. And that would be a disaster not just for Wrexham, or for North Wales, but for the whole of Welsh football. We will lose a respected academy, and a whole generation of young players will be lost.

Ironically, Wrexham Academy opened a new Development Centre in Bangor last week. It's another area where Wrexham are important. Thirty young lads are being introduced to good habits by good coaches early on in their career. This sort of work may carry on when they are in the Conference-North, but I honestly doubt it.

But all across North Wales now, people are talking about the big football story over their tea and biscuits. Some will be laughing and taking the piss. More will be defensive and proud. they can recover from this set back. But believe me it's the biggest topic of conversation all across Gwynedd, Conwy and Clwyd. What was Jon Arne Riise thinking of? Can Liverpool now get a result at Stamford Bridge? What's that you say? Wrexham? Who are dey?

And that's why Wrexham went down.

1 comment:

Gareth said...

I think there's a factor of the average WPL fan here as well. Down south in areas not far from Swansea, many people in areas like Port Talbot or Llanelli will support their local WPL club, as well as the Swans. There's a good relationship between the Clubs, going so far as to establish an official link.

Up here you hardly see anyone who supports Bangor and Wrexham, or Rhyl and Wrexham. It's always going to watch Bangor every Saturday, but a Liverpool, or Man Utd fan or whatever. Wrexham never comes into it. They are almost competitors, competing for the same supporters, rather than a natural feeder for the FL Clubs.