Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Manchester United, Chelsea it’s very exciting but spare a thought for Wrexham

Graham Fisher in Editorial 28 Apr 2008


As football supporters across the land celebrate promotion, suffer the agony of relegation or look forward to the unbearable torture of the play-offs, spare a thought for the fans of Wrexham.

OK, the football world might not take as much notice of the club from the Racecourse ground in North Wales as they do of Chelsea’s win over Manchester United or the midweek Champions League semi-finals, but for many thousands of fans, the bottom has fallen out for their footballing world.

After eighty-seven years as a football league club they have lost their fight to stay in League Two and face the prospect of at least one season in the Blue Square Premier League.

Now I have watched a few Blue Square games this season as I go to watch my local side Salisbury City. The standard and quality is good and the relative success of teams promoted from that league into League Two over the years shows that there is not much of a gap between the two.

However, visiting the likes of Histon, Lewes and indeed Salisbury City, won’t be filling the Wrexham supporters with any sort of joy.

Wrexham, as the oldest club in Wales and one of the oldest in the UK, have a long and proud history. Apart from a very brief stint in what is now the Championship, back in the seventies, Wrexham have drifted between Leagues One and Two for many years. Four promotions out of the bottom tier of professional football have been followed by eventual, almost inevitable, relegation.

Several Welsh cup wins saw Wrexham fight it out in Europe including one trip to the quarter-final of the Cup Winners Cup back in 1975 and defeat to Manchester United in 1990-91 who went on to win the trophy.

Most clubs and supporters have the suffered the ignominy of relegation at some point in their lives, but relegation out of the entire league is something so much more damaging and hurtful.

It is possible to bounce back quickly, but Oxford, Torquay and Rushden and Diamonds have shown that doing so is far from easy. Aldershot are returning to the league next season after an absence of some sixteen years since they folded and Accrington Stanley made their way back last season after spending forty-four years in the wilderness. Wrexham fans will be praying that their return is achieved a little quicker!

A look at the twelve teams relegated from League Two since 2000-01 shows that only three have bounced back into the league so far. Barnet, Shrewsbury and Carlisle. Barnet and Shrewsbury sit relatively comfortably in mid-table in League Two and Carlisle are remarkably looking for promotion to the Championship.

Of the other nine teams relegated, Boston are in the Blue Square Northern League and Halifax, Exeter, York, Kidderminster, Cambridge United, Oxford United, Rushden and Diamonds and Torquay are all still in the Blue Square Premier. Torquay, Cambridge and Exeter are likely to be involved in the play-off battle for one place back to League Two whereas Halifax are fighting against the drop out of that league.

So Wrexham fans can take heart from the fact that it is definitely possible to bounce back, but they may also be concerned by the small number of teams who do so.

The Blue Square Premier League has become the unofficial ‘League Three’, with most teams being full-time and partially or fully professional. There are a number of young up and coming players who get released by bigger clubs, older players who are coming to the end of their career and part-time players who have the ability to play at a higher level but could not earn as much from full-time football as they do from their current employment together with a part-time football wage.

Add to the mix a number of professional lower league players who are sent out on loan to get valuable competitive first team football and you have a league which is played at a very high standard. A league which has shown time and time again to be a match for League Two.

It is for these reasons that Wrexham will have their work cut out to bounce straight back next season. If they underestimate the likes of little Salisbury City they could be in for a very rude awakening. In manager Brian Little, who has signed a new contract, I think they have a man who won’t let that happen.

The Wrexham squad will be completely changed over the summer as it is probably the case that the current squad would not be good enough to challenge for promotion out of the Blue Square Premier. The Wrexham fans will have to show enormous loyalty, patience and support to the club in order for them to try to recover from this terrible blow.

It certainly won’t be easy for the club from North Wales, but if they show the right determination and bring in the right kind of players and keep the majority of their fan base, then there is no reason why they can’t bounce back in the way that Carlisle have so successfully done.

I wish them well and I hope they make it into the play-offs next season. Obviously Salisbury City will take the automatic promotion place!


Graham Fisher



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