This Time It’s Serious!

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Alan Algar has written a typically authoritative preview of tomorrow’s game, in which he suggests that the play-off final hasn’t had an epic worthy of the occasion for some time. I’ve a funny feeling that Blue Square’s final match as sponsors of the Conference might give him the game he craves.

It would also be the game he and his company deserve. I’ve never seen such a symbiotic relationship between sponsor and tournament. Typically title sponsors simply tack their names onto tournaments, take the easy route and come up with cheap and nasty stunts to cash in. Budweiser parachuting the likes of Terry Venables, David Seaman and Claudio Caniggia into Wembley FC’s side was probably the nadir of the sort of tacky promotional racket sponsors often try to pull off: an attempt to cash in on the romance of the cup by cheapening it.

Blue Square have been the antithesis of that approach. Instead, they’ve supported and publicised the division relentlessly, always proactively. Their expertise in the game has complemented their efforts.

Algar has been the public face of these efforts, and has carried the task out sure-footedly. His informed, detailed appearances on TV have been a welcome antidote to the so-called experts rolled in front of the camera whose only qualification is a playing career. Not that all ex-players fit into that category, but it’s common to see so many of them earn money for old rope, turning up for a fixture between two sides they know nothing about and stating the blindingly obvious. The Conference has been very well served by genuinely analytical pundits like Alger and Stuart Hammonds.

But as I said, I feel he might get his wish of an epic send-off. Quite simply, Wrexham never seem to do anything the easy way. Maybe all fans feel this way about their club, but we never seem to stroll to our objectives. Instead, there are always unlikely twists and turns along the way. Surely, the last thing we should expect tomorrow is a drab affair.

It’s a strange feeling to be going to Wembley again, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say an anti-climax – that would be absurd – but it’s more a case of getting down to business rather than having a great day out.

Ironically the day of destiny will be played out before a considerably smaller crowd, of course. That’s necessitated by the short turnaround between semi-final and final, plus the fact that we were there five weeks ago.

Those who boosted the crowd because they recognised the club’s first trip to Wembley as a significant occasion have been stripped out of the equation, and the lack of time to build up enthusiasm has meant there’s been no scope to make this into a must-see event for floating fans.

Which makes no difference. This is not an “occasion”, it’s a huge match. We can claw our way back into the Football League on Sunday, and need to be focussed on achieving that, not excited at playing at football’s most evocative venue.

So while I loved seeing us play at the FA Trophy Final, and frankly appreciated the comparative lack of pressure it entailed, this is different. This is for real.

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