Leader Column: Wrexham on TV

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

Karlconnolly wimbledongoal
Karl Connolly: loved the cameras

A live game on TV for a club of Wrexham’s size is an event, a chance to grab the attention of a wider audience and, most crucially, a cult moment in the making.

We’ve had plenty of television exposure over the years, and there certainly have been some wonderfully memorable moments. Karl Connolly’s lofted goal over Wayne Brown to give Wrexham the lead in a televised derby at Chester is possibly my favourite. He added another eight minutes later, right on the break, as we romped to a very professional 2-0 win back in December 1997, earning us a third round trip to Premiership Wimbledon.

Of course, last year’s FA Trophy run offered up some iconic moments for the S4C cameras. Johnny Hunt’s winning penalty at Wembley is an obvious example, but Danny Wright and Adrian Cieslewicz each hit spectacular goals in the semi-final against Gainsborough Trinity.

Sometimes the memorable moment comes off the pitch. Our last televised game, at Barnet, cut to the changing rooms to offer a graphic insight as Steven Wright’s bloody injury was treated after he was attacked by Edgar Davids, and an early conference game, screened on the long-gone Setanta, saw an ill-advised pitchside interview with Jeff Louis, whose response to how he felt when he came off turned the air blue and would have sparked a storm of protest if anyone had actually been watching!

In the early days of satellite television, when audiences to subscription sports channels were limited, we had our moments although fewer people watched them compared to the audience we’ll attract to BT Sport on Monday. The earliest example I can find of such a match being covered is back in 1992, when our replay against West Ham United offered a small group of determined football fans the chance to pay to see Tim Breacker’s professional foul on Karl Connolly go scandalously unpunished, a decision which would drawn an admirably angry response from Des Lynam on Match of the Day later that night.

Wrexham fans are used to settling down in front of the box to watch a victory as our coverage was skewed by the Welsh Premier Cup. The BBC’s sponsorship of the competition meant we could regularly settle down through the 1990s and watch a half-strength Brian Flynn team put a League of Wales club to the sword!

There have been some grim TV days too, though. The day we went into administration, which with hindsight was the point when our spiral down into non-league became inevitable, was marked by a live FA Cup tie at Scunthorpe. The players, no doubt deflated by the news that a ten point deduction was now inevitable, surrendered lamely.

Another FA Cup defeat under Denis Smith sticks in the mind when it comes to traumatic televised experiences. The BBC arrived at Edgar Street hoping to see the tables turned on us as we visited Hereford United. They were in the Conference but we were a Football League club, and the clash of two historic giant-killers yielded the shock the TV executives were hoping for.

Frustratingly, we battered away at United’s defence but found their agile keeper Matt Baker unbeatable and a sloppy goal meant we went down to a 1-0 defeat. We would suffer further as a result of that match, as we signed Baker on the basis of that performance but he hardly turned out to be the match-winner he appeared to be in front of the television cameras!

For most of this club’s history terrific feats went unrecorded beyond the written word. Great goals, great saves, horrible blunders and amazing moments all disappeared into the past, remembered only by those who saw them. Today’s generation of players are lucky:  Monday’s game is a chance for a Wrexham player to do something which will be remembered through the ages.

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