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.
Our homegrown talent has been attracting plenty of interest lately, but it’s an unassuming young man sneaking up on the blind side who has caught my eye.
Kyle Parle’s two appearances in the first team this season have shown that he has the potential to make a mark. In fact, all four of his games at that level, spread over three years, have shown signs that he might just have something.
He made his debut on the day we beat Brentford in the FA Cup, but not in London. It’s perhaps appropriate that a development undertaken away from the limelight took place in a Welsh Cup tie against Airbus which we had to play on the same day as we pulled off a notable cup shock.
He remains the eighth youngest player to appear for us as a result of that debut, but hasn’t had the same fanfare as Robbie Evans, even though he’s a good hundred and one days older than the midfielder who also made his debut in that match!
Parle did well in that game, and excelled soon afterwards when he was given a start in an FA Trophy tie against Hinckley. However, he then disappeared from the first team scene until he was pressed into action in the same competition this season, forced to come on when Mark Creighton’s battle against injury finally ended, and putting in a man of the match performance against Gresley.
It was his unexpected league debut against Aldershot that really confirmed his promise though. I particularly liked how he handled being pulled into a bit of a soap opera as the game wore on. Hurled on as an unscheduled substitute again, he found himself up against Jordan Roberts, a trickily threatening left winger.
Roberts would soon make himself known to the Mold Road Stand, but I’d had my card marked when the two sides met at The Recreation Ground earlier this season. On that occasion he’d come on as a second half substitute and given Steve Tomassen a hard time. It looked to me like he was one of those chippy characters who liked to indulge in a bit of sledging when the ball wasn’t around. He was clearly looking to get under Tomassen’s skin and the verbals were accompanied by a rather sneaky slap across the face which the referee failed to spot.
It looked to me like the tactic worked as Tomassen, who it shouldn’t be forgotten had a steady start to the season at right back while other areas of the side were malfunctioning badly, had a rough ride and was caught out when Roberts got the decisive second goal. From the side of the pitch it looked to me like Roberts had successfully managed to make the full back play the situation more than the ball.
So, the thought of Roberts digging his fangs into Parle filled me with concern. The youngster’s first couple of encounters with him didn’t go too well, with Roberts looking too strong for him, but then things changed. Parle settled in and Roberts made a pantomime villain of himself.
To be fair to the Aldershot man, the incident which turned the crowd against him had two sides to it. He was on the receiving end of a lunge from Rob Ogleby which didn’t look too clever. It resulted in a yellow card for the striker and from my distant vantage point I thought the ref might have considered a more stern sanction. However, the scream Roberts let out, audible from the other side of the pitch, suggested to me that the challenge might not have been as bad as it looked. In my experience players don’t scream when they’ve been hit by a bad tackle; they scream when they see one coming, hop out of the way and then try to draw the referee’s opinion to it. That’s certainly the view the denizens of the Mold Road took, and when Roberts recovered with miraculous alacrity it looked like they, and the ref, had called the situation right.
From then on, of course, Roberts was booed relentlessly. I never like to see this: my Dad always warned me that booing a player might bring out the best in him. In such situations I think back to 1993 and a League Cup tie with Nottingham Forest, who in those days were genuinely as good as West Ham made them look last week. They’d just bought Stan Collymore for a huge fee and he was suffering a poor start to his time at The City Ground, arriving at The Racecourse yet to score that season.
The Wrexham fans gleefully serenaded him with “What a waste of money”. They stubbornly kept singing it at his every touch, right up to the point where he completed his hat trick. It stopped then.
Roberts looked like he might be lifted by the crowd’s venom. However, Parle, his surprise at being called upon shaken off, also seemed to be inspired by their input. He was at the centre of the most highly scrutinised duel of the match, and his exposure to Roberts’ threat was accentuated by the fact that Wrexham’s 4-3-3 tends to leave our full backs exposed. His response was to keep Roberts safely in his pocket, to the extent that the winger was substituted as Aldershot looked to make inroads on our defence.
If Parle can continue to stand up to scrutiny like this, the quiet man might just become a big character at the back for us.