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.
So Wrexham have a new man in situe in the manager’s office. It’ll be interesting to see how Kevin Wilkin fares in his first match.
Wilkin will be the twenty seventh person to take charge of the Wrexham team, although one man had two stints in the job, so tomorrow will be the twenty eighth time a new manager has taken charge. In general, first matches for a new boss have been all-or-nothing affairs, as only four of them have been drawn. Thirteen times a new Wrexham boss has emerged from his first game with a win, and ten times he has suffered an initial defeat.
Our last couple of managers have enjoyed immediate success, and away from home to boot. A last minute tap in by Jeff Louis earned a 3-2 win at Forest Green Rovers in Dean Saunders’ first game in charge, and Andy Morrell kicked things off with an emphatic 3-1win at Grimsby.
In fact, starting off on enemy territory hasn’t tended to be too much of a problem for fledgling Wrexham managers. Of the last nine managers to take charge for an away game for their first match, six have been victorious while only two lost. That unfortunate duo were Brian Carey, whose side took the lead through Marc Williams at Swindon but lost 2-1, and Brian Flynn, who saw his new team crash 3-0 at Hartlepool.
Flynn and Carey are the only ones of our last eight managers to taste defeat on their debut. Other notable victors include Denis Smith, who enjoyed a 1-0 win over QPR and Bobby Roberts, who saw his side win 2-1 at Cardiff thanks to goals from Ian Arkwright and Dixie McNeil.
McNeil himself came away from Bury with a 3-2 win in his first match as manager through Andy Edwards, Dave Gregory and Shaun Cunnington. Even the unhappy reign of Brian Little didn’t start off too badly as he switched to a three at the back formation and earned a 2-2 draw in a home derby against Chester.
Getting things right from the start can be a tricky business, of course. Poor old Billy Morris, the only man to have two spells in the Racecourse hot seat, obviously had two bites of the cherry, but lost both times, firstly going down to a 3-0 loss at Peterborough in 1960, then losing 3-2 at Stockport five years later.
Flynn’s defeat at Hartlepool matches the worst start made by a Wrexham manager, the other 3-0 loss coming at Southport in May 1949 under the leadership of Les McDowall. Ian Edwards’ opening goal of the match ended up being mere consolation to Mel Sutton as his first selection lost 3-1 at home to QPR.
On the other hand, there have been some crashing victories for a novice Wrexham boss. In 1932 Bernard Parden stepped up to the plate for his new boss scoring a hat trick to give Ernie Blackburn a 4-2 win at Rochdale in his first match in charge, but that’s not the best welcome gift a Wrexham player has given a new manager.
The task of impressing a new leader can inspire a player, and there’s no more obvious example of this than what happened in January 1966, Keith Webber, who had scored one in the previous ten games, hit a hat trick in Jack Rowley’s first game in charge to give him the best start a Wrexham manager has got off to, a 6-3 win over Barnsley. He continued in a similar vein though, hitting another hat trick in his next match, a 4-2 win at Stockport, and then scored two in Rowley’s third game in charge, a 3-1 win over Barrow.
Admittedly, Rowley’s luck broke then, his winning run halted by a 4-2 loss at Hartlepool. But guess who got one of Wrexham’s goals? Wilkin could do with breathing such life into one or two of his new charges tomorrow!