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.
With one hundred and fifty years to look back on, there’s plenty of evidence when selecting Wrexham’s greatest ever eleven. Plumping for an eleven based on their achievements for the club meant a lot of head scratching as there are a lot of players who have stacked up some impressive statistics in a red shirt.
In goal is a player who is still at the start of his career. Chris Maxwell has a better ratio of goals conceded per match than any other goalkeeper in the club’s history, ahead of his regular rival for the keeper’s jersey, Joslain Mayebi, Andy Dibble and Dai Davies.
There’s an experienced look to the back four. In fact, they fill places two to five in the list of players who have made the most appearances for the club!
My right back is rugged Scottish defender Aly McGowan, who made four hundred and seventy-eight appearances for us in the 1950s and 1960s.
The left back is more recent: Phil Hardy played four hundred and eight five matches in a Wrexham shirt. These were proper defenders: 963 nine hundred and sixty three games and just three goals between them!
The centre backs are Gareth Davies and Alf Jones. Davies played six hundred and twelve times for Wrexham, the second most for the club, accumulating a number of medals and international caps along the way.
Jones, known as “Our Alf”, was a phenomenon between the wars, making five hundred and seventy-five appearances, including a run of two hundred and thirty-six consecutive matches between 1930 and 1935.
Arfon Griffiths simply had to take one of the positions in midfield. He made more appearances than any other Wrexham player – indeed, nobody even gets within a hundred games of him – and scored the second highest amount of goals. He can be player-manager too as it was in that capacity that he steered us to our greatest ever season.
He is joined by the man who succeeded him as manager. Only six players have started more games for Wrexham than Mel Sutton and he appeared in all the key matches of our golden era, as well as helping us to promotion in 1978. He perhaps didn’t get enough credit for his hard work but look back at the footage of that great team. He was constantly the man who gave the ball to the man who fed in the killer ball.
On the right is Flint boy Ron Hewitt, who scored a hundred and eleven goals from inside-right and played for Wales in the the 1958 World Cup quarter-final. On the left is Billy Tunnicliffe, a winger who still managed to get into a scoring position often enough to be Wrexham’s tenth highest all-time scorer with ninety goals, and take fourteenth place in the strike rate list.
In attack is another inevitable selection. Tommy Bamford’s phenomenal feats dominate the club’s scoring records. Not only did he score far more goals for the club than anyone else, but he averaged more per game than any other player. His two hundred and seven strikes, sixty-five more than second placed Arfon Griffiths, were scored in just two hundred and forty-six games at a strike rate of one every 1.19 matches! He also scored more hat tricks than anyone else, scored more in a season than anyone else, and lots more beside!
Alongside him is Gary Bennett who scored every 1.54 matches, bettered only by Bamford, and stands in fifth place in the list of all-time scorers. Quite apart from that, he’d be my penalty taker as he could usually be relied on to keep his cool from the spot and had a habit of scoring on the big occasion too: He got the winning goals in our triumphant last Welsh Cup Final and also got the two goals which earned us promotion in 1993.
For my substitute I’ve decided I want a striker who can change the game if I need him to. My choice is Jack Boothway, who after the Second World War scored sixty seven goals at an impressive rate of 1.67 goals per match.
I’m sure you’d agree those are some pretty impressive achievements. You’d expect 150 years of history to yield a good team, and I’d back this one to take on anyone!