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.
In terms of the glamour of drawing Premiership team, coming up against Stoke’s terrific; in terms of drawing a side we’ve enjoyed playing in the past, it’s horrific! Our record against The Potters is shocking. Maybe something’s got to give?
There’s little that needs to be said about our record against Stoke beyond the facts. We’ve played them sixteen times and lost fifteen. However, it should be pointed out that the one time we avoided defeat against them was a spectacular victory at The Britannia Stadium.
It was a third division game in February 1999. We arrived unbeaten in six games, having won five of them, and started full of confidence. Just eight minutes in Mark McGregor opened the scoring and after the break we took complete control of the game. Goals from Gareth Owen and Karl Connolly took us into a 3-0 lead by the time we reached the midway point in the second half, and a late strike from Larus Sigurdsson was a mere consolation.
Since then we’ve played them six times, and obviously we’ve come out of each match empty handed. Our most recent clashes were during the 2000-1 season, when we were beaten 1-0 both home and away.
The sides first met back in the 1926-7 season, when we were both in the Third Division North. We did rather better at the Victoria Ground than we did at The Racecourse as a 2-0 away loss was followed up by a 6-2 home loss, Cecil Smith getting both Wrexham’s goals.
That remains our heaviest loss against The Potters. The worst defeat we’ve suffered on their turf was a 3-0 loss in December 1978. Garth Crooks helped himself to a couple of goals either side of half time and the scoring was rounded off with a quarter of an hour to go when John Roberts scored an own goal.
We have met in the FA Cup before, and in the third round too, back in January 1953. A terrific crowd of 36,636 was in attendance and Wrexham did themselves proud. First Division Stoke weren’t having the happiest of seasons and Tommy Tilston’s goal merely added to their nervousness, but goals from Bill Finney and Don Whiston saw them through 2-1.
The clubs were united in tragedy later that year when John Kirkby, an American who had become Stoke’s first overseas player when he made his sole appearance for The Potters in 1949, collapsed and died while playing for Wrexham Reserves in August.
As you might imagine considering the one-sided nature of the fixture, Wrexham players have hardly covered themselves with glory against The Potters. The fact that we’ve only scored ten goals past them, while conceding thirty two, clearly indicates that no Wrexham player has made his name by thrashing goals past City’s goalkeeper! In fact, apart from Smith only one Dragon has managed to score against Stoke on more than one occasion: Darren Ferguson, who got consolation penalties in both home and away league clashes in the 2000-1 season.