What Mark Hughes Needs to Know To Beat Wrexham FC

Mark-HughesThe following is an open letter to my good friend*, Stoke City manager Mark Hughes before the FA Cup tie tomorrow.

Hi Mark,

How’s things? I hate to be a turncoat, but I feel there’s something you need to know about tomorrow’s game, and if you follow my advice it’ll all turn out just fine.

There are three things you need to know: firstly, trust your scouts. This is particularly true if they went to see the game against Dartford. They’ll have seen a lifeless, sloppy performance as Wrexham capitulated against a side in awful form away from home. Trust your scouts’ report from that game: that’s as good as Wrexham get. Ignore any other evidence, and perhaps get the DVD of the match and show it to your team tomorrow morning. That’ll really gee them up and get them to focus on the job in hand, I promise you.

Secondly, follow the example set by your old mate Bryan Robson. He has managerial experience of an FA Cup tie against Wrexham, so he’s the best qualified person to help you out.

He took Middlesbrough to The Racecourse in 1999 and his approach was clear: why bother scouting when you are so clearly superior to the opposition? He knew that there was no point in looking for Wrexham’s strengths and weaknesses because they weren’t fit to be on the same pitch as his side.

Why bother finding that all season Third Division sides had been exploiting the lack of height and command of Wrexham keeper Kevin Dearden? Why instruct Christian Ziege, who had as good a left foot as anyone in the world at that time from set pieces, to rip balls onto the head of man mountain Brian Deane and let Dearden flounder when floating hopeful stuff onto Brian Carey’s head would do?

Why bother discovering that Darren Ferguson could cut you apart if given space but didn’t have the pace to get away from a tight marker? I mean, would you really insult Paul Ince by asking him to keep an eye on a lower division player?

danny_williams_juninho_middlesbrough
Danny Williams accepts the inevitable and surrenders to Juninho.

 

Okay, some people might point out picky little details about Robson’s approach. Fussy little stuff, like how Wrexham, who were no great shakes that season and didn’t ensure their safety in the third tier until late in the season, actually beat his star-studded team, Gazza, Ince, Ziege, Juninho, Gary Pallister, Gianluca Festa, Mark Schwarzer and all. People who say that a Premier League side could only lose to a lower division side if they turn up under-prepared and complacent are wrong: in fact that Middlesbrough match proves it. Lightning doesn’t strike twice.

Thirdly, history doesn’t lie. Wrexham and Stoke have played sixteen times. Stoke have won fifteen of them. Wrexham never beat Stoke: fact. Why worry?

So be calculating. Don’t worry about Wrexham: they can’t hurt you. Pick the kids, tell them to just go out there and enjoy themselves because the result’s a given. After all, Wrexham’s best player is your fourth choice goalkeeper, and he’s not even allowed to play tomorrow! No matter which team you pick you can’t lose. Nothing can go wrong now!

I know you’re a Wrexham man at heart – your good luck message for our 150th anniversary showed that. And trust me: if you follow my advice then what I promised you in the opening paragraph will be true: tomorrow will turn out just fine.

Your pal,

Mark

*Well, he once used the urinal next to me in the Seven Stars toilets. Seriously. As far as I’m concerned, that virtually makes him family.

 

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