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 the weather taking a turn for the apocalyptic, I’m looking forward to my favourite part of the season: when everything becomes random and Freak Football takes over!
Freak Football is when we get to relax from our painstaking analysis of a game’s tactics and enjoy the lunacy the conditions can inflict on a match. Quality and technique are rendered irrelevant. Games are decided on a stroke of luck, a deflection off an icicle or a sudden sandstorm.
I must confess I was a little disappointed that last Saturday’s game at Stockport in a howling gale on a porridge of a pitch didn’t descend into a game of Freak Football to stand alongside the greatest in Wrexham’s history.
My favourite act of God in a Wrexham game came in 1990 when we faced Colchester United in a do or die bottom of the table clash. By that point in the season it was clear that either the visitors or Wrexham would finish bottom of the Fourth Division and suffer relegation to the Conference, a fate considered worse than death in those days as automatic relegation had only just been introduced and Football League clubs viewed Non League football as something of a grim abyss.
Colchester took the lead but we equalised early in the second half, only to gift United the lead again almost immediately. It seemed we were doomed, but in the closing quarter of an hour a terrific gale worked itself up from nowhere, blowing in our favour. Suddenly Colchester were penned into their own area by the wind, their clearances barely getting thirty yards away from their goal, and we hammered them relentlessly. Gary Worthington and Chris Armstrong both took advantage, we won 3-2 and a strong run to the end of the season ensured that we survived while Colchester dropped out of the league.
We also profited from the weather in the year we beat Arsenal. Colwyn Bay played us off the Racecourse pitch and a shock Welsh Cup defeat seemed inevitable when, with the visitors leading, thick fog suddenly began to pour over the roof of the stands. It wasn’t just any old fog; it looked like the sort of intelligent killer fog you see in horror movies, and before long the referee saw sense and fled for his life, abandoning the match in the process.
The rearranged game was played just a week after our buccaneering FA Cup run had ended, and we couldn’t believe our luck. Having been saved by the weather we would now be able to impose ourselves on our inferior opponents. We lost 3-1.
The closest we’ve come to Freak Football this season came against Southport last month, when a Connor Jennings shot would surely have beaten a wrong-footed keeper if a puddle hadn’t slowed it down. In 1988 Ollie Kearns went one better, wheeling away in celebration of a hat trick away to his old club Hereford, unaware that the ball had beaten the goalie but then halted in a muddy patch on the goal line!
Only last season a bit fell off the top of the Mold Road Stand in a gale and in 1986 a strip of the Kop roof was torn off. As a result of the latter incident a Welsh Cup match against Bridgend was postponed, and when we were able to play it the conditions were just as extreme. Fun was bound to ensue!
The howling gale blowing over what was then the Border Stand towards the opposing goal massively affected the outcome of the match. In the first half, playing into the wind, we struggled to impose ourselves and had to be satisfied with a 1-0 lead. Once we’d turned around things were rather different: enjoying the benefit of playing with the hurricane, we scored seven in the second half to win 8-0!
Dai Davies was in goal for the Welsh Cup games that season as a favour to manager Dixie McNeil. The Welsh international keeper had retired a couple of years earlier, but returned between the sticks because McNeil’s goalies were all injured or cup tied.
In the first half, as the wind blew in his face, he tried to throw the ball out overarm to a team mate, but instead saw it swerve like a boomerang in the gale and head back towards his own goal!
Davies dived to stop it, surely registering the only save from his own throw he had to execute in a long career!