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, another season ends with a return to the Football League no closer. That’s seven campaigns we’ve passed in non-league football, and who knows how many more to follow? Clearly the new boss needs to get things right, and fast.
At first I didn’t understand the manic desire to get out of the Conference which gripped us when we slipped into the fifth level of the pyramid. Sure, I wanted us to be playing in a higher league, but I felt this was just part of our club’s story arc. Something we’d look back on and laugh about, like the eighties, when in the main we played unremittingly grim football and pootled about at the bottom of Division Four.
But now I’ve had enough. The novelty has worn off. We urgently need to get back into the Football League.
I recall warning when we were relegated to the Conference that we needed to get out soon or face the danger of shrinking down into a non-league club, with limited ambitions and financial potential.
One might argue that we’re seeing the signs of that happening. Only two of our last ten games have seen crowds of over three thousand, and those matches were the Chester derby and the game against Telford which saw over two hundred away fans nudge the crowd over that benchmark. There were 2,982 Wrexham fans present.
In total this season thirty home games have seen just ten crowds of over three thousand, and six of those were in the first eight matches as early season optimism was still in the air.
Compare that with our last season in the Football League. It was an unmitigated disaster: we looked doomed from the outset, suffering a run of six consecutive defeats within the first month of the campaign, and in mid-season went on a run of seventeen games in which we won just once. Home fans didn’t see a win between the end of September and mid-January!
Yet in twenty five home games, we registered just two attendances below three thousand, and one of those was a meaningless LDV Vans Trophy match.
Simply stepping up to League Two brings financial advantages as we get to play bigger clubs and enjoy the benefits of a larger away following. In our first season in the Conference only one home game attracted over two hundred away fans. Compare that to 2005-6, the last season in which I’ve the away support figures to hand: only eight of twenty-six home games failed to attract two hundred away supporters, while two drew in over a thousand. That’s all money in the bank we’re missing out on now.
There’s a generation of Wrexham fans, my lad among them, who don’t properly recall what it’s like to be in the Football League, with away support in the GUS and creating a genuine atmosphere. When going to decent stadia with good crowds was the norm, not an occasion. We need to get back to that status and show them what they’re missing out on.