Ever since I’ve been a kid there have been certain clichés which people trot out about Wrexham. One of my personal favourites is that they don’t want to get promoted, a gripe against a perceived lack of ambition which has always been a load of nonsense (apart, perhaps, for a certain period in our history when it’s quite conceivable that there were people in the boardroom who did not have a stake in our success!)
Another is that Wrexham are always able to raise themselves against the good sides, but never manage to put weak teams to the sword as often as they ought to. I’ve long wanted to look at this statistically to see if it’s true, but haven’t got round to it because the sensible part of my brain points out that it would be an immense undertaking: I’d have to analyse every result in our history against the final league table for each season, and then do the same for all other clubs to get a perspective on the figures. That’s when the sensible part of my brain also points out that there are more important things in life which I should get round to, like tidying the garage, paying the water bill or watching every episode of “The Bridge” again.
I suspect this notion that we take from the strong but give to the poor is based on two preconceptions. The first one is that when you beat a strong side it feels like a bonus, so it’s a memorable achievement which lives long in the memory, while a routine win over a weak side is accepted as par for the course and a failure to do so is what you remember. Take the game against Bromley as an example. They were in awful form and, frankly, were a poor side. We scored a couple in the first half and that was that: it’s a long time since I’ve felt more relaxed at a Wrexham game. So will that game come quickly to mind when you recollect the season this Summer? Perhaps Lee Fowler’s successful return to the side lifts it slightly out of the mundane, but essentially that was just another day in the office. Therefore, it sticks in the mind less than beating Arsenal 24 years ago. Do you see my point?
The second reason for our sense of disgruntlement is based on our reputation as giant killers. We’re the little club that has dispatched Arsenal, Porto and their ilk and reached the last eight of the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup. Therefore, we’re conditioned to expect to pull off surprises and add every small example of a shock win to the list. However, we also assume that if we can do that, we can beat the sides we see as being inferior, and any failure to do so sticks in the craw.
A more realistic conclusion to draw would be that when you’re a good side you beat the weak ones, and when you’re a weak side yourself, you don’t! Well, if that’s true, what does that make this season’s team? An analysis of how we’ve done against our opponents based on their league positions is incredibly revealing.
We’ve failed to get a win against any of those above us. We’ve drawn at home to Forest Green, Grimsby and Tranmere and lost at Cheltenham, Dover and Braintree. Eastleigh are the only one we’ve played twice, and we lost at home and drew away against them.
Look at the other end of the table and you see a different story. The only teams to have beaten us in the bottom nine are Halifax and Chester, and we haven’t dropped any points against sides in the relegation spots.
So what does that make us? The conclusion is hard to avoid: we’re the most mid-table team in the history of football. We lose to those above us and beat those below us. We know our place, which is a terribly depressing thought.
With two games coming up against sides in the bottom four, I hope we’re able to maintain this record in the short term at least, and then we might find the play-off race is a much more attainable prospect, although to prosper post-season we’d obviously have to shed this affliction against the stronger teams. It would be quite a feat if we were to become the first mid-table side to qualify for the play-offs anyway, so go ahead boys, prove me wrong!