Portrait Artist of the Year

l72a9151 pearsoncelebrateswithassistpyke

Football is chess. Football is art. Football is the new black.

And occasionally, just occasionally, football is art.

I always enjoy looking at Alun Roberts’ photographs after Wrexham’s matches, but he excelled himself on Saturday with a picture taken after Luke Young’s goal which encapsulated so much about the match, and about the current squad.

It’s more of a tableau than a photograph really. Like a huge renaissance canvas, your eye is drawn across the picture to interpret the body language and facial expressions of the characters. Think “The Last Supper”, which has been the subject of considerable academic reappraisal after the events of the last couple of months: scan across the faces until you see Judas, looking defiantly guilty as he clutches onto a bag full of silver which Shrewsbury Town have just given him. Note the well-lit  high ceilings, suggesting the presence of massive floodlights behind the painter.


Looking at the composition of Saturday’s photograph, it’s appropriate that the central figure is Shaun Pearson. Not for the first time, he epitomised Wrexham’s will to win, driving forwards to initiate attacks from the back and relentlessly inject forward momentum into a dominant second half performance, as his manager had clearly instructed.

His facial expression encapsulates his attitude, aggressively exhorting team mates on to new efforts, and passionately congratulating a man who had lived up to his exacting standards.

That man, of course, is Rekeil Pyke, who put on a magnificent display throughout the game and. Fittingly, it is Pyke who is singled out by Pearson for laying the goal on a plate with some brilliant wing play. Pyke – a man who is never knowingly caught smiling in a photograph –  looks delighted by the father figure’s praise.

He stands apart in the composition to emphasise his singular importance – the extra factor which has been missing in recent weeks – and stands on the touch line to symbolise how he stretched the game, and stretched the Maidenhead right back beyond his limits.

Meanwhile Luke Young, who merely applied the finish to Pyke’s creative flourish, is absent.

Akil Wright, who ran tirelessly, has an expression of exhausted relief as his efforts finally bear fruit after so many hours without a goal, and clings onto James Jennings, whose thrust down the left supported so much of Wrexham’s decisive second half work.

To the right Kevin Roberts looks on, like a man who has forgotten how to celebrate after a goal, We were all feeling a bit like that Kevin, don’t worry.

In the background a linesman looks wistfully on, and dreams of being a footballer too, when he grows up.

And yet, behind the joy and relief there is a dark warning. The empty seats in front of the away end remind us of why we need to get promoted.

It’s beautiful. It’s a work of art. It conveys meaning beyond the literal.

Or maybe the positioning of the players is just coincidence, and I’m reading too much into it. Whichever way you look at it though, it’s a hell of a photo.

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