A small detail stood out for me amidst all the headline grabbing content in the Zoom call Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney held with the WST members.
Reynolds mentioned the need for context in sport; the importance of knowing the story behind a team or a player to fully appreciate the significance of their performance. This resonates massively with me, as I’ve always seen sport like this, and in many ways I see my support of Wrexham as an epic soap opera which has taken me on the journey of my life.
So I’m sure Reynolds will have observed last Saturday’s events with fascination, as it gave him a heck of a narrative.
I can imagine the film treatment: “A tale of heroism and redemption. Follow a man’s journey from hope to frustration, only to emerge triumphant when he was put to the ultimate test.” I believe Damian Lewis is already attached as Christian Dibble, with Owen Wilson’s agent canvassing for the role of Rob Lainton. He’s trying to move away from the sofa-based work he’s been specialising in lately.
Okay, Bromley away probably isn’t the ultimate test in the great scheme of things. Allow me a bit of creative license, please. However, the situation Dibble walked into was certainly extreme.
First we need to consider the context Reynolds seeks though. Dibble arrived four seasons ago as understudy to Chris Dunn (played by Dwayne Johnson or Mackenzie Crook), and immediately secured the admiration of the fans for rising to a similar situation to last Saturday’s.
His debut was unexpected: Dunn’s pre-match injury cast him between the sticks at Maidstone. He responded magnificently. Despite ending the game with nine men, we only lost 2-1, with Dibble pulling off a string of fine saves, including one from a penalty.
He went on to continue in a similar manner, and it looked like Dunn would have to accept a reversal of roles until, unfortunately, Dibble picked up an injury too.
As Dean Keates (Pacino, obviously) worked the loan market for cover, Dunn and Dibble raced each other to regain fitness first. Dunn won narrowly, and Dibble was back at number two.
In the subsequent one and a half years he performed well when called upon, but at the start of last season he got his big opportunity. Obviously, such chances tend to occur at someone else’s expense: in this case, a nasty injury to Lainton meant Dibble would be our goalkeeper for the opening months of the campaign.
Errors at the end of that run led to a perception that he was unable to step up to the mark. That’s an unfair summary of his efforts, forgetting that in the early games of the season he earned us some positive results with a string of fine saves. Our first away game of the season at Borehamwood was a prime example: the simple narrative drawn by those who didn’t see it was that we raced into a 2-0 but squandered it in the closing moments. The actual truth is that we were thoroughly outplayed, but a raft of saves by Dibble kept Borehamwood at bay and we nicked two goals on the break. The home team’s late strikes merely meant the result reflected the game more accurately.
I’m not attempting to alter history: Dibble did make errors at the end of his run in the side, and it was probably good that Lainton regained fitness when he did. Forgetting all his good work in favour of remembering those errors does Dibble a massive disservice.
Still, that was how he was seen when, after the horror of seeing Lainton’s injury and half an hour of waiting to restart the game, Dibble was cast into the fray.
Don’t underestimate the size of his challenge. Dibble knew the fans doubted him. He’d just seen his goalkeeping compatriot suffer a horrible injury, and would have feared the worst for his friend. He’d had no prior warning that he’d be playing, of course, which can make coming off the bench difficult for a goalkeeper. And, just to put the cherry on top. The conditions were horrible: misty, with a soaked 4G surface which meant the ball was skidding on nastily.
Dibble was up for the challenge.
His first intervention laid down a marker: a brave stooping header which could easily have led to an injury. He was left exposed for Bromley’s goal but nearly repelled it, making a fine save from a one-on-one and even getting a toe to the rebound.
And from there on he made save after save, holding Bromley at bay as they threatened to run away with the match.
It was an heroic tale of redemption, a massive effort from a man with something to prove. Keates brought him to the club and there was never any question of him letting him go in the summer, as he looks for character in his players.
Watch Saturday’s match if you want to gauge Dibble’s resolve, and watch Netflix next year if you want to enjoy his remarkable story!