They’ve had a tough old time of it in recent years. Dropping out of the league was a bitter blow, ending up in 10th place during their first season in the murky depths of the Blue Square Premier was never part of the plan. Losing at the play-off stage last season was a painful experience, but showed progress.
Then the taxman came knocking, demanding £200,000 payment. A winding-up order was issued and, with a miserable inevitability, asset-strippers then helped themselves to various fixtures and fittings at the club’s famous old Racecourse Ground (the world’s oldest football stadium).
Long-suffering fans, with the help of Supporters Direct, set up a Wrexham Supporters’ Trust (WST), following the lead of various similar projects across the UK (and throughout Europe). Over the past couple of decades, trusts have developed from fringe pressure groups to genuine alternative ownership model (the good people at AFC Wimbledon being the most high-profile example).
Late last year, after a few false starts, the trust finally took over joint-ownership of the club. Under coach Dean Saunders (now at cash-rich Doncaster Rovers of the Championship), and with no money available to bring in any decent players, the Red Dragons struggled at times, but still kept up a decent string of results at the top of the league.
Now, with former player Andy Morrell in charge, they’re still there. But the off-field shenanigans continue. Getting through this season and winning promotion could be absolutely vital for the Welsh side’s survival.
Meanwhile, Darlington (in the same league as Wrexham) are the latest club with a long and winding history to face extinction, victims of decidedly unfit and un-proper ownership (convicted safecracker George Reynolds built a 25,000-seater stadium for the decidedly modest non-league outfit).
A supporters’ trust has kept the Quakers going over the past season, raising £50,000 through fan generosity, but bucket collections can only take you so far. This past weekend the club came close to giving up the ghost, unable to field the a full team of professional players. The liquidators are waiting to pull the plug, it all now depends on the dependability of a “mystery investor” who suddenly became part of the equation a couple of days ago.
Back at the Racecourse Ground, an FA Cup run might be seen by some as a distraction from the more serious business of getting back into the League, but Wrexham needs every penny it can get at the moment. Even Brighton, who are hardly Real Madrid, bless ‘em, will bring in a bit of cash (from the telly, if nothing else). Better yet, for the winners of the replay, a tie against Newcastle United awaits in the next round.
It’s a rotten thing to say, but we’re going to have to get used to the idea of watching lower league clubs going to the wall. The lucky ones, like Wrexham (fingers crossed) will be able to reinvent themselves, but plenty of others, possibly Darlington included, face a far more uncertain future.
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