The FAW have come in for a lot of criticism recently, but it should be remembered that their low-price ticketing policy has been the most successful marketing experiment in European football. And their decision to take last night’s friendly to the Racecourse was also an unqualified success.
As our bus approached the ground, and the kids saw their first sight of the dark sky lit up by the phospherous glare of the floodlights, there was an audible gasp of awe from the youngsters on our coach. The level of excitement was maintained all night, and in this respect, it was one of the most rewarding games that I’ve attended.
The FAW should be aware of the missionary role that the National team has a duty to provide across the country. There was a real sense of community at the match last night, with buses full of fans from across the North who rarely, if ever get to experience the big match occasion as a community.
There was a buzz around the ground that I haven’t experienced since the Belarus international at Ninian Park in the late nineties. A genuine uncynical enthusiasm pervaded, and the delight was obvious amongst the locals, helped a little by the patronising decision play half the Wrexham side.
The Family stand was full to overflowing, and even after the kick-off, large groups of children were being escorted around the pitch to find seats in other areas. The Kop was chanting and singing, a noise that is rarely heard at the Millennium Stadium. Each substitution was cheered like a goal.
On a personal note, things nearly went awry. The only negative aspect of the removal of fences from football grounds is the lack of space to hang your flags. But I was determined to display our new banner, and I began to scale the side walls of the Eric Roberts Stand. Unfortunately, as I reached to hook the string around an exposed girder, I lost my foothold on the greasy railings and was left hanging by my fingertips, like an 18 stone urang-utang. I somehow recovered the situation, but lost a few inches of skin a not a little dignity.
The Racecourse is a romantic venue, and sitting there last night took me back to 1985, and Mark Hughes’ overhead kick against Spain . It was perfect. The rain drizzled down in front of the lights which cast the familiar four-way shadow around each player. A lush green turf, and red dragons fluttering on swarming terraces. It was old skool, and it’s too late for me now, – but I can think of worse ways to spend your life than watching Wrexham at The Racecourse.
Don’t forget that England have been playing internationals at Manchester recently – a stadium that is closer to North Wales than our Cardiff base. I’m not suggesting that we take qualifying matches away from the Millennium Stadium, but there is a hunger in the North for Welsh internationals that deserves to be fed.