On the eve of the new National League season we caught up with several members of the Wrexham team who played in Wrexham’s last Football League game at Lincoln City. It was a surreal day tinged with sadness and despair as Brian Little’s (pictured above) side produced the goods far, far too late. Chris Llewellyn, Shaun Pejic, Carl Tremarco and Steve Evans share their thoughts on that day and much more.
Wrexham embark on a 12th season in non-league football when they host Barrow in Saturday’s curtain raiser.
A demoralising dozen campaigns in a league that is tougher to ascend out of than it is to stay in League Two, all because of that single golden ticket.
It feels like a life sentence because it is one. Those young fans conceived by their frisky Reds-supporting folks around the time we dropped out of the league are on the verge of becoming teenagers.
There is not one Wrexham fan dead or alive who would have dared predicted the famous old Town would become the longest serving club in the fifth division after we tumbled out of League Two. Ah League Two — where for art thou?
Our 87-year stay in the Footbal League ended at Sincil Bank, home of Lincoln City on May 3, 2008.
I was there with several hundred other sadists who had made the journey. Many wore fancy dress to shine some light on their club’s darkest hour. The pre-match drowning of sorrows was too much for some, particularly Bananaman and the Pink Panther…Google it.
We had won just one of our previous 10 games, a one-niller over Notts County at the Cae Ras before relegation was painfully confirmed at the hands of the old Hereford United.
If you think our scoring record in recent seasons has been woeful, then get this - Wrexham had failed to score more than two goals in a game that season, including the three cup competitions we were involved in. The last time that happened was when we beat Boston United 3-1 a year earlier to preserve our league status. Lessons were clearly not to be learned.
Lincoln, in contrast had won three on the spin, scoring seven goals in the process. Surely we were set to bow out with a whimper.
Brian Little’s men, so desperately rotten for the majority of the season had other ideas.
Levi Mackin and Wes Baynes (pictured below) put us 0-2 up before former Wales defender Steve Evans put through his own net to give the Imps hope going into the break.
Baynes restored our two-goal cushion before Ben Wright cut the gap in the final minute.
Not to be undone Wrexham had the final say as Chris Llewelyn netted our final Football League goal in the dying seconds.
The starting XI that day was: Ward; Spender, Pejic, Steve Evans, Tremarco; Mackin, Murtagh, Baynes, Taylor, Marc Williams, Llewellyn.
Mike Carvill and Andy Fleming (he’s now 30 and freshly retired through injury by the way!) were used off the bench whilst the other subs, goalie Michael Jones, Alex Darlington and Robbie Garrett watched on in disbelief.
The final whistle was met by a pitch invasion by both sets of supporters. One Imps fan gave me his scarf and told me he hoped for a swift return for us to the League. None of us could imagine his team would join us in the depths of despair briefly before galloping through this league and the next under the Cowley Bros.
The memories of that day still linger. How could they not? It was the cherry on a cake that had long been chewed and spat out by the dog. But what went wrong? Why turn it on when it didn’t matter?
“On the way down I remember looking around and realising that this was a very young side as Brian had made a lot of changes for this game.
“The usual stuff that you would expect to be said was said — ‘we owe it to the supporters who are traveling down to put in a good performance’.
“Everyone was playing for their futures whether at Wrexham or elsewhere. I had an idea that it would be my last game and I was determined to at least put in a good performance and scoring the last goal was a bonus really.
“I can remember being put through on goal one on one with their keeper. I waited for him to commit, he dived at my feet and I had the easy task of just lifting it over him into the net. It was nice that it was in front of our supporters so I could celebrate with them.
“I can’t believe I’m still the last player to score a league goal for Wrexham.
“The day in general was a little strange, playing in a match when your already relegated is not a nice feeling. I remember all the supporters in fancy dress and they never stopped singing. It was like a promotion party!
“There’s no way I thought Wrexham would still be out of the League. With the fanbase they have and the stadium I thought it would be two seasons max!
“I think ultimately things weren’t great the season before. We managed to stay up on the last day versus Boston but we didn’t seem to learn, from the players themselves, the recruitment, the coaching and team selections.
“Everyone let themselves, the club and supporters down.
“It’s going to be tough to get back in the league. It seems that clubs are spending an awful lot of money for that league and usually you finish where your budget is.
“Unfortunately unless Wrexham find a wealthy backer it could be a while, but I hope I’m wrong.
“I don’t really know Bryan Hughes that well but I’m sure if he’s given the right backing he can be man to bring success to the Racecourse.”
“I remember us cruising in the game then I tried to make it more of a contest when I tried heading it back to the goalkeeper!
“It was a surreal game to play in. The main thing I remember was the fans in fancy dress.
“The support was brilliant even though we’d been relegated.”
“We were already down, so the damage was done. As a professional footballer you have to bounce back and fight for some sort of pride and for the next step in your career.
“In a way, even though it’s hard to write this, the pressure was off, so I had to play football with no fear, so that’s what I did. That could be said to many of the lads playing in the squad that day, so that’s probably why we won and finished the season on a high.
“The two things that went wrong that season — putting too much pressure on a young squad and not appointing Darren Ferguson as boss.
“If you exclude a handful of players the majority of the squad was lower than 21 years old and for a relegation battle you really need experienced players to know how to grind out results. We didn’t have that or a good game plan to know how to do that.
“When Dennis Smith left I feel that Darren would have brought a different dimension to the management team and obviously he had a great adviser, his father Sir Alex. That wouldn’t have hurt either.
“The first season playing in the Conference after being relegated, we all thought we’d bounce back and get promoted straight away in the first season, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
“I hope Wrexham can get back into the Football League and stay there for many years. It would be great for Wrexham to become the best team in Wales again, just like they were in the League One days.
“Also, it would be great to get Wrexham into a future FIFA game, so we can all play video games with them (on it) again!”
“The mood on the bus was that of a typical end of season game, however some of us kind of knew it would potentially be our last game for Wrexham, so we just wanted to finish the season with a win an give the fans something to cheer after a difficult season.
“The gaffer just said have a bit of pride an play to give the fans something to cheer.
“It was very hot on the day. I was injured for the previous few games so I remember being quite tired as I hadn’t trained much up to that game. I wanted to play as I didn’t know if I would pull the shirt on for the club again.
“Never would I have thought Wrexham would still be in the National League to this day.
“Maybe that’s we’re we went wrong — those first couple of years where maybe we just expected to steam roll our way back as we were the biggest club in the league.
“We underestimated the league and maybe we didn’t sign the right type of player. We had a good squad but maybe it lacked experience for that league.
“I would love to see Wrexham back in the league. I do watch from afar and were cheering them on when they made the playoffs.
“Hopefully Bryan Hughes is the man to do it. He has vast amounts of playing experience an hopefully he can relay that to his players and they do the business.”