ADVENT CALENDAR | Wrexham AFC's Number 3s

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Mon 03 Dec 2018

Already in place in the top flight, squad numbers were introduced into the English Football League ahead of the 1999/2000 season – making this the 20th season of Wrexham squad numbers since.

Some names and numbers will be permanently linked in Wrexham fans’ minds: “Ugarte 30”, “Edwards 7”, “Sam 23”, “Ferguson 10” … the list goes on, right up until “Carrington 13” in the current squad.

But what is the story behind each of Wrexham’s squad numbers? And who have the current crop of players got to live up to?

3 – Long-serving left-backs

Current – James Jennings

James Jennings was handed the vacant number three jersey when he became the second member of the Jennings family to arrive at the Racecourse, signing a loan deal in the latter half of the 2016-17 season.

And, after signing a permanent deal in the summer, “Jenno” has held the jersey since – racking up more than 70 appearances for the Dragons on the left.

Younger brother Connor had already left for Tranmere after two seasons and 20 league goals for Wrexham by the time the older Jennings brother arrived but he has proved as consistent as some of the other Dragons number threes to have donned the jersey.

A sweet left foot has seen the roving full-back become as important going forward as he is at the back, while he has contributed four goals too – Wrexham are yet to lose a game he has scored in.

James Jennings cuts in from the wing

First – Phil Hardy

On the topic of consistency, Phil Hardy had long made the number three jersey his own by the time squad numbers were officially introduced in 1999.

Hardy, a Republic of Ireland under-21 international, made his Wrexham debut in 1990, and was an ever-present in the 1991-92 season – playing in the FA Cup giantkilling of Arsenal and being named in the PFA Team of the Year.

He continued to be a regular at left-back, up until the introduction of squad numbers in 1999 – playing 45 matches in his first season as the official number three and winning the FAW Premier Cup against Cardiff.

The season was a mixed one for Hardy, however – he was sent off twice but also scored his first (and only) league goal for the club when he converted a penalty in a 1-0 defeat of Colchester at the Racecourse.

Hardy’s role was reduced the following season – playing just 14 times before departing the club in the summer, after more than 450 matches in all competitions.

Surprisingly, a short-lived stint with Port Vale – for whom he scored on his debut – proved the last of his professional career and he retired in 2002 after failing to find a league club.

Longest – Neil Ashton

Considering his Twitter handle is “Ashy_number3” it is hardly surprising the long-serving left-back has become synonymous with the jersey.

Ashton made the short trip across the Flintshire border from Chester City after their demise in 2010 and, after impressing on trial, went on to play more than 200 games for Wrexham over five seasons.

Ashton was a regular in the 2010/11 season, as Wrexham reached the play-offs, and was Player of the Year in the following campaign when the Dragons racked up 98 points and reached the FA Cup third round before falling in the play-off semi-finals again.

Ashy also scored his first Wrexham goal during that season – with virtually the last kick of the regular campaign – in a 5-1 defeat of Braintree Town.

He took over penalty duties the following season and scored two in one game against Stockport – only to pick up a second yellow card for his over-exuberant celebrations after the second.

He missed the FA Trophy win at Wembley due to injuries, despite playing in every round that year, but was in the side defeated in the play-off final.

After 204 league appearances and nine goals, he then left the club at the end of the 2014-15 season to sign for Barrow.

Promotion heroes and cup final kings

After making his Northern Ireland debut the previous year, Shaun Holmes made 30 league appearances as Wrexham’s number three in the 2002-03 promotion campaign – but he only started 13 of those.

The jersey has proved unlucky for some when it comes to cup finals, however – Alex Smith played three matches in the 2005 LDV Vans Trophy but missed the final, while Neil Ashton played every round of the FA Trophy in 2013 only to be ruled out of the Wembley final through injury.

Ashton did wear the jersey at Wembley twice, but lost in the 2013 play-off final and was one of two Wrexham players to miss in the penalty shoot-out of the 2015 FA Trophy final defeat.

Wrexham’s Number 3s

1999-2001: Phil Hardy (51 league apps/1 goal)
2001-2004: Shaun Holmes (83 apps/2 goals)
2004-2006: Alex Smith (44 apps/0 goals)
2006-2008: Ryan Valentine (48 apps/2 goals)
2008-2009: Carl Tremarco (17 apps/0 goals)
2009-2010: Sam Williamson (2 apps/0 goals)
2010-2015: Neil Ashton (204 apps/9 goals)
2015-2016: Sean Newton (46 apps/6  goals)
2017-: James Jennings (70 apps/4 goals)*
+Stats only include matches played in the specified jersey, does not include play-offs
*Up to 01/12/2018

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