ADVENT CALENDAR | Wrexham AFC's number 4s

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Tue 04 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?

4 – Manny a Manny

Current – Manny Smith

Now in his second spell at the Racecourse, Manny Smith returned to the club in 2017 and immediately took over the number four jersey he had vacated the previous summer.

The big, Birmingham-born centre-back first joined in August 2014 and was Player of the Season after playing every minute of the 61 league and cup games in his maiden campaign – scoring one goal.

He signed a new deal in the summer and clocked up his 100th appearance in the 3-0 home win against Chester.

Surprisingly released at the end of the 2016 season – having admitted he would have stayed if offered a new deal – Smith spent one year with Gateshead before being re-signed by Dean Keates.

He missed just one league game last season, scoring three goals in 45 appearances, and had made seven league starts and scored one goal before injury this campaign.

Wrexham goal v Woking Manny Smith heads on target leading to a goal

First – Gareth Owen

While now associated with defenders, under Brian Flynn the number four jersey – as was widely the case throughout the footballing world – would be worn by one of the two central midfielders.

As a result, Flynn’s first set of squad numbers had Gareth Owen pulling on the number four as he marked ten years since his Wrexham debut.

Having come through the club’s youth set-up, Owen – who represented Wales at Under-21 and ‘B’ level – had already racked up more than 200 appearances in midfield.

He played in the FA Cup giant-killing against Arsenal in 1992 and was part of the team that reached the quarter-finals in 1996-97.

Owen also scored in the inaugural FAW Premier Cup final, so it is little surprise his first season as Wrexham’s official number four ended with a testimonial against Manchester United in front of close to 13,000 fans at the Racecourse.

He stayed at Wrexham for one more season, leaving in 2001 for Doncaster Rovers, where he spent two years before several seasons in the Welsh Premier League.

Longest – Stephen Roberts

While Manny Smith is now in his fourth season as Wrexham’s number four, across two spells, Stephen Roberts is the only player to have worn the jersey for three consecutive campaigns.

Wrexham-born Roberts was ‘promoted’ to number four in 2002, having worn 17 and 15 in the three preceding seasons.

The younger brother of striker Neil, the defender – the first defender to wear squad number four for Wrexham – eventually reached 150 league appearances for the Dragons and wore the jersey at the Millennium Stadium for the LDV Vans Trophy win in 2005.

Roberts had made his one and only Wales appearance that same year, against Hungary – coming on as a late substitute in a 2-0 win, the same day Sam Ricketts made his Wales bow.

He also played against brother Neil’s Doncaster in 2005, nearly scoring the winner but for a stunning save, before linking back up with his elder sibling at Rovers the following season.

Promotion heroes and cup final kings

Having taken over the number four jersey in the summer, Stephen Roberts played 39 league games in the 2002-03 promotion season, scoring two goals.

He still held the jersey by the time of the LDV Vans Trophy win at the Millennium Stadium in 2005, but he was forced off injured after just 14 minutes – to be replaced by future number four Shaun Pejic.

Swansea loanee Daniel Alfei wore number four in the 2012-13 campaign but did not play in either of Wrexham’s two Wembley appearances, meaning Manny Smith is the only Wrexham player to have worn the jersey under the arch (in the 2015 FA Trophy Final).

Wrexham’s Number 4s

1999-2001: Gareth Owen (60 league apps/6 goals)
2001-2002: Martyn Chalk (23 apps/3 goals)
2002-2005: Stephen Roberts (100 apps/5 goals)
2005-2006: David Bayliss (22 apps/0 goals)
2006-2008: Shaun Pejic (52 apps/0 goals)
2008-2009: Darran Kempson (15 apps/0 goals)
2009-2010: Ashley Westwod (31 apps/2 goals)
2010-2011: Marvin Andrews (29 apps/2 goals)
2011-2012: Mark Creighton (39 apps/3 goals)
2012-2013: Daniel Alfei (11 apps/0 goals)
2013-2014: Kevin Thornton (9 apps/1 goal)
2014-2016: Manny Smith (90 apps/0 goals)
2016-2017: Hamza Bencherif (26 apps/2 goals)
2017-: Manny Smith (51 apps/2 goals)*
+Stats only include matches played in the specified jersey, does not include play-offs
*Up to 01/12/2018

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