History was made yesterday, and not only because, out of the blue, we played our first game in Scottish competition!
When Cian Williams came on as a second half substitute, he became the second youngest Wrexham player in our long history. He also became the youngest player to be selected for the club on merit, but to appreciate why that is, you need to understand the story of our youngest ever player, Ken Roberts.
Roberts would go on to have a long and distinguished career in football, playing for Aston Villa and managing Chester City for eight years, including a run to the semi-finals of the League Cup. He also made a massive contribution behind the scenes at The Racecourse, returning to work as a coach and a scout. However, his most remarkable achievement was his one and only appearance for Wrexham.
A 15-year-old trainee at the time, he travelled with the first team to Bradford Park Avenue to carry the kit and perform similar menial tasks, but when a player missed his train to the match, Wrexham were forced to field Roberts make up the numbers. Perhaps unsurpirsingly, we lost 5-0!
Roberts matched the record for the youngest player in the history of English football, set by Albert Geldard in 1929, ironically for Bradford Park Avenue. Unsurprisingly, considering the circumstances of his debut, Roberts immediately dropped out of the first team set-up, and he never made another appearance for Wrexham.
His record stood for fifty-seven years, before it was finally broken by Barnsley’s Reuben Noble-Lazarus when he came on as a substitute for four minutes against Ipswich Town in 2008.
By contrast, Williams was selected on merit by Wrexham manager Bryan Hughes, as part of a tactical reshuffle to shore up the left side of our defence. At 16 years and 149 days he not only becomes the second youngest player to appear for us, but is also the youngest Wrexham player to play at The Racecourse in a senior match, usurping Robbie Evans.
Not bad considering he returned from Bosnia on Friday, having played there for the Wales Under-17 side!
His youth opened up a delicious prospect: could he be the youngest player in the history of Scottish football? If Wrexham could claim that record it really would be something! Sadly, he isn’t: Scott Hynd appeared for Albion Rovers before his sixteenth birthday in 2013.
The youthful nature of Wrexham’s side meant Williams isn’t the only player who got into the club’s record books yesterday. Max Cleworth is the 14th youngest player to appear for the club, the 8th youngest to have started a game for us, and the 4th youngest to have started at The Racecourse. Also, Bobby Beaumont is the 32nd youngest Wrexham player, following in the footsteps of his father Nigel, who not only won our Player of the Season Trophy in 1990, but also made his debut for Bradford City when he was not much older.
Jake Bickerstaff, meanwhile, becomes the 14th, and oldest, 17-year-old to score for Wrexham, our sixth youngest scorer at The Racecourse, and the youngest Wrexham player to score in a penalty shoot-out!
Yesterday’s side certainly wasn’t the youngest Wrexham have ever selected, though. In 2011 we were briefly allowed back into the Welsh Cup, but the initiative failed as we had to play our tie on a Saturday, when we were already playing that day at Brentford in the FA Cup! An attempt to shift the game to the following day, so at least the players who were on the bench in West London could appear, failed so we had to pick our youth team for a home tie against Airbus. Eleven players made their debuts, five of whom would never play for us again, including Welsh international goalkeeper Danny Ward! We lost 2-1 in extra time, and that remains our last match in the competition.