CHRISTMAS is coming and an ideal stocking-filler has just hit the shops. It's a 352-page reference book called "Wrexham: The European Era - A Complete Record".
The author is Peter Jones. He has not only penned other volumes on his own - "Wrexham: A Complete Record 1872-1992" (published 1992) - but has collaborated with friend and fellow Reds historian Gareth M. Davies on three other tomes: "The Racecourse Robins" (1999), "Wrexham Football Club 1872-1950" (2000) and "Wrexham Football Club 1950-2000" (2001).
But Jones is not just a football statistician of the highest order. He's also a heart-and-soul Dragons fan, a big cheese in the Shropshire Reds supporters club, and the kind of bloke who has got red and white blood flowing through his North Walian veins.
His latest book is a pre-Christmas cracker. It details the history of WFC from the season of their first foray into Europe (1972-3: FC Zurich 1 Wrexham 1 - attendance, 6,500; referee, P.Kostovski) up to and including the catstrophe of 2001-2 when they dropped back into the bottom division. It is a fascinating mix of stats, season reviews and match reports.
The five chapter headings tell their own story: "The Birth of the Giant-Killers 1972-1978", "The Premium Years 1978-1982", "The Battle for Survival 1982-1989", "From Near Extinction to Promotion 1989-1993" and "Second Division Stability 1993-2002". That's three decades and seven managers: Messrs Neal, Griffiths, Sutton, Roberts, McNeil, Flynn and Smith.
There are lots of good things about the book: it's mightily comprehensive, as you would expect; it picks out a 'Match of the Season' for each of the 30 years covered (the only teams that feature twice are West Ham and Notts Forest); and the text is interspersed with 'Did you know?' boxes that throw up some real nuggets of trivia. Oh, and the preface, penned by one Brian Flynn, is extremely well written.
I like the range of illustrations - action photos, team pictures and reproductions of famous posters and programme covers - and the amazing array of signs and symbols used in the stats section to denote key bits of information. Thus: ! means sent off; * stands for substituted player; ^ equates to second player subbed; and " signifies a third player taken off.
And that's in addition to a liberal sprinkling of 'p's, 'og's, italics and bold. I hope Peter didn't get a headache collating all this stuff.
The dust cover is a gleaming bright red, and features photos of Phil Hardy, the 1977-8 promotion squad and, curiously, ex-commercial manager Alun Thomas sharing a joke with the Wrexham town crier. The book also smells very nice - that hot-off-the-press kind of smell.
"Wrexham: The European Era" was launched recently in a Wrexham bookstore.
The author was flanked on one side by the iconic Gary Bennett and on the other by the convalescing Waynne Phillips. Two great players, one great book.
Peter Jones, "Wrexham: The European Era - A Complete Record", is published by Desert Island Books and is priced £16.99. It is available from the Wrexham FC club shop as well as other stores in the town.