CHRISTMAS came early to Wrexham’s Colliers Park training ground yesterday, but manager Dean Saunders insists there will be no gifts on offer to visitors Eastwood Town when the Dragons FA Cup campaign starts this afternoon.
Members of the Racecourse squad queued up to get their hands on the distinctive silver trophy which was brought to Wrexham by the tournament sponsors, and they later donned Santa Claus outfits to publicise a forthcoming fund-raising fun-run in aid of Hope House children’s hospice.
Happy though he was to co-operate with both stunts, Saunders – an FA Cup winner with Liverpool in 1992 – said it would be business as usual as the Dragons bid to overcome their Unibond Premier League opponents for a place in next month’s first round.
“We want to go as far as we can in the competition and I’m looking at tomorrow’s game as one we should win,” he added.
“There’s nothing else on my mind and I expect us to play the way we have been since I came into the club.”
A hat-trick of victories since Saunders took over from former manager Brian Little have seen Wrexham improve their Blue Square Premier league position, but the Racecourse boss will have to make at least two changes from the side that beat Mansfield Town 2-1 last weekend.
Defender Mike Williams, who scored at Field Mill but was later concussed, has been ruled out and loan signing Joe Allen has returned to Swansea City for treatment to an ankle ligament injury sustained in training on Tuesday.
But full-back Carl Tremarco, another Field Mill casualty, should be available for selection while striker Jefferson Louis – missing last Saturday with a hamstring strain – returned to training only yesterday.
Saunders, who delays his selection until this morning, said yesterday: “Jefferson is touch and go we’ll have a look at him in the morning. I haven’t made any decisions yet, we’ll have a chat tomorrow.
“With us winning three games it’s a lot easier for me to pick the team than if we had lost all three. But I’m saying exactly the same things this week in that we must roll our sleeves up and not take the game lightly, because I have come unstuck in the past.
“If our attitude is not right we will suffer, so I want everybody to show our fans they are fully committed when they are wearing a Wrexham shirt.”
He added: “The players should feel lucky to be in such a position.”
Underlining his determination to guide Wrexham through to Monday’s draw, the Racecourse boss added: “I won the Cup with Liverpool and I had the unfortunate experience of playing for Swansea as a young player when we got knocked out by Bognor Regis after a replay.
“I didn’t like that feeling and you’d better believe it was infinitely better going to Wembley with Liverpool.
“There’s a potential upset tomorrow at the Racecourse and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen.
“We might have to show the ugly side of the game against Eastwood and it’s easy to say we’ll work hard, but we have to do it when we are tired as well. It’s easy to give up and it’s a really big game for Eastwood. I’m sure they will have prepared well and so we know what to expect.
“We have to defend properly, make sure there are no silly mistakes or sendings-off and ensure that we are totally professional. We need to match whatever they throw at us and, that being the case, I’d like to think the talented players we have will produce something for us on the day.”
Eastwood Town manager Paul Cox will hope influential defender Russell Cooke is available after he missed a midweek defeat at the hands of Derbyshire neighbours Ilkeston Town.
He wants his players to reproduce the form that saw them beat Harrogate Town, from a higher league, in the previous round of the competition.
Cox said: “Nobody is giving us any chance of winning, so the pressure is well and truly off the players. But we’ll be giving it everything.”