BY RYAN JONES
Disclaimer: Some of this may be made up, some may be remembered incorrectly. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent.
Chances are that if you’re under 35 you’ve looked at the title of this piece and will be wondering who Mike Lake was. If you’re over 35 you’re probably not bothered, but allow me to embellish.
Mike is the older brother of the famous one who played for Manchester City whose career was cut short due to injury. They’ve both got the same conk, and both were technically superb footballers.
Seasons and seasons ago, in a simpler time, before we all had our faces replaced by mobile phones, there was a young lad with foppish curtains and a lugubrious gait who had somehow made his way to North Wales. This young lad was a cultured footballer of some distinction. He came from a family with real pedigree, and arrived at Mecca (ok I’ll rein it in) Cae Ras to ply his trade on loan. This was Wrexham’s promotion winning season of 1992/93, an era when smoking was good for you, and the Mold road was often closed on match days due to the crowd. Imagine such a thing.
Let’s call this young lad Mike Lake, because that’s his name. Mike arrived at Wrexham full of the proverbial Heinz Beans, to anchor and ameliorate our already impressive midfield. In my mind Wayne Phillips was still a nipper, Mickey Thomas was erratic and, to be fair, getting on (though brilliant in flashes he was, and still is, radio rental), but Gareth Owen was the mainstay, spraying 460 yard passes around like a man possessed. He also did a nice line in lung bursting forays, pile drivers and his shirt fitted him a treat. What a player.
Mikey Lake was in the first team, offering that bit of guile lacking from the younger players, and Wrexham were clipping wings left right and centre. The Kop was closed at the beginning of that season, so we had to brave the Tech End and getting pelted with pennies from the away fans. My pal Paddy was nearly booted out for throwing back coins (doh!) but we were all floating on a drunken sea of attacking football, the likes of which the old man said hadn’t been seen for over a decade here at Cae Ras. Chuffed wasn’t the word, we were buzzing. We were high on life, dirty beer and poppers.
Lake was mercurial when he was on his game, though never the most mobile, he seemed to have found his club when he turned the corner of Crispin Lane. It was a match made in the Cefn. His touch was assured, he brought both composure and creativity to a slightly unbalanced midfield. He looked like a bit of a lad as well, he could handle himself, and his barnet suggested to us he was probably into his tunes. The curtains meant one thing, he was one of us, and the way he played his football told us he was a lad aswell; he didn’t mind a bit of rough and tumble, but make no mistake – he wanted to play.
Now then, older heads will know that the season panned out perfect, Mike Lake however, faltered. After a superb start we chanted “Sign him on, sign him on, sign him on” and then lo and behold we signed him on!
And he was like a wet fart.
Hyperbole of course, but he never quite delivered again, after all that early promise things went flat. I think maybe he picked up a knock, so in all fairness it is extremely difficult to pick things up again. Fitness may have been a factor, but to us lads (now back on the Kop) he looked pipe and slippers after he got his contract. Things never took off for him again at our place, and he left eventually to become a bit of a journeyman by all accounts. But for a part of a season at Wrexham FC he was the missing part of the puzzle.
The Mike Lake theory was now set in stone. And the theory is -Treat ‘em mean. keep ‘em keen. In other words: if you sign a foppish midfielder on loan, don’t reward him with a contract until the end of the season, because if you do, he’ll put his feet up. Simple.
Even if this wasn’t the case it doesn’t matter because Mike Lake was now a byword for that kind of attitude. He looked like one of the Happy Mondays. And you can’t help but think of the time they got a load of coin to do an album and spent the lot on crack.
If anyone can offer mitigation, then please feel free. Mike I’m sorry, I hope I haven’t tarnished your reputation as a cultured professional midfield footballer. If it’s any consolation, I thought you were a quiff away from playing at a higher level.