Kop

My Racecourse – Mark Thompson

Nathan Lee Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success. He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike. As Euro 2016 approaches, Nathan talks to matchday programme contributor Mark Thompson about international football at the Racecourse, quiz nights with former managers and Christmas carols with television soap stars.

12/05/73

Wales v Scotland

Home International Tournament

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-2

Wales: Sprake, Rodrigues, Thomas, Hockey, England, Roberts, James, Mahoney, Toshack, Yorath (Davies 69), Evans (O’Sullivan 78)

Scotland: McCloy, McGrain, Donachie, Graham, Holton, Johnstone, Dalglish (Macari 84), Stanton, Parlane (Stein 80), Hay, Morgan

Goalscorer: Graham (60, 70)

Attendance: 18,682

With Wales about to play in their first major tournament since 1958 – or more accurately 1976 – I’ve been in a reflective international mood. I’d like to focus on my first international match at the Racecourse back in 1973 when Wales played Scotland in the Home International Tournament.

It was Wales’ first game since a 2-0 win over Poland at Ninian Park, which got the World Cup ’74 qualifying campaign off to a cracking start.  At school – Rhosddu Juniors – lots of my classmates were talking about a ‘new era’ having started for Wales. This was the first time I’d heard that phrase, but as a long-suffering Welshman it was certainly not the last.

The day of the match was overcast and a bit chilly while I was charged 10p to gain access to the Kop through the Boys turnstile.  My pal Neil Roberts and I were amongst the first in the ground.  After an abortive attempt to climb a floodlight pylon, we pottered down towards the Tech End in search of some pre-match entertainment.  We lingered on the terrace that became known as the Yale Paddock, but in those days it was just the terracing in front of the New Stand.  Once at the Tech End we sat on the wall behind the goal with our legs tucked in behind the advertising hoardings and watched the terraces filling up with Scotsmen behind us.  They all seemed to have those yellow flags with a red lion on them – AKA the Royal Standard of Scotland – not the traditional Saltire.  I remember us shouting “Get a dragon on them” with ridiculous bravado.

It was goalless at half-time. Unlike the football, the half-time entertainment was terrific. It comprised of a display by police dogs catching criminals. This got us warmed up for the second half, but our enthusiasm and excitement were soon extinguished…

As we were right next to the goal we had an excellent view of Wales goalkeeper Gary Sprake going down in instalments as Arsenal’s George Graham side-footed past him to put Scotland 0-1 up.  Ten minutes later, Graham scored his second goal as Scotland won 0-2.  After these goals I spent the rest of the game eating my packet of Spangles.

At the final whistle we ran on the pitch and I managed to secure an autograph from Rod Thomas of Swindon. Oh the glamour.

The following Tuesday, Wales lost 0-3 to England at Wembley. Wales’ new era looked a lot like the old one.

***

‘My Racecourse’ memories don’t have to be about matches attended. I vividly recall football quizzes from early/mid 1980s in the old Wrexham AFC Social Club. They were also held in the upstairs bar at the Centenary Club.

Usually I was on a team with former Chief Executive Dave Roberts, which was a very luck break as he has a thorough knowledge of football trivia.  Quizmaster Dave Davies also held quizzes where the competitors entered as individuals.  In one of them, I finished with the same score as manager Bobby Roberts. It was strangely satisfying to know exactly as much about football as the Boss.  I bumped into Bobby recently in Leicester and he told me that the Wrexham job was the most difficult of his career.

***

Of course, ‘My Racecourse’ memories don’t have to be about football. For example, I recall a Christmas carol concert in 1976 that featured Coronation Street actor Peter Adamson – AKA Len Fairclough – as the star guest.

Earlier that same year, the Racecourse held a ‘Festival of Entertainment’, culminating in people riding round the pitch on horseback dressed as characters from Planet of the Apes.  Trust me, it happened. I was there and not on drugs. Honest.

***

Over the summer months, Nathan Lee Davies hopes to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

My Racecourse – Stuart Roberts

Nathan Lee Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success. He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike. This week Nathan talks to WST board member Stuart Roberts about the day his love for Wrexham AFC and the Racecourse was cemented:

28-12-87

Wrexham v Hereford United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Morris, Williams, Cunnington, Hinnigan, Cooke, Bowden, Buxton, Hunter, Kearns, Russell, Emson (Preece)

Hereford United: Rose, Jones, Devine, Powell, Pejic, Spooner, Rodgerson, Bowyer, Stevens, Stant, Dalziel

Attendance: 2,443

 Being a child in a forces family, attending the Racecourse regularly wasn’t an option as we were living outside of the area. I got to see a few of the bigger matches, but I grew up as an armchair Liverpool fan as they were the dominant team of the seventies.   At school in the Midlands, I almost succumbed to the pressure from my classmates to join them as Molineux regulars, but after watching Wrexham lose there in the FA Cup Fifth Round in 1981, I found that my hometown team was more important than the men in old gold could ever be.

My first game without a guardian was at Christmas time in 1987. I got a lift with my cousin and his father-in-law, and absolutely loved my first experience of the quirky architecture of the old Mold Road Stand. People were spilling out of the Centre Spot and the Turf full of festive cheer and that is where the excitement started for me.  Then it was around the corner to the Kop….

WOW.

Even though the Kop was still fairly subdued, it gave me such a buzz to push my frame through those cold, iron turnstiles. Those of you reading this now will know that once you have felt the enigmatic mystique of the Racecourse combined with the intoxicating stench of fried onions and tobacco, not to mention the rush of pre-match adrenaline pumping around your body, there really is no going back.  The emotion of the event won me over in less than five minutes. We were only playing Hereford United in front of a couple of thousand beleaguered souls, but there was no where else I’d rather be showing off my new Christmas clobber.

Those feelings were probably enough to make sure I made a return to the Racecourse but it was pretty much guaranteed after making my way to the back of the Kop. I remember walking up the steps on the right hand side with people laughing and joking and obviously enjoying the experience as much as I was.  There were kids who were also starting their education in football and I don’t doubt that they soon learnt what supporting your local team meant and why they are probably taking their kids or grandchildren on a Saturday now, as I do with my daughter who shows as much passion for our great club as any proud dad could ask for.

Once at the back of the Kop I came across THAT guy who starts the songs. Everyone knew him and everyone wanted to stand by him.  He was and still is, relentless.  If a few minutes passed without a song, then you just knew a terrace anthem would soon be booming out. I think his name is Jacko…

“Everywhere we go
People want to know
Who’re the boys in red and white”…

As for the game in question, I had chosen to attend the only 0-0 draw of the whole season – home or away. This was just my luck. The day be0fore this game we had drawn 1-1 at Stockport County and now we struggled to find a way past a Hereford side that sat deep with ten men behind the ball at all times. I don’t remember any real scoring chances and this was a very depressing way to say goodbye to 1987. Dixie McNeil said afterwards that “1988 has to be an improvement on 1987!”

The fact that I wanted to come back for more shows that there is more to being part of a community of football fans than the “entertainment” we often have to endure.

***

Over the summer months, Nathan Lee Davies hopes to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

My Racecourse

Taken from the Wrexham AFC official website

Nathan Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success.

He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike.

Here is the first and it the shares Nathan’s moving story of his My Racecourse memory against Barnet from nearly 25 years ago:

26/09/92

Wrexham v Barnet

Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-3

Wrexham: Hughes, Jones, Pejic, Phillips, Humes, Sertori, Bennett, Owen, Connolly, Thomas, Paskin (Taylor)

Goalscorers: Bennett 35, Thomas 78

Barnet: Phillips, Howell, Cooper, Bodley, Barnett, Horton, Payne, Carter, Bull, Lowe (Stein), Showler (Naylor)

Goalscorers: Bull 21, 47, Carter 33

Attendance: 3,078

School days are supposed to be the best days of your life, but I can assure you that in my case nothing could be further from the truth. Academically there was no problem, but I was the victim of merciless bullies who I would do anything to avoid due to their repressive catcalls and punishing fists.

The problem was that I wasn’t like everyone else and in the black and white world of childhood being different is impossibly isolating.

I walked with a involuntary drunken stagger, which caused much amusement to my immature class mates. I was later to find out that my lack of co-ordination was caused by a progressive, genetic disease of the nervous system known as Friedreich’s Ataxia, but at the time clueless doctors just labelled me as lazy and clumsy. I had few friends and felt that no one understood me.

As you can imagine, I lived for the weekends and had started going to the Racecourse in the late eighties. One particular Saturday, my friends could not make it to the Cae Ras, so I had to decide whether to miss out on an afternoon’s entertainment – which had also been previewed on Saint and Greavsie – or go it alone…

It was ridiculously early. I purchased a copy of the matchday programme and spent the last few pounds of my pocket money to gain access to the near-deserted Kop. I had my choice of crush barriers to stand behind and after choosing a position on the upper left of this much loved terrace, I sat on the cold concrete steps to read about our 2-0 victory over Shrewsbury Town a couple of weeks previously.

This welcome three points against the Shrews had come against the formbook, which did little to suggest that season 1992/93 would be anything else other than our usual scrap amongst the dead men. Less than a month into the season we’d already suffered heavy-defeats on the road as Bury, York City and Gillingham had all scored four goals past us in three successive away defeats. How on earth would we cope against a second-placed Barnet side?

As the Kop slowly filled I realised that I was uncharacteristically relaxed and comfortable with those around me. I was not nervous or worried about being judged and took comfort from the fact that we were all there with the same aim in mind – three points for Wrexham. One bloke asked me the time, an old chap read the team line-ups from my programme and his mate shared his bar of Bourneville with me. Such interaction and unity with other human beings made a refreshing change from the assassination of my uniqueness by playground bullies.

I could be myself at the Racecourse…

I don’t remember too much about the game other than the novelty of Barnet boss Barry Fry running down the touchline in celebration of his side’s first half goals, Gary Bennett’s first league goal for the club, a disappointing attendance and the sliver of hope provided by Mickey Thomas when he reduced the deficit to 3-2 on 78 minutes.

We may have lost the game and left the ground full of frustration, but it didn’t matter to me, as I had enjoyed the afternoon of inclusion with my fellow Wrexham fans. This was my first real memory of acceptance by a group of supporters who have since become my extended family.

***
Inclusion and acceptance is what the Racecourse means to me. Over the summer months, I hope to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.