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News, Sport

Saving Wrexham FC

Yesterday morning Wrexham FC was facing the very real possibility that the club would not be allowed to start the footballing season because of financial difficulties. Yesterday evening fans had raised enough money to grant the north-Walian side a reprieve. Our reporter Rob Shelley was there throughout the day. 

All through the day, as the cash poured in at Wrexham, there was a constant chorus: people stopping their cars, coming over and asking ‘what’s the news?’

At eight in the morning, they started taking pledges. Which ranged from a ten thousand pound donation from a Wrexham fan inCanadato one pound seventy one worth of pocket money from one of the Dragons’ younger fans.

By noon, the people taking the pledges, the cash in envelopes, the cheques and the envelopes full of hope had that rushed look – the sort of opposite of a Wall Street Crash. This was the Wrexham revival. As markets fell around the world, people were making an emotional investment – in a town where there still aren’t that many pockets of prosperity.

One grown man came up to me, eyes a little moist: ‘I wish I could have given more’. He’s probably given most Saturday afternoons – and cold Tuesday nights – and the ruthless equation of hope versus reality that loving a football team involves.

By five to two, we went live: they’d raised tens of thousands. They needed more. Wrexham were literally living on borrowed time, given an extra day’s deadline by the Football Conference to stump up a quarter of a million pound bond – just to guarantee them a league to play in this season. And this after last season when they came within a game of escaping back to the football league. And for the first time ever in a live, I quoted a rather dark source: I ended with the words that for Wrexham, this was five minutes to midnight. Even if it was still five to two.

By three o clock, the mood seemed a little brighter, to match the August day. Normally the skies are blue with all the hopes that a new season brings, whether you’reMaidstoneor Manchester United – the new fixture list, the new club shirt, all the optimism of nine months unfolding ahead – and the long dark nights of winter and hoofing a football long seem an eternity away.

By half past three, the sight of two ladies dressed in Wrexham shirts chanting made the reporter’s ears prick up:

“You’re celebrating?”

“We’re celebrating”

“You’ve done it?”

“Well, we’ve raised the money, anyway”

By four, a frantic series of phone calls to the football conference: a bank account growing like a town’s football pride, boasted by the odd ten thousand – and one pound seventy one – donation.

By five, crossed fingers outside the Racecourse.

By ten past five, verbal and then e mail confirmation: Wrexham could take their place in the league. With the season just four days away, it’s what Nelson called a damned close run thing.

By ten past six, earpiece in ready to do a celebratory live – one fan, eyes also a little moist, wandered up:

“We’ve had some days before – some really awful ones – but this is the start of something. Just you watch us now.”

By Saturday, the same league, the same team, and a new start. The blue skies of another football season – the latest in a hundred and thirty nine that Wrexham have played.

I’ve seen men in their seventies look out and remember seeing some of the greats – local and national heroes – play there.

Now it isn’t just history.

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