'They could be heroes' - The lifelong Wrexham fan on a town's love for its team and that Hollywood takeover

WS100221 Wrexham Beginnings
Rob pictured with his father and school friends before an FA Cup tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 1995 Credit: Rob Clarke

Now that it is official, the takeover of Wrexham Football Club by a couple of Hollywood A-listers is daring supporters to dream once again of big nights at the Racecourse.

ITV Wales has spoken to one of the diehards: a lifelong supporter who has stuck with the club through thick and thin, experiencing those dizzying highs and gut-wrenching lows that only come with supporting your local football team.

For 43-year-old Rob Clarke, this latest development in what Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney aptly describe as "the long and storied history of Wrexham AFC" is just another chapter in the special story of this club.

Rob, who has lived in Wrexham his entire life, first passed through the turnstiles at The Racecourse ground aged seven.

It marked the beginning of a lifelong relationship full of highs, lows, euphoria, surprises, upsets, frustrations and European nights in Wrexham.

  • Early beginnings

Rob pictured as a young child donning his Wrexham jersey Credit: Rob Clarke

"It's in the blood," Rob said.

"I'm born and bred in the town. My dad was working for the football club in the late seventies, early eighties.

"He used to take me along to the Junior Reds meetings, which was like a kids supporters' group.

"I went to my first game when I was seven. It was 1984 and he took me to Wrexham versus Stockport County. Looking back after it, it was 4-3 so it was a great game."

It was not long after that first exposure to the buzz of a Wrexham matchday for the seven-year-old fan that the team produced one of the most memorable moments in its history.

Wrexham dumped Portuguese side Porto, one of the elites of European football, out of the 1984/85 European Cup Winners' Cup.

"It's one of the greatest cup upsets ever," Rob said emphatically.

"We've had some great cup matches."

Rob has collected various Wrexham programmes and memorabilia over the years as a supporter Credit: Rob Clarke
  • Darker days

It has not always been sunny in Wrexham.

Rob recalls some intense low points in his long history as a Wrexham supporter and remembers the sense of worry when, for a time, it seemed as though the club may go into liquidation and be lost.

"When you support a club like Wrexham there's always going to be more downs than ups," Rob said.

"The main bad days for me were off the field when it looked like we were going to lose the club, they were plentiful from 2001 to 2011.

"We went into administration, got relegated because we had ten points taken off us in 2005 and that was hard to take at the time.

"I was depressed at the thought I was going to lose my club. We were very, very lucky not to lose it.

"We lost our training ground, which cost us half a million pounds in the nineties. We had to train on a school field.

"That feeling of possibly losing your club, I can't even describe it."

  • The emotional connection

"It's a way of life in this town for so many of us" Rob explained.

"We get together, we have a laugh and we go and watch the game.

"I went with my dad and I still do. He's 77 now and he's been going since the fifties. I'll sit with him, I'll sit with my mates and I'll meet my mates in the pub beforehand.

"It's about the people you sit around, the people you sit with who you never knew before who become friends.

"It's the banter, the fun. Even when we're losing, the game's terrible and it's freezing cold; it's about the laughs you have.

"You win in the last minute, you're jumping around and hugging strangers."

  • A Hollywood blockbuster?

No one saw Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney's takeover coming.

Now that the Hollywood duo's takeover has climbed all the relevant and official hurdles, intrigue now turns to where it all leads.

For Rob it all still feels like something of a dream.

"It's unbelievable really I can't comprehend it," he said.

"I still think I'm going to wake up and think 'I had a really weird dream last night that Ryan Reynolds bought a football club.'

"Goodness me it's exciting.

"The profile of the club, it's gone global. People are taking about it all round the world.

"It's great for long-suffering fans like myself and everybody else in the town.

"I think they (Reynolds and McElhenney) could really be on to something here. It's totally unique, they could be heroes in this part of the world."

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