As Wales prepare to face Trinidad and Tobago at the Racecourse Ground this evening, Jonathon Gammond, from the Wales Football Collection, tells how National Lottery funding has enabled the spiritual home of the sport in Wales to showcase some of its most sought-after memorabilia
Taking care of international caps, match-worn Welsh shirts and even a telegram sent by Juventus to release John Charles to play for Wales in the 1958 World Cup is part of Jonathon Gammond’s day to day work.
The Wales Football Collection in Wrexham is home to over 1,000 items from the past 100 years with memorabilia from Wales stars including Billy Meredith, John Toshack and Ian Rush and, according to the museum’s curator, there is no better place for it than where football in Wales was first established.
“Football is such an important part of our identity and it’s a way of showcasing Wales as being our own nation on an international stage,” said Jonathan.
“At the museum, we have the shirt John Charles wore when he debuted against Northern Ireland and his items from the 1958 World Cup including a programme and a telegram releasing him to play for Wales.
“The funding from the National Lottery has allowed us to purchase the collection from John’s wife Glenda. If the items had gone out to the open market, they could have ended up anywhere in the world with collectors that wouldn’t really have done anything with them.
“Welsh football started all those years ago in Rhiwabon, Wrexham which makes this town the natural home for them to be showcased.”
An award of £156,800 thanks to National Lottery players through the National Lottery Heritage Fund has helped the museum purchase objects and archival material relating to Wales’s national team, Welsh teams and Welsh football players.
The grants have prevented the artefacts from being split up and sold privately, keeping them in Wales. The collection is accessible to the public through temporary exhibitions and has enabled the museum to tell the story of John Charles as one of Wales’ greatest footballing heroes.
Jonathan said: “Ian Rush, the former Welsh forward came to visit the collection and signed a few of the items for us.
“Joey Jones, the Wales and Wrexham legend has been too and is a top guy. We are incredibly proud to have such a large collection of shirts that were worn by players between 1940 and 1995 and so many international caps too.
“What we hope is that by having these items here at the museum, other footballers in turn will want their memorabilia showcased here alongside the legends that are John Charles, Billy Meredith and Gary Speed.
“People have an emotional tie to Wrexham Football Club and the passion has always been there. When you come to Wrexham, even though we are only a few miles from the English border, you definitely know that you are on the Welsh side.”
5 items you won’t want to miss at the Wales Football Collection
Wales shirt worn by John Charles 1949-50
The collection is home to the Wales shirt worn by the legendary John Charles on his international debut. Wales played Northern Ireland at Wrexham resulting in a 0-0 draw.
1884 Wales badge awarded to Joseph Harry Williams
This badge, issued before the cap system was introduced in 1890, is thought to be the oldest Welsh badge in existence. It was issued to Oswestry Town’s Joseph Harry Williams for his one international appearance against England at Wrexham.
Bob Evans scrapbook
It’s worth seeing the scrapbook of press cuttings and photos relating to the career and life of Robert (Bob) Ernest Evans. Evans played for Chester, Wrexham, Aston Villa and Sheffield United and had an international career where he played for and against both Wales and England.
1910 Billy Meredith cap
A full Welsh cap was awarded to Billy Meredith for the game played against Scotland in Kilmarnock, 1909-10. Meredith who was known as the Welsh Wizard made 48 appearances for Wales with an international career spanning 25 years.
Rockin’ Robin stuffed toy mascot
Wrexham FC’s much-loved mascot Rockin’ Robin was axed in 2001 and replaced with Wrex the Dragon. This toy mascot is one of many recent items kindly donated to the collection by members of the public to ensure that the collection can continue to grow and develop.
In Wrexham and Flintshire alone, the National Lottery has awarded around £101m to over 4,600 good causes since it was launched 25 years ago. Charities, community groups, grassroots sports projects, arts organisations, athletes, film makers, and heritage sites have reaped rewards from the funding.
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