It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the passing away yesterday of yet another former Wrexham player, Ray Mielczarek, who was just 67.
Ray made 91 appearances for Wrexham, and played in two Welsh Cup finals, whilst being capped for Wales at Youth, under-23 and full international level. He also played professional football for Huddersfield Town and Rotherham United.
He was born and raised in Caernarvon, and his surname came from his Polish Grandfather. He had an Irish Grandmother and a father who hailed from Luxembourg! In Caernarvon he attended both the St.Helen's R.C. and Caernarfon Grammar Schools, and during this period represented - and captained - the Caernarvon Schoolboys team.
Upon completion of his Education he left school to work on a timber ship, though this lasted only two weeks before he joined his father in the wholesale and toy business. He continued to play football throughout this time, having joined Caernarvon Town straight from school as an amateur before being plunged into the first team at the Oval at the age of 16 for his debut against the Wrexham 'A' team.
He must have made an impression, because Wrexham manager Ken Barnes and his assistant Ken Roberts arrived on his door step within a week and asked him to sign for Wrexham! Ray joined the Racecourse Club in September 1962, and he went on to progress through the 'Robins' junior teams, picking up a Welsh Youth Cup winners' medal in 1963, as well as international honours for Wales at youth level against Holland.
In May 1964 Wrexham signed Ray on professional terms, and in October of the following season he made his Football League debut at centre-half, in place of the injured Terry Morrall, at Aldershot in a 5-0 defeat. Despite the result, Ray soon established himself as the Club's first choice centre-half.
Only injuries restricted his appearances over the next three seasons, during which time he twice helped the club to reach the Welsh Cup Final in 1965 and 1967, only to be defeated on both occasions by Cardiff City. The 1967/68season was barely a month old when Ray left the Racecourse when Second Division Huddersfield Town paid out £20,000 for him. It was the kind of money that Wrexham couldn't refuse at the time.
Ray stepped straight into the 'Terriers' side for his debut, replacing Roy Ellam in a 2-1 home defeat by Blackburn Rovers, and he went on to make a further 17 League and Cup appearances that season. Having already been capped at youth level whilst with Wrexham, Ray made his Welsh under-23 debut against England, before disaster was to strike in the second game of the 1968/69 season. He suffered a bad knee injury in a match against Crystal Palace. It was later found that he had ruptured a cruciate ligament in his right knee, which was an even more serious injury in those days.
Even so, Ray battled his way back, but he made just five more appearances for Huddersfield before being sold to Rotherham United for £10,000 in January 1971.
Ray's career took off again at Millmoor as, four months after signing, he was awarded his first full Welsh international cap against Finland in Helsinki in May 1971. He was also selected for a summer tour of the Pacific with a Welsh select XI that same year.
Ray went on to make 115 League appearances in his four seasons at Millmoor before he was forced to retire from professional football at the age of 28 because of his troublesome knee injury. Wrexham manager John Neal did attempt to sign Ray, but he couldn't give any assurances that his knee would stand up to the vigour of League football.
He then returned to settle in the Wrexham area, where he took up a job as a Van salesman for Lyons Cakes, but the lure of football soon returned and he had short spells in local football with both Druids United and Llay R.B.L. before hanging up his boots for good.
Ray later worked at the Plas Madoc Leisure Centre and then at Brymbo Steelworks in their security department, where he worked for 16 years until the factory was closed down. Ray has since worked as a driving instructor, as well as running a market stall until he retired.
Ray lived in Rhosddu with his family, who everyone at Wrexham Football Club would like to pass on our sincere condolences to.