It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing away of yet another former Wrexham player last night. Dave Campbell, who was 66, played for Wrexham for three seasons in the mid 60’s having been snapped up by Wrexham manager Ken Barnes after Dave had been released by Manchester United.
Born on 18th February 1947, Dave began playing football in his native town of Wrexham for Rhosddu Junior and Victoria Secondary Modern schools, followed by Yale Grammar School, and whilst at school he was also selected to represent Wrexham and District Schoolboys. At 15 years-old Dave left school, and attended the Technical College in Wrexham on a Plumbers' course.
As for football, he signed amateur forms for Druids United, who had a strong connection at that time with Manchester United. He had only played around eight or nine games for Druids when he was invited to join the groundstaff and become a ‘Busby Babe’ at Old Trafford in 1963. His first match for United was a 'B' match at Everton's Belfield training ground, with George Best playing in the same side.
Dave was to progress through the youth ranks with United, and also played one reserve match in the Central League. However, at the end of the 1963/64 season he was disappointingly told by United boss Matt Busby that he did not consider him good enough, but Busby did contact Wrexham manager Ken Barnes to recommend Dave to him.
Although disillusioned by his release, and still only seventeen years-old, Dave joined the groundstaff at Wrexham in May 1964, initially as an amateur. He then progressed by playing regular reserve team football at the Racecourse, doing enough to earn a first team call up for his debut at Hartlepool United in April 1965, but despite a 1-0 defeat, a month later he signed professional terms.
Dave was to make one further League appearance that season, but he did turn out in the 1965 Welsh Cup Final against a Cardiff City side who included Welsh legends John Charles and Ivor Allchurch, as they beat Wrexham 3-0 at Shrewsbury's Gay Meadow ground.
1965/66 saw Dave playing regularly on the left wing, but overall it was a disappointing season for Wrexham as the club finished 92nd in the Football League and had to seek re-election for the only time in the club's history. However, Dave was to make club history that season when he became the first ever player to come on as an official substitute in a Football League match, in a 2-0 defeat at Doncaster Rovers, when he replaced Martyn King.
With the club re-elected and a new manager, Jack Rowley, at the helm Dave was to find his first team chances limited, as injury kept him sidelined for most of the 1966/67 season, and it wasn't until March that he returned to the action. That meant he returned in time to play in the 1967 Welsh Cup Final, again in opposition to Cardiff City, which Wrexham were to agonisingly lose 4-3 on aggregate.
At the end of the season new manager, Alvan Williams, decided to release Dave after he’d made 49 appearances for the ‘Robins’ scoring seven goals. His name was circulated around other clubs, and in the close season of 1967 he joined Southern League side Corby Town. He spent one season with ‘The Steelmen’ where he played alongside a young Dixie McNeil. Whilst there Dave initially took up work on a building site, before being employed at the local steelworks.
However, he returned to the Wrexham area and signed for Bangor City towards the end of the 1967/68 season. His stay at Farrar Road was short, as he joined Caernarvon Town in September 1968, remaining at the Oval until March 1969 when he joined Prestatyn until the end of the season.
Dave did not play football again for three years, but he returned to the game to turn out for Overton in the Welsh National League in 1972, playing about five games before suffering a knee injury in a game that was to end his playing career. Dave was to later help establish the ‘Acton’ public house Sunday football team, before later managing the ‘Gate’, Wrexham area Sunday team. He later took up coaching youngsters in Garden Village before going on to help with the youths at Lex XI.
Dave worked at a number of local factories in the Wrexham area before a car accident left him suffering with spondilos, and he spent much of his later life confined to a wheelchair in his home in Rhosddu where he resided.
Everyone at Wrexham Football Club would like to pass on their sincere condolences to Dave’s family and friends at this very sad time.