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Athletic and Olympic

In the close season of 1880, the players of Albion (Wrexham) Football Club were amalgamated into Wrexham Football Club to provide additional depth and strength to WFC’s first and second teams, with players being selected by means of a trial match, which was held on The Racecourse on September 18th. However, at the start of the 80/81 season, Wrexham Cricket Club (the resident tenants of the lower section of Wrexham Racecourse) decided to raise the football clubs rent by £10 per year and this led members of Wrexham Football Club to hold a general meeting at The Wynnstay Arms Hotel on 21st December 1880, during which, they decided to adopt Rhosddu Recreation Ground as their new permanent home. The change of location also spurred WFC to later change its name to Wrexham Athletic Football Club, and Athletic played their first ever game (a scratch match amongst club members) on Rhosddu Recreation Ground on 10th September 1881.

Over the course of the 81/82 season, local newspapers recorded a number of League and Welsh Cup games against local teams for both of Athletic’s A and B teams, although at the end of the year, the club decided to change its name back to Wrexham Football Club. The club also changed its strip to white jerseys and blue socks and shorts in time for the opening of the 82/83 season- a season in which, they would play 21 games, losing 6 and winning 15, including a 1-0 win against Druids in the final of The Welsh Cup at The Racecourse Ground on 21st April 1883. At the time of the final, rumours had persisted that some members of Wrexham Cricket Club did not want the cup final played on The Racecourse; therefore, at The Welsh Cup Presentation Dinner at The Wynnstay Arms Hotel on 28th May, a representation was made to approach the owner of The Racecourse Ground- Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, with a view to grant the football club a joint tenancy of the ground, thereby ensuring that Wrexham Football Club would return to its spiritual home, permanently, in time for the start of the 83/84 season.

This season began well, with a 4-2 win against Oswestry, in an exhibition night game, illuminated by electric lights, which was held on The Grosvenor Road fields, Wrexham, on 31st August 1883. The club also entered the English FA Cup for the first time and were drawn to play Liverpool Ramblers on The Racecourse Ground on 10th November 1883, but the Liverpool club sent a telegram a few hours before the game was due to kick off, to say that they couldn’t get a team together, and so Wrexham received a bye to the second round, where they met Oswestry, on The Racecourse Ground on 1st December. However, this game was marred by crowd trouble after Oswestry scored a disputed, late goal to win 4-3, and the referee was accosted by players and spectators as he left the pitch. Consequently, the English FA banned Wrexham from all English Football Association games on 28th February 1884, although the club continued play games against Welsh opposition until the end of the season.

The English F.A. ban caused some consternation within the club, and so in the close season, members reformed the club as Wrexham Olympic Football Club, with Evan Morris retaining the role of club president and William Townley of The National Provisional Bank filling the post of treasurer, while accountant and member of the original 1864 team- John Taylor, also took a leading role as the club secretary. (Evan Morris had been a joint founder and the first real president of the original 1864 Wrexham Football Club and was the joint founder and current Vice-President of The Football Association of Wales, and John Taylor was the joint founder and Secretary to The Denbighshire Football Association).

The new club started its first season with a 4-2 win against Ruthin Football Club in another evening exhibition match, illuminated with electric lights, which took place in front of a large attendance of spectators at The Grosvenor Road Fields, on 30th August 1884. They followed this up with a 2-0 away win at Birkenhead on 13th September, and then held a scratch match for trialists at the Racecourse Ground on 27th September, before electing officials, a captain, vice captain, and squads for the first and second teams, at The Buck Inn, Hope Street, Wrexham, on 2nd October 1884. (The second team would later be known as Wrexham Olympic Swifts).
By reforming the club, Wrexham Olympic were able to be re-admitted into the English FA Cup and they won their first round tie against Goldenhill (Staffordshire) 1-0 on October 18th 1884, although Goldenhill later lodged a complaint that fans had run onto the pitch at the end of the game, and that one of the team had been a member of the team that had originally been banned from the FA Cup; but no further action was taken. Olympic were later knocked out of the competition in the second round after a 4-1 defeat by Chirk, although they did reach the final of The Denbighshire Association Challenge Cup in their first season, but the game with Rhostyllen Victoria was drawn and so was deferred until the start of following season. Olympic also provided the entire Denbighshire County football team for the county game against Cheshire at Northwich, in February 1885 and provided 4 players for the national game against Scotland at The Racecourse on 23rd March 1885.
In their first season (1884/85) Olympic played twenty three games, including cup ties, winning ten, losing seven and drawing six; having scored fifty-eight goals, with thirty four against, although results where somewhat influenced by player absences, which appears to have been a problem for the club during this period. The club also ended the season with an account deficit of £7, reportedly due to low attendances at The Racecourse.

Wrexham Olympic started the 85/86 season with an away win at Cambrian Liverpool and a home win against Shrewsbury Castle Blues, before playing out another 1-1 draw against Rhostyllen Victoria, in the deferred replay of the final of The Denbighshire Association Challenge Cup, at The Racecourse ground on 10th October 1885; and so the two clubs shared the cup for the season. They followed this with a 4-1 home win against Chester College on 17th October but were then knocked out of the English FA Cup after a first round 6-2 defeat, away at Leek, on 31st October 1885. They were also knocked out in the first round of The Welsh Cup, the following week, losing 5-1 to Ellesmere, at The Racecourse Ground, with newspaper reports recording that only 5 of Olympic’s first team players had turned up for this game and that they could only muster a team of 9 players for the first half, before introducing another 2 substitutes after the break. Fortunately, they followed this with a 0-0 draw at home to in-form side, Bootle on 14th November, with newspapers noting that Olympic had managed to field a full line-up of first team players, while, also stating that ‘there was but a poor attendance of spectators’. At the end of this season, a proposal to upgrade The Racecourse was presented to the owner- Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, by a joint deputation, consisting of members of Wrexham Olympic, Wrexham Cricket Club and The Hare and Hounds Football and Athletic Club (founded by Evan Morris).

The following season, (October 86) Olympic were beaten 4-1 away to Crewe in the first round of The English F.A Cup and the following month where comprehensively beaten 7-1 at home to Ellesmere, although they did regain some respect with a 10-2 win over The Denbighshire Colts in a Christmas day game, which was watched by an unusually large crowd of spectators at The Racecourse. But further embarrassment ensued when Olympic were knocked out of The Welsh Cup in a third round 8-1 drubbing against Chirk on 5th January 1887; such was the inconsistency of the Olympic team, which subsequently, greatly affected home attendances at The Racecourse during this period. (The cost of entrance to the ground in 1887 was 3d (more commonly termed at that time as thruppence, which equates to around 1.25 pence in current decimal currency) with access into the ground blocked by means of a canvas barrier).

Then, at the start of the 87/88 season, Wrexham Olympic and Wrexham Cricket Club jointly appealed for fans to raise £30 to buy land to separate the cricket pitch from the football pitch and fortunes seemed to have changed when Olympic received another first round bye in The English F.A. Cup. But they lost 2-1 to Davenham Village in the second round tie at The Racecourse on November 5th 1887 and they were also knocked out of The Welsh Cup, in the second round, losing 2-1 away at Llangollen on 19th December. This would be the last season for the club as Wrexham Olympic- which had proved to be a period of missing players, inconsistent performances and dwindling attendances, as the club would be renamed Wrexham Football Club for the start of the 1888/89 season.

There was, however, a now long forgotten success for the club during the penultimate year of Wrexham Olympic F.C.

Queen Victoria had been British monarch for 49 years and her golden jubilee year celebrations were officially opened, for a period of 12 months, starting on 20th June 1886. As part of these celebrations, a local news and sports journal- The Illustrated Wrexham Argus and North Wales Athlete, sponsored a tournament for local teams, with Olympic entering both their first and second team (Olympic Swifts) although only the Olympic first team would win through to the final against Bangor Football Club. The final was played at the ‘Anfield’ home of Everton Football Club on the 4th June 1887 (5 years before Liverpool FC was formed) in front of a crowd of around 3,000 spectators and culminated in a 4-1 win for Olympic, with goals being scored by W. Turner, (2) W. Roberts and T. Roberts. The Argus Competition medals were then presented to the team at the end of an open air concert, which was held in the grounds of Roseneath- the home of Wrexham Olympic’s President, Evan Morris, on 1st July 1887.

More in this category: « The Early Years
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