A shopping centre’s campaign to back Wales’s bid for glory in Euro 2016 has kicked off in style with the unveiling of a huge collage.
And the artistic masterpiece created by youngsters from two local primary schools has been hailed by the town’s Assembly Member as a “fabulous gesture of support” by bosses at Eagles Meadow.
Patriotic pupils at Alexandra Community Primary School and St Giles VC Church in Wales Primary worked on the giant piece of wall art marking the Welsh national team’s qualification for the big European tournament for the first time since 1958.
Lesley Griffiths said: “As a lifelong supporter of Wrexham FC and the Wales national team it’s a real pleasure to come along and see the new collage.
“It’s a fabulous and colourful addition to Eagles Meadow and it’s great to see the shopping centre getting behind our national team in this way.
“The piece of art is also a credit to all the talented children from the two schools who produced it.
“It’s really lovely to have something visual like this to remind people that the Euro championships are a big occasion for Wrexham and the whole of Wales.”
The new collage immediately caught the eye of one young football fan as she was passing by.
Five-year-old Jessica Castro, whose family are originally from Portugal, was out shopping in Eagles Meadow with her mum, Gisela Ribeiro, when she saw it.
She said: “I like watching football on the TV and will be seeing some of the Euro games. I’ll be supporting Wales and Portugal.
“I think this collage is very nice because it’s big and colourful.”
The collage, designed by professional artists and commissioned by the shopping centre, also salutes legendary goalkeeper Leigh Roose from Wrexham.
He played for Wales against Ireland at the Racecourse ground in 1906, when the game became the subject of the first surviving film of an international match, but just 10 years later was tragically killed at the Battle of the Somme while serving in the First World War.
Professionals from Yorkshire-based Faceless Arts, who designed the collage, held workshops at the two schools to help the children, aged eight to 10, produce the stunning display which is taking pride of place Eagles Meadow for the duration of the Euros.
Creative director of Faceless Arts, Tony Wade, said: “The collage was designed by one of our artists, Helen Taylor, and is based on four large round discs, each measuring four feet in diameter, depicting various things such as the red dragon which is the badge of the Welsh FA, the famous Welsh footballer Leigh Roose, the Euro 2016 trophy and some text which describes the whole project.
“The discs also feature the Welsh words `Gorau, Chwarae, Cyd, Chwarae’, which form the motto of the Welsh FA, `Best Play Together Play’.
“The pictures on each disc were built up by the children using layers of vinyl in mainly red and green, the national colours of Wales.
“All the children at the two schools were very enthusiastic about being involved in the creative process and are also very excited about Wales’s involvement in Euro 2016.”
The historic match at the Racecourse 110 years ago which the collage commemorates, ended in a 4-4 draw and was watched by a crowd of between 5,000 and 6,000 fans.
The silent black and white film which records it was made by film pioneers Mitchell and Kenyon.
It lasts for 2 minutes 10 seconds and is now in the safe keeping of the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, in Aberystwyth.
A plaque to commemorate the milestone match was unveiled at the Racecourse in 2006 by the then Wales team manager and Liverpool legend John Toshack.
Wales’s goalkeeper for the unforgettable 1906 game against Ireland was Leigh Roose, the prototype for today’s celebrity footballers.
Roose, who was born and raised in Holt, near Wrexham, was known for his skill, dashing good looks and mischievous charm which made him a big favourite with the ladies of Edwardian London.
Ms Griffiths, who is the Welsh Government’s new Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, added: “Of course, I’m backing Wales all the way and I’m lucky enough to have drawn tickets in the ballot to see their game against Slovakia in Bordeaux on June 11. I just can’t wait to get there!”
“I’ve actually watched the film of famous 1906 game between Wales and Ireland at the Racecourse, so it’s good to think the collage is celebrating that too.”
Eagles Meadow manager Kevin Critchley said: “I think the collage done by the children is absolutely great and the colours used in it are really bright.
“In fact, it sets off the wall so well that we might have to think of putting up another piece of original artwork there when it comes down at the end of the championships.
“We’re delighted to be marking Wales’s first appearance in this major international tournament in almost 60 years and to be celebrating Wrexham’s position as the birthplace of football in Wales.
“It’s also a privilege to honour Leigh Roose, the game’s first ever superstar who was the forerunner of Welsh international stars of today like Gareth Bale but whose life was cut so tragically short by the First World War.”