A pop up museum to celebrate the history of Wrexham Football Club has been honoured with a national award.
The museum was set up at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre as part of the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations – and even helped find a long lost shirt belonging to the legendary former centre forward and manager, Dixie McNeil.
The museum scored and came out on top with the judges in the events category at the prestigious Purple Apple Awards.
The annual accolades run by the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC), recognise and reward effective shopping and town centre marketing within the UK retail property sector.
The project was masterminded by Sally Sookia, an Associate Director of the Bewonder agency, who is in charge of marketing at Eagles Meadow.
She said: “We are all very proud the Wrexham FC pop up museum was honoured at the Purple Apple Awards which are effectively the Oscars of the shopping centre industry.
“Although I was the lucky one who collected the award on stage, I would like to stress it was a big team effort and I would like to pay tribute to the centre manager Kevin Critchley and his team at Eagles Meadow for their enthusiastic contribution.”
The project kicked off with an appeal for memorabilia to bring to life the history of the club which was established in 1864, making it the oldest in Wales and the third oldest in the world.
The Racecourse is the world’s oldest international football ground still in use while the first international match was played there in 1877 when Scotland played Wales.
Scores of fans queued patiently for the turnstiles at the official opening last May.
The then Mayor of Wrexham, Cllr Alan Edwards, was joined by club legend Dixie McNeil, to cut the ribbon.
Another guest of honour was fans’ favourite Mickey Thomas, who scored the most famous goal in the club’s history with his free kick rocket First Division Champions Arsenal at the Racecourse in the 1992 FA Cup third round tie in 1993.
As well as memorabilia loaned by fans, the museum features interactive exhibits and free family entertainment such as table football tournaments and treasure hunts.
The museum also helped to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance, for whom Dixie McNeil worked as the lottery manager.
Dixie, 68, had another reason to be grateful to the museum project. He was reunited with his long lost shirt.
He had appealed for help in tracing the number 9 shirt he last saw during the 1977-78 promotion season.
Dixie made the public plea to find the shirt as part of campaign to drum up exhibits for the museum.
He had always believed his team mate, John Lyons, who played in the final game of the season because he was injured, threw the famous shirt into the Kop after the final whistle of the last game of the season.
Thirty six years on life-long Wrexham fan Geoff Reynolds, 57, of Buckley, read of Dixie’s wish to see the shirt again.
He handed the shirt into the museum and insisted that a delighted Dixie keep it.
At the time, Dixie said: “To be perfectly honest I won’t get a better Christmas present this year. It’s amazing that Geoff saw the article about the Eagles Meadow pop-up museum in the newspaper and got in touch. I am just thrilled to bits.”
The single most famous kick in Wrexham FC’s history was also recalled at the museum.
Mickey Thomas’s thunderous free-kick against First Division Champions Arsenal at the Racecourse in the 1992 FA Cup third round tie in 1993 remains an iconic moment in the club’s history.
His wonder strike in front of a capacity 13,343 sell-out crowd has gone down in the annals of the club’s history as a fans’ favourite.
According to Mickey, he is always remembered for that one special goal.
He said: “I never get sick of seeing it to be honest. I’m proud as it is now part of FA Cup history. It’s part of the competition’s folklore now and something that will always be.”
Eagles Meadow manager Kevin Critchley was thrilled about the award.
He said: “It is richly deserved recognition for all the hard work by the staff here and especially Sally Sookia, our marketing manager, who was our team captain in relation to this project. She played a blinder.
“I am particularly pleased the museum was honoured in this way because the football club is woven into the fabric of the town and we know just how much the club means to so many people in the area.
“Wrexham folk are passionate about the club and we were delighted to play our part in the celebrations to mark the club’s 150th birthday.”