Following confirmation that Wrexham AFC will travel to Spain as part of preparations for the 2022/23 Vanarama National League campaign, we’ve delved into the archives to find five links between the Club and the country…
Born in San Sebastián, in the Basque region of Spain, Juan Ugarte became an instant hero at the Racecourse following a remarkable debut campaign with the Club in 2004. Ugarte memorably scored his first Wrexham goal against rivals Chester, netted five goals in a 6-4 victory over Hartlepool United and was on the scoresheet in the LDV Vans Trophy Final triumph over Southend United, a day he later called 'the best of my life'.
A man who needs little introduction to fans across the world, Xabi Alonso – incidentally a close friend of Ugarte - featured at the Racecourse Ground just once in his illustrious career. In 2005, the Spaniard and his Liverpool team-mates came to North Wales on the back of their UEFA Champions League triumph, with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher parading the trophy in front of over 12,000 supporters. Alonso began the afternoon on the bench, and later replaced Didi Hamman, turning in a performance befitting one of the best midfielders of the decade. The visitors ran out eventual 4-3 winners on the day.
Those same Liverpool players will recall a certain Xavi Valero joining their coaching staff just two years after their visit to the Racecourse. Valero – born in Castellón de la Plana in Spain - had previously played for Wrexham, after signing a one-month non-contract deal in January 2005 and going on to make a total of four appearances. After leaving Liverpool, he also took up roles at Inter Milan, Napoli and Real Madrid alongside manager Rafael Benitez.
Wrexham came close to causing an upset in the 1986/87 European Cup Winners’ Cup when facing Spanish top-flight side Real Zaragoza, having won the Welsh Cup in the previous season. After convincingly beating Maltese outfit Żurrieq FC in the first round, the Reds travelled to La Romareda in the second round and held Zaragoza to a goalless draw in the first leg. Around a fortnight later, and another goalless affair meant extra-time in the return leg in North Wales. There, four goals – two for either side – in the space of 10 minutes, saw Wrexham cruelly denied a route through to the next round on away goals.
Supporters of a certain age will remember where they were on April 30 1985. It was the day Spain came to town to face Wales in a World Cup qualifier, and one which saw local lad Mark Hughes take centre stage in spectacular fashion. Sparky’s incredible volley in front of the Kop helped Wales to a famous 3-0 win, and while they would eventually fall short of the goal of qualification, the strike was undoubtedly an ‘I was there’ moment for every last supporter in attendance.