Written by Alex Taylor
There really is one stand-out match that springs to mind for Wrexham fans when the name of Jake King comes up. The Glaswegian right-back scored a brace against FC Porto in the European Cup Winer’s Cup for The Reds in October 1984 in the Portuguese side’s famous Dragao Stadium.
Wrexham would lose the match 4-3 but drew 4-4 on aggregate following Jim Steel’s goal in the first leg at The Racecourse. Barry Horne’s late goal meant the Division Four side progressed over the Portuguese top flight side.
“It’s definitely up there.” Says King, when asked where it ranks amongst his fondest football memories, “To play four games in Europe at full-back and score two goals, it’s a great thing to have in your career.
"Wrexham were struggling at the time and needed every penny they could get. So getting through that round and then being drawn against Roma in the next round, it made the club financially secure for the next three or four years. To go out there and play against top, Portuguese internationals was absolutely fantastic.”
Wrexham’s European exploits that season would end in the next round at the hands of the Italian giants Roma. The Reds lost 3-0 on aggregate against a side who lost on penalties in the European Cup Final the previous season to Liverpool.
Born in Glasgow in 1955, King moved down to pursues his professional footballing career with Wrexham’s rivals Shrewsbury Town when he was 15, making his debut in 1971, at a time when the Shropshire club was bringing in an influx of Scottish players. “There was a scout called Jock Fulton and he brought a load of players down from Scotland. I ended up at Shrewsbury for 12 and a half years, won two promotions then moved to Wrexham in 1982 before moving on to Cardiff City in 1985 and then I went into coaching.
King would go on to manage Telford United and the club that gave him his first chance in the game, Shrewsbury. But he also has some part to play in getting a certain, former Manchester United manager into his first steps of coaching, “When I was living in Shrewsbury, I used to coach a big college side there, called Concord College. When I left, they were then looking for somebody and I knew David Moyes had just come down to Shrewsbury and asked him if he’d like to do some coaching and he said yes. He then took over the coaching role for six or seven months.”
When asked if he was glad he played during the period of time he did, the 70s and 80s, when Wrexham were going on European tours, the hair was longer and the shorts were shorter, King has a quick answer, “I wish I got the money they get nowadays put it that way! I know it’s not all about money.
"I look at some of the players I played with and unfortunately some of them have dementia now and not in the best of health and now people are getting £300,000-£400,000 a week. I think that’s far too much. Football-wise, it’s definitely got better.
"I would say because the pitches are ten times better than what I played on. They were all muddy and the training facilities weren’t the best whereas everybody’s got great training facilities now. So it has changed, but it’s changed for the better.”
The former Wrexham full-back admits he still keeps an eye on his former side’s results and says it could be a great year for him, with all three of his former sides in Wrexham, Shrewsbury and Cardiff, all pushing for promotion, “I always keep an eye out for Wrexham and I’ll say this, Wrexham are such a friendly club. Pete Jones is always sending me a programme and always invites me along to a game, it’s a fantastic club. Whenever I think of this club, those two goals against Porto probably is my overwhelming memory, because I didn’t have the best of times here.
"I was the captain of Shrewsbury and left to come here. When I first joined we had a great squad in Joey Jones, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Dixie McNeil etc. and in two months, everybody had gone. These seasoned pros left the club and it was difficult to play with four or five young lads that had to come into a Fourth Division full of big, strong men, so it did affect us.
"This season’s been brilliant though, to see Wrexham, Shrewsbury and Cardiff promoted would be superb. You look at the club here at Wrexham, this is a club that deserves to be in the Football League, this is a league club. It’s such a shame it’s been out the league for ten years now. Just look at the facilities and the passion of the supporters here.”
King hasn’t worked in football since a stint as first team coach at Aberystwyth Town in 2009 and has since had a series of restaurants, “I’ve had four or five restaurants in and around Shrewsbury, but I’ve sold those now so I’m doing nothing at the moment! But I think I’m going to start watching a bit more football now.”
And the former, solid defender has plenty of exciting matches to choose from with his three former sides pushing for glory as we approach the business and of the season.