It was with deep sadness that we learnt of the passing of former Wrexham midfielder Bobby Park on Tuesday morning, 23 July 2019, losing his fight with cancer at the age of 72.
Bobby will never be forgotten for the part that he played in Wrexham’s midfield of the 1969/70 promotion winning season, as well as featuring in the memorable cup matches at both Old Trafford and Anfield against Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
Although he was born in Edinburgh, Bobby's family moved to Peterlee in County Durham when he was still a young child, and it was that same area that he and his family returned to after his playing days were over.
Growing up in County Durham, Bobby impressed at schoolboy football, earning selection at 14 for East Durham Schoolboys in the English Schools Trophy, and appearing in the same side as Colin Bell, who later played for Manchester City and England.
Around this time he signed schoolboy forms for Middlesbrough, but his football career stalled upon leaving school as the Ayresome Park club decided against offering him an apprenticeship, and he took up work at the Darlington wool firm, Paton & Baldwins, continuing to play for the works’ side in their local league.
It was whilst playing for them that an employee of the company, who had connections at Villa Park, recommended him to Aston Villa, and he was subsequently invited for a two-week trial.
At the end of the trial, Bobby left the North-East having made the big decision to follow his ambition of becoming a professional footballer by signing as an apprentice with Aston Villa.
Bobby was soon to progress and make an impression when he earned his Football League debut in September 1964 against Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-0 home win. A few days later, he scored the only goal in a 1-0 League Cup victory over Luton Town.
The season ended on a high note, scoring the winner in a 2-1 home victory over Manchester United. Although he was never regarded as a regular at Villa Park, he still made over 80 appearances for the ‘Villains’.
Tommy Docherty's arrival as manager during 1968/69 saw the end of Bobby's career in the Midlands, as he was released in the summer, but following a recommendation from Jimmy Dugdale to his former Villa teammate John Neal, the Wrexham manager snapped Bobby up.
He went straight into the then 'Robins' side for the opening match of the new season against Exeter City, a 3-0 home win on 9 August 1969, in a team that consisted of some great Wrexham players such as Dave Gaskell, Steve Ingle, Alan Bermingham, Gareth Davies, Eddie May, Mickey Evans, Arfon Griffiths, Ray Smith, Albert Kinsey and Stuart Mason, a line-up that went on to celebrate promotion for only the second time in the club’s history the following May, as runners-up in Division Four.
As already mentioned, during this period Bobby was involved in the Club's memorable cup matches against Manchester United at Old Trafford, and Liverpool at Anfield, whilst the following season saw him play in Wrexham's Welsh Cup Final defeat by Cardiff City, as Bobby helped the North Wales club to consolidate their position in the Third Division.
Mid-way through 1971/72 Bobby found himself out of favour, having made 125 appearances for Wrexham and scoring eight goals - his first in a 3-0 win against Southend United in the promotion season. Bobby was allowed to join Peterborough United on a free transfer in June, but he couldn't settle at London Road, and within eight months he was on the move again to Northampton Town in February 1973.
At the end of that campaign, Bobby signed for a further year at the County Ground where he was to make 24 league appearances for the ‘Cobblers’ before returning to the north-East at the end of the 1973/74 season to join Hartlepool United.
Bobby spent one season at the Victoria Ground, making 17 league appearances before leaving professional football at the end of that season to become player/manager of Easington CW in 1975.
He continued to be involved with the game by serving Easington for five years before accepting a position as assistant-manager at Peterlee Newtown, where he was to spend a further ten years.
Having retired from professional football, Bobby had begun working in the credit business, firstly as a traveller, before gaining promotion to area manager of a National company and only leaving that role in 1993 to become General Manager of a family credit company in Sunderland.
Bobby had settled in the North-East at Peterlee and it was with his close family with him, that he passed away. Our condolences go out to Bobby’s wife and children.
Season League FA Cup Welsh Cup Lge Cup Total
apps gls apps gls apps gls apps gls apps gls
1969/70 37 3 4 0 2 0 4 0 47 3
1970/71 37/2 3 1 0 5 0 2 0 45/2 3
1971/72 24/2 2 2 0 - - 3 0 29/2 2
98/4 8 7 0 7 0 9 0 121/4 8
By Peter Jones