All The President’s Men

Thank you for meeting me in the Eagles Meadow car park at this late hour. I know it’s irregular, and you might find it peculiar that I remain in the shadows, my face hidden. But I must hide my identity from everyone, even you. I simply have to protect myself from the dark forces within the Wrexham Media Team, who must never know that I’ve told you this. If they find out, it would be more than my life’s worth. But the truth must be told. The truth about the terrible lie which was committed last week. The lie which got completely out of hand.

It started innocently, with a discussion of how April Fools Day could be observed. The idea settled upon was a fake kit, and the club’s full time false shirt expert created a real beauty: a pink shirt, complete with “My Racecourse” logo which would turn the head of even the most hard-hearted traditionalist.

Armed with such magnificent ammunition, now that was now needed was the perfect cover story. A fake tale was planted onto a blog, backdated to look like it was posted three years ago:

English Football’s Forgotten Trail Blazer

We revere the great names of football’s past, but many are lost in the mists of time. Very few people remember Patrick Starr, you won’t find his name mentioned in the National Football Museum in Manchester, and he is rarely even a footnote in histories of the game. Yet he played a crucial role in the development of Italian football.

Born in the North Wales town of Pen-y-Cay, he started his career as a full back for Wrexham, winning the Welsh League in 1896 and the Welsh Cup in 1897. That Welsh Cup final win, a 2-0 victory over Newtown in front of 6,000 fans in Oswestry, turned out to be the last of his 114 appearances for Wrexham, as he was immediately snapped up by Notts County.

Cross country transfers were rare in those days, but Starr was about to embark on a career path which was not limited by a need to follow convention. A coal miner by profession, he left his job in the Gresford Colliery and took up a post arranged by his new club in the Thoresby mine.

For a season he stood out for County, adding to the three caps he had already earned for the Welsh national side. In fact, he was so impressive that a remarkable new horizon was about to open up for him.

It is well known that Juventus’ foundation drew inspiration from Notts County. The link was first established when Starr’s first season in the Midlands ended in an offer he couldn’t refuse from Italy.

Juventus, formed five years earlier by a group of students, idolised the English game and were keen to add authenticity to their fledgling club. They would find it in the person of a Welshman with itchy feet! County were approached by Juventus’ president, looking for players willing to embark on a remarkable new adventure, and Starr responded. Three years followed in Turin, during which he was made club captain.

He was a roaring success on the pitch, and a great influence off it. A feisty character who was revered for his knowledge of the game, he introduced a new kit for Juventus, but it wasn’t the black and white stripes we now associate with them. Starr suggested an all-pink kit which was immediately seized upon by the club. For three years Juve conquered all before them in Starr’s pink, and although they stopped using it when he left – ironically converting to black and white stripes in tribute to his days at County – to this day pink sports shirts in Italy such as Palermo’s and the leader’s jersey in the Giro d’Italia, are referred to as “il rosa di Starr”.

Starr stayed in Italy for a further four years, turning out for the likes of Albinoleffe, Verona and Bari, before returning to North Wales to end his career with Druids. He retired and returned to the mines, living to the age of 86. His grave is an unheralded affair in the village church of Brymbo, in the valleys around Wrexham. He might be forgotten, but his influence in the formative years of European football was great.

The attention to detail was cunning. The basic facts were accurate enough to convince the casual reader – Notts County did provide the students who founded Juventus with their kit – but Starr was an invention.

A lack of knowledge of the local area (Pen-y-Cae was spelled incorrectly and mention was made of the valleys of Brymbo) suggested the piece had been thrown together by someone pulling their information from Google, as most online storied are. The author was identified as Edward Gardner, the name of the man who spread the story of the Cottingley Fairies.

But there was a problem. The story was posted onto Wrexham’s website and naturally people saw through it straight away. That was fine. The issue was that people actually liked the kit. Indeed, there were plenty who suggested we ought to adopt it.

By the time the joke was revealed at noon, with a picture of Spongebob Squarepants character Patrick Star revealing that the pink starfish had been the inspiration for the kit, the damage had been done. What had been intended as a prank had become something very different. Prepare yourselves for a vote on a pink away kit in a year’s time.

Woody Bernstein

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