When the team you worship has recently won the Uefa Champions League and just six weeks later you end up playing against them! It doesn’t happen to every North Wales lad for sure….
But that is what Bodedern Athletic latest signing Chris Jones experienced 17 years ago this month.
On May 25, 2005, Liverpool celebrated one of the greatest achievements in British soccer history when they came back from 3-0 down in Istanbul to draw 3-3 with AC Milan and then defeat the mighty Italians on penalties to lift Europe’s biggest knockout trophy for a fifth time.
On July 9, 2005, the Reds played a warm-up match against Wrexham at the Racecourse four days before beginning the defence of their Champions League crown against Welsh Premier League title winners TNS.
Included in the Wrexham squad as a trialist that afternoon was a 19-year-old Chris Jones, who had already gained professional experience at Leeds United and later joined AFC Bournemouth on loan.
Llŷn Peninsula lad Chris came on for Mark Jones in the 78th minute and enjoyed the thrill of taking on the European kings in a 4-3 defeat.
Chris told Grassroots North Wales: “I’m a massive Liverpool fan and it was a dream come true to play against the European champions and a team that I support.
“Unbelievable experience and the atmosphere at the ground was electric. I have a picture somewhere of me playing with Xabi Alonso in the background.”
A crowd of 13,363 packed into the Racecourse to see the then Football League Two Wrexham, managed by Denis Smith, take on the mighty Premier League stars of Liverpool, with Rafa Benitez at the helm.
Naturally, with the Anfield greats having just won the Champions League, there was added interest in the match.
As an interesting aside, Liverpool’s talisman Steven Gerrard paraded the famous trophy won in Istanbul before the game and in doing so, publicly made his peace with the Merseyside fans at the conclusion of a week when it seemed likely he was heading for pastures new.
Gerrard was the stand-out player in a first half which saw Wrexham take an eighth-minute lead through Mark Jones, before a Fernando Morientes double edged the visitors in front at the break.
At half time, Senor Benitez made nine changes, including taking off Gerrard and replacing him with Luis Garcia.
A brace from substitute Milan Baros put Liverpool 4-1 to the good before Wrexham staged a late fightback, netting through Lee McEvilly and Rodney Jack.
Liverpool went on to beat TNS 6-0 over two legs, Gerrard again proving his importance to the side by scoring five of the goals.
Chris Jones went on to join League of Ireland club Limerick before building a highly accomplished career in North Wales football.
He won the Welsh Premier title with Bangor City in 2010-11, scored in both legs of a Citizens win in Europe and played in almost 300 WPL games, hitting 56 goals.
Last week Bodedern Athletic of tier 3 Ardal North West became the 12th club of the attacking right-side midfielder’s career.
At the age of 36, Chris would no doubt love to add more winners’ medals to his collection, but that experience of playing against his beloved Liverpool 17 years ago will forever be hard to beat.
WREXHAM 3 (Mark Jones 8, Lee McEvilly 72, Rodney Jack 80)
LIVERPOOL 4 (Fernando Morientes 15 & 38; Milan Baros 50 & 70)
JULY 9, 2005
Matty Done for Danny Williams (46)
Lee McEvilly for Dean Bennett (59)
Simon Spender for Darren Ferguson (70)
Rodney Jack for Jon Walters (70)
Michael Jones for Michael Ingham (78)
Chris Jones for Mark Jones (78)
Mike Williams for Alex Smith (81)
John Arne Riise
Anthony Le Tallec
Jerzy Dudek for Pepe Reina (46)
Josemi for Jamie Carragher (46)
Zak Whitbread for Sami Hyypia (46)
John Arne Riise for Darren Potter (46)
John Welsh for Dietmar Hamann (46)
Luis Garcia for Steven Gerrard (46)
Xabi Alonso for Boudewijn Zenden (46)
Milan Baros for Djibril Cisse (46)
Anthony Le Tallec for Fernando Morientes (46)
David Raven for Steve Finnan (59)