English Football’s Forgotten Trail Blazer

oldfootballer

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.

 

 


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