Ambitious plans to develop the football club in Corwen were unveiled at the emotional official opening of the clubhouse named after local legend Huw ‘Chick’ Jones.
With the Dee Park ground bathed in early evening sunshine, the ceremonial ribbon was cut by Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes, who said he was humbled and honoured to be asked to perform the task.
The aim is to amalgamate the men’s, women’s and junior clubs to create a Community Interest Organisation that will become Corwen Community Football Club.
Alongside the footballing activities, the plan is for the club to work with another local social enterprise, the South Denbighshire Community Partnership, and St Mael and St Sulien’s Church to provide additional support for children, young people and families in the town.
Plans to improve the ground itself include hooking up to mains utilities, improved access, new toilets, future installation of floodlights and a 250-seater stand.
The new clubhouse commemorates the man known simply as Mr Corwen who passed away aged 62 in February last year.
Huw ‘Chick’, who represented the town on Denbighshire County Council, served football in the town as a goalkeeper, manager, committee member, secretary, president and loyal supporter over many years.
The official opening of the clubhouse, sponsored by locally based Ifor Williams Trailers, also marked the rebirth of the club whose facilities were devastated by catastrophic flooding two and a half years ago.
It will help the club to kickstart its conveyor belt of talent that’s produced Welsh internationals Andy Jones, of Charlton Athletic, and former Liverpool defender Gareth Roberts.
The latest off that production line is left winger Harry Wilson, and at the event there was great pride that he had made his debut at Euro 2020 playing in the famous 2-0 win against Turkey.
Huw’s sister, Kathryn Roberts, said the official opening was an evening of mixed emotions, with feelings of sadness and immense pride.
She said: “It’s wonderful to see so many people here tonight on this very special occasion, opening this clubhouse in memory of our brother Huw ‘Chick’ Jones.
“He’s already had the town’s leisure centre named after him. There’s only one thing left and that’s to name the whole town after him – Huwtown instead of Corwen,” she joked
Brother Llion, a retired shift leader who worked at Ifor Williams Trailers for 45 years, added: “I would say that he thought of Corwen Football Club as his family. But if he was still with us, he wouldn’t be anywhere near here tonight. He’d be in Baku and preparing to make his way to Rome for the game against Italy.
“The family still support the club and I have two grandchildren who play for the club, Harvey who plays in the Under 10 side and Rosie, who’s five, has just started with the small ones. Huw would be delighted to see them play.
“On a personal note, I am delighted to see Ifor Williams Trailers sponsoring the clubhouse after working with them for so long. It’s good to see them supporting Corwen and other local communities.
In his speech, Simon Baynes paid tribute to the long-standing support provided by the Rhug Estate who own Dee Park and clubhouse sponsors Ifor Williams Trailers.
He said: “This is a brilliant facility for the whole of the community, and I’ve been talking to quite a lot of people here this evening and heard how it’s really building up.
“Over the past two years the number of committee members has expanded from a limited number, with 250 registered supporters and over 200 registered players.”
Club chairman Martin Lyons said: “This club is all about the community and we are really keen to further develop this facility.
“We have men’s, ladies’ and junior teams with players ranging in age from around six to over 40.
“Our juniors are the lifeblood of the club, and we have 60 youngsters training here tonight. It’s all about building for the future.
“The benchmark has been set by Harry Wilson who is still closely involved with the club and people do aspire to that.
“His grandad, Peter Edwards, is still heavily involved with the club after the famous bet when he put money on Harry being the youngest Welsh International which came true.
“We are also very grateful for the support of the like of Ifor Williams Trailers and the Rhug Estate because they are community-focused just like us.
“It was hugely appropriate that the clubhouse was named after Huw ‘Chick’. It was him who actually got me involved in the club.
“I look around and I think if Huw could see this now, he would be incredibly proud.
“His legacy will live on and we are building on what Huw started.
It was sentiment shared by Llyr Gruffydd, a North Wales Member of the Senedd, whose 12-year-old daughter, Anest, plays for the club.
He said: “The community focus of the club represents what Huw embodied.
“Sport was so much a part of his life as was the community and, both things come together perfectly here.”
Samantha Williams, Management Support Specialist at Ifor Williams Trailers, said: “Huw ‘Chick’ Jones was a genuine and much-loved local hero in Corwen and we were delighted to have the opportunity to play our part in honouring his memory.
“His legacy will live on through generations of young footballers eager to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Harry Wilson, Andy Jones and Gareth Roberts.
“Ifor Williams Trailers is deeply rooted in the community and many of our employees have close connections with the club which is a vitally important part of the fabric of the town.”