Jacko: the day the kop fell silent
That unmistakable shrill.
Like the opening strains of an air raid siren it was our signal to take a sharp intake of breath.
Kop Choirmaster Jacko was ready to lead us into another stirring repeat rendition of “Wreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeexhaaaaaam!”
It was a war-cry. His face was as red as his Wrexham shirt, such was the intensity of his inhale/exhale.
Hundreds, sometimes thousands of throaty voices joined in en masse. Sharing in a song with Ian ‘Jacko' Roberts was a young Wrexham fan’s rite of passage.
I don’t think I even knew his real name until he joined Facebook. Only single monikers are reserved for the very best human beings.
His legend was already firmly set in stone when I first started frequenting the urban sprawl that is the kop in 1991.
I stood halfway up the grand old girl, either side of the goal. Often I would find myself peering over my shoulder wondering where that unmistakable voice piercing the air was coming from.
Curiosity got the better of me and I went to seek out the man seemingly self-tasked with creating an atmosphere single-handedly.
The closer I got the harder my eardrums would bang. Then, there he was. Where on earth was he summoning the lung capacity from to serve that monolithic mouthpiece?
He was demure and unassuming, a wry, mischievous smile often plastered across his face.
I timidly took up a space amongst the group of diehards who surrounded him. The banter was flying with Jacko often the sounding board.
He introduced himself and asked my name. His warmth, humility and passion had me hooked in an instant.
When he was around it was rare anyone dared lead the chants amid a rare moment of quiet. The Racecourse was his church. Those were his songs of praise. Wrexham AFC was his religion.
He is the first and only person I heard launch headlong into the mid-90s dittie of ‘Marriott, throws the ball to Hardy' with such joyous gusto.
‘Dirty Old Town’, the lyrics hugely altered from the original Pogues song became reserved for arduous away trips on the bus. It was too long to hold the attention of several hundred pisscans on a freezing cold Tuesday night at Oldham. He would often tail off with a chuckle when reciting the verse about what sort of loose woman former Chester boss Harry McNally’s wife (allegedly) was and what STDs she had (allegedly) contracted.
There would be mid-song laughter to ‘Everywhere we go!’ because he would string out the ‘whoa-oh’s for comedic effect.
When he got tired of busting out Wrexham songs he would sing about other things — the Bay City Rollers got spelt out to a tune. Sometimes he would make up songs on the spot to suit the mood or to harmlessly take the piss out of someone.
He was not just a voice, whether lending his amazing range to terraces up and down the UK and beyond or his beloved Fron Male Voice Choir. He was a ball of energy, a blur of red as he cajoled us into the next anthem composed to roar on the mighty Town.
From punching the low roof of the away at at the old Gay Meadow in celebration to tearing down a tannoy speaker, getting ejected at Sheffield Wednesday for supposedly being too pissed (he probably was but would leave with the minimum of fuss) to putting a reassuring arm around the shoulders of fans young and old when times were troubled, Jacko was a character like no other. The memories of him are countless.
As Wrexham fans he defined us all. As a man he remains an inspiration.
Jacko, we will all miss you dearly. You will always be heard.