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FRANCE BLOG: Name was too tempting to resist
THE name was attractive in itself.
Le Wembley Bar.
That one word ‘Wembley’ evokes such passion and emotion with all that we’ve been through with Warrington Wolves since 2009.
But tucked away in a quiet back street of the magnificently beached seaside resort of Canet, where a few hundred Wolves fans are based ahead of the game with Catalan Dragons 10km away in Perpignan, is this little rugby league oasis.
Mike Boden, Warrington Guardian’s chief photographer and I, were recommended a visit by ex-Wire forward Mike Nicholas several years ago while queuing for a flight out of Manchester to Perpy for a previous Wolves match.
It took a bit of digging out, to be honest, and was closed when we arrived. With the shutters down, it didn’t look much and we wondered why Nicko had made the suggestion.
He told us it was his mate’s bar, run by a guy who he had once or twice done battle with in international matches.
So, with being based in Canet ourselves to report on Wolves’ final league game of the season, we decided to check out Le Wembley Bar again.
We’re so glad we did.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, a little rough round the edges, so much so that some of the bar seating is being held together by tape.
Jacques Jorda’s place is a little treasure trove, a backwater of rugby league memorabilia that you just would not expect by passing by - and I loved it.
Maybe Nicko’s been helping his mate out – for among the framed shirts adorning the walls was the one worn by Warrington’s Jonathan Davies when he scored that wonder try for Great Britain against Australia in the 1994 first Test at Wembley.
It’s probably the Welsh hero’s most famous rugby league try and there’s a picture sat alongside the red, white and blue shirt of him diving over for the touch down.
Warrington’s ex-coach Jimmy Lowes gets a mention in there, too, as he and current Salford coach signed a Robbie Paul 2004 Testimonial shirt from their days at Bradford Bulls.
Jacques has also mounted limited edition prints of Keiron Cunningham, the St Helens and Great Britain legend, on his walls of tributes to rugby league greats. His name has been spelt wrong – Kieron instead of Keiron – but, hey, English isn’t the first language over here and many a journalist has got it wrong in print during his playing days.
Other shirts hanging include Salford City Reds, New Zealand and Australia.
As you nosey around, four prints of the great Billy Boston MBE are keeping a watch over the bar area. I can imagine many a glass has been raised to him on some special nights in this atmospheric joint.
And then, among some of the French rugby league memorabilia, you come to the man himself – Jacques Jorda, former St Esteve and France stand off.
He stands proud at the heart of a photograph that must be two metres wide and features the entire France rugby league squad ahead of their tour of Australia in 1990. Jacques looks very smart in his suit as the team’s head coach.
I'm also told Le Wembley Bar gives Charcoals (Winwick Street) a run for their money with their skewered kebabs.
Not surprisingly, Le Wembley Bar was the place to be on Thursday night as Wolves fans and locals mixed to watch Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos clash in the play-off for third place.
There was no shouting and screaming at the box for either side, just a nice buzz of rugby league chitter chatter in the background.
It seemed to be that most wanted Leeds to win. I think it was more down to the fact that us Warringtonians don’t want Wigan to win any game but something tells me I’d rather have had Shaun Wane’s mob coming to The Halliwell Jones Stadium next weekend than the Rhinos.
After all, the Rhinos have ended our Championship hopes early for the past two years and seem to get things right when the play-offs come around.
For me, it makes Wolves’ game against Catalans Dragons tomorrow all the more important.
We need a good performance, a winning display that can inspire and motivate the boys on a day when we need Wolves to dig their teeth into Rhinos and chew them up.
P.S. Sorry for the late blog, internet connection has been poor in Canet tonight.
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