How Hollywood Wrexham ripped up FA Cup script before

29 January 2024 0 By Total Football News
Wrexham players and staff celebrate in the dressing room after victory over ArsenalWrexham players and staff celebrate in the dressing room after victory over Arsenal in 1992
Venue: Ewood Park, Blackburn Date: Monday, 29 January Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One Wales, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text

Wrexham may have an exciting future under film star owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, but their FA Cup past has a bit of Hollywood about it too.

The north Wales club will hope to make Monday's fourth-round tie at Blackburn Rovers the latest addition to a list of the upsets and cup crackers they have been involved in.

No-one should need reminding of the night against Arsenal 32 years ago, when Wrexham produced arguably the greatest cup shock of all.

But there have been other runs and remarkable scorelines in Wrexham's FA Cup story, including reaching the quarter-finals three times as a lower-division side.

And as Phil Parkinson's side travel to Championship opposition looking to reach the last 16, former winners Blackburn may be wary of what's gone before.

BBC Sport Wales recalls Wrexham's most memorable cup days.

1974 - Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough & Southampton

Joey Jones in action for Wrexham in 1974Joey Jones in action for Wrexham in 1974

Wrexham had been appearing in the FA Cup since 1883, but it was not until 1974 that they progressed beyond the fourth round.

It was worth the wait, as John Neal's revered Third Division side took a series of scalps on their way to the quarter-finals.

Terry Venables' second-tier Crystal Palace were beaten at Selhurst Park before David Smallman's goal upset Jack Charlton's Middlesbrough at The Racecourse.

Another famous managerial name would also suffer at the hands of a Wrexham side including club legends Arfon Griffiths and Joey Jones, as Lawrie McMenemy's First Division Southampton were beaten at The Dell, before top-flight Burnley ended the Welsh side's sparkling run in the last eight.

1978 - Bristol City & Newcastle

Mickey Thomas (left), Dixie McNeil (centre) qnd Graham Whittle (right) celebrating during their FA Cup run in 1977-78Mickey Thomas (left), Dixie McNeil (centre) qnd Graham Whittle (right) celebrating during their FA Cup run in 1977-78

Wrexham fans did not have to wait long for another surging cup run as they again reached the quarter-finals.

Iconic striker Dixie McNeil - now the club president - scored 11 goals during a run that included a humbling of First Division Bristol City in a 3-0 third-round replay at Ashton Gate.

Top-flight Newcastle were also toppled in a 4-1 Racecourse replay win.

Wrexham just about overcame non-league Blyth Spartans in a replay, but Arsenal would prove too strong in the quarter-finals.

Wrexham did have a goal disallowed in a 3-2 defeat by the Gunners in front of more than 25,000 disappointed home fans.

1981 - West Ham

Dixie McNeil celebrates the goal which settled an epic tie against West HamDixie McNeil celebrates the goal which settled an epic tie against West Ham

Wrexham may have been in the same division as the Hammers in 1981, but this was the class of Trevor Brooking and co who had lifted the cup at Wembley just eight months earlier.

Nothing could separate the sides in the initial third-round tie at Upton Park, nor at The Racecourse in the replay so - in the days before penalties - a third match was played.

A coin toss decided it would be staged in north Wales and McNeil finally ended West Ham's grip on the cup with an extra-time winner.

1992 - Arsenal

This was Wrexham's finest FA Cup hour, as they delivered a seismic shock which is among the biggest in the competition's long history.

It was the third round. Wrexham were a Fourth Division club - they finished bottom of the pile the previous season - and George Graham's Arsenal were reigning First Division champions.

The London club controlled the first half at the Racecourse, eventually going ahead just before half-time when Alan Smith netted from fellow England international Paul Merson's cross.

Yet Brian Flynn's Wrexham grew into the contest in the second period, equalising with Mickey Thomas' glorious free-kick and then snatching victory a couple of minutes later through Steve Watkin.

1997 - West Ham & Birmingham

Wrexham celebrate Kevin Russell's goal at Upton ParkWrexham celebrate Kevin Russell's goal at Upton Park

By 1996-97, Flynn's Wrexham were a third-tier club who threatened for a while to reach what is now known as the Championship.

In the FA Cup, replay victories over fellow Welsh club Colwyn Bay and Scunthorpe United earned Wrexham a third-round meeting with Premier League West Ham.

Realistic hopes of an upset looked over after Bryan Hughes' goal was cancelled out by Hugo Porfirio in a 1-1 draw at the Racecourse, but Wrexham stunned the Hammers in a replay thanks to Kevin Russell's goal.

They saw off Peterborough in round four before delivering another upset in round five, winning 3-1 at second-tier Birmingham City.

A famous run came to a disappointing end as Wrexham lost to fellow Second Division side Chesterfield in the last eight.

1999 - Middlesbrough

Sir Alex Ferguson at The Racecourse in 1999Sir Alex Ferguson at The Racecourse in 1999

There was another Wrexham cup memory for Flynn to savour - and it came with Sir Alex Ferguson watching on.

Ferguson, whose Manchester United side had won the trophy in their treble season just months earlier, was in the crowd to see Flynn's Wrexham humble Premier League opposition.

Middlesbrough, who were managed by ex-United captain Bryan Robson, had an expensively assembled side containing the likes of Christian Ziege, Juninho and Paul Gascoigne.

But after Brian Deane had given the visitors the lead in this third-round tie, goals from Robin Gibson and Ferguson's son Darren sent Wrexham fans into raptures.

2023 - Coventry City

Wrexham fans in front of the scoreboard at Coventry last seasonWrexham fans in front of the scoreboard at Coventry last season

After relegation to the National League in 2008, there had been little for Wrexham to shout about in the FA Cup, aside from an impressive draw at Championship high-flyers Brighton in 2012.

The Seagulls eventually sneaked through a third-round replay at The Racecourse on penalties.

Last season brought Wrexham's best run as a non-league side, which included a classic cup tie at Championship Coventry.

Paul Mullin had put Wrexham 4-1 up with half an hour still to play in front of an army of travelling fans.

Coventry came back to make it a nervous finale, but Phil Parkinson's side continued their fairytale in front of the documentary cameras against a side who would reach the Championship play-off final later in the season.

Premier League-bound Sheffield United proved too much in the fourth round, forcing a replay with a late equaliser at a raucous Racecourse and then scoring twice in stoppage time as they progressed at Bramall Lane.

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