Alun Rogers on promotion, Cup upsets and having big red neighbours

Are home crowds as big as they could get?
Attendances have long been a sore point. It can’t help having Manchester and Liverpool a leisurely 45 minutes away, but the town and outlying population have been expanding at an incredible rate over the past ten years. The inhabitants display a keen affection for Poundland-style shops; it might just be a cheapskate attitude that afflicts attendances.

What were your best and worst ever moments?
As great as the Arsenal result was (see Milestones), my best moment would have to be the FA Cup win over Ipswich in 1995. I pulled a sickie for a 2-1 win in front of a heaving Racecourse, an 86th minute penalty from Gary “Psycho” Bennett and the Kop in full voice. I got a verbal warning from my boss. And a ban from going to the next game. At Old Trafford. And we led for 15 minutes. It doesn’t get any worse than losing to Chesterfield in the 1997 FA Cup quarter-final thanks to a tragically comical goal. The run had included wins at Birmingham and West Ham. I couldn’t get a ticket so had to settle for a working men’s club and the game live on BBC Wales. With ten minutes to go I stumbled outside and quietly blubbed. I wasn’t alone. Lines of grown men hugged the club’s walls.

Who are your biggest rivals and has this changed?
Cardiff – we certainly travel in equal numbers to away games. We were a little miffed that the Football Association of Wales moved the national team’s games to Cardiff as we’d had fantastic results up here, including the win over Spain that gave us Sparky’s spectacular volley. But how can you argue with the atmosphere at a full-house Millennium Stadium? Antipathy is reserved for Millwall, but I’d hesitate to use the term rivalry for them.

How different are playing standards in Division Two?
Our 4-1 FA Cup thrashing by Yeovil shows there is no real gulf between Divisions Two and Three. We are noted as being a passing side who like to dominate possession, so teams defend from deep at the Racecourse, which has caused some frustrating stalemates this season. We have changed our gung-ho 4-3-3 from last season, but that was forced by the departures of Lee Trundle and Andy Morrell.

Fondly remembered
Tommy Bamford ~ Although the majority of fans retain a genuine devotion to Psycho (Gary Bennett), I have to choose Bamford. There won’t be many alive who remember his goalscoring feats but the man is the legend of Wrexham. Between 1928 and 1934 he scored 201 goals to earn a move to Old Trafford

Best forgotten
Deryn Brace ~ It feels a little harsh, as he embodied passion and scurrying commitment, but he also wrecked our dreams as he contrived to engineer the goal that robbed us of an FA Cup semi-final and instead sent Chesterfield on their way to underdog heaven in 1997.

Milestones and millstones
1872 Wrexham Association Football Club formed by the local cricket team.
1878 Win first of record 23 Welsh Cups.
1890 Lose first derby with Chester 1-0, but do field two one-armed players.
1934 Tommy Bamford hits 44 goals, with five in one game and 13 hat-tricks.
1957 Highest ever attendance, 34,445 against Man Utd in the FA Cup.
1966 Bottom of the league, but re-elected.
1976 Lose 2-1 to eventual Cup-Winners Cup winners Anderlecht in quarter-finals.
1977 We’re Gonna Score released by the Brymbo Male Voice choir. Doesn’t make the Top Ten.
1981 Beat West Ham 1-0 in the FA Cup – as we do 16 years later.
1984 Knocked out of the Milk Cup, FA Cup and Freight Rover, all by Wigan.
1992 Beat Arsenal 2-1 in FA Cup. We were bottom of the League in 1991, they had been champions. Free-kick hero Mickey Thomas is later stabbed in the arse while “playing away” with his brother-in-law’s missus and jailed for selling dodgy £20 notes to reserves.
1998 Ian Rush joins the club. And fails to score a single goal in 12 starts.
2001 After 538 games in charge, Brian Flynn is replaced by Denis Smith.
2003 Beat Cambridge United 5-0 to gain promotion in third place to the Second Division. Cambridge fans embark on conga-style dance as they heartily applaud all of our goals..

From WSC 203 January 2004. What was happening this month

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