The Giant Killers

Every F A cup slaying since 1888

All time greatest F A Cup Giant Killings
Number 4


Wrexham


2-1


Arsenal

Third Round [Last 64]


Saturday January 4th 1992


Attendance 13,343


Racecourse, Wrexham


Scorers:

Tony Adams {44}


Mickey Thomas {82}


Steve Watkin {84}

Kits Copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission.

  • Boutros Boutros-Ghali became Secretary General of  the United Nations
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Brian Flynn oversaw struggling Fourth Division Wrexham, a side that the previous season had only been able to remain as members of The Football League by virtue of the Champions of the Football Conference having their ground rejected as being not of a standard good enough for the Football League. Without the means to improve their squad, The Welshman continued to struggle in Division Four, despite a reasonably good home record, which kept them off the bottom of the table as the season moved into the Christmas period. A 5-2 victory over Non-League Winsford was an entertaining entry to the cup before a much tougher task in defeating Telford, a regular Non-League slayer of the League's basement clubs, put Wrexham's name in the hat for the third round. To be drawn at home to the current Champions, Arsenal stood out as the highlight of the draw and proved an early Christmas present for fans who queued for their ticket to the biggest game at The Racecourse in years
George Graham's Arsenal came out of the Christmas period a bit the worse for wear with no wins over the festive season and their hopes of retaining their title very much in tatters. They travelled to Wales knowing that for them the cup represented their only real hope of a trophy, for which the bookmakers selected them as their 5/1 favourites to lift in May.
For many Wrexham fans a pop at Arsenal was something that came with an added edge dating back fourteen years to a controversial quarter final meeting in 1978 when the Wrexham faithful had felt the referee, as much as anything else, had contributed to their defeat to the Gunners and denied them a place in a semi-final against a side lower down the League than they were. Some stretched this to a feeling that '78 was the year Wrexham could have gone to Wembley and they'd been robbed. More level-headed fans pointed out that Wrexham themselves had been very fortunate to play Arsenal in the first place after a very controversial last gasp equaliser in their fifth round tie. Swings and roundabouts, which helped fuel the hype of a tie that needed very little as Christmas became New Year's and the days counted down to Saturday.
A crowd of over 13,000 was packed into the ramshackle ground, including a healthy 4,000 contingent of Arsenal fans, who travelled in fine voice to pack themselves behind one of the goals. Their team consisted of ten players who had been regulars in winning the title the previous season. David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, David Rocastle, Alan Smith and Paul Merson were all regular England Internationals along with Irish International David O'Leary, the latter being the only Arsenal survivor of the 1978 cup tie. They entered the field in what surely must take the crown as the ugliest Football shirt ever to be associated with the F A Cup. A dreadful sickly yellow number that resembled something a child had been let loose on with an assortment of crayons. Certainly not a shirt that Arsenal would want any memorable moment, good or bad to occur to give rise to Television revisiting it years later.
The Wrexham dressing room, by contrast, was made up of the usual combination of promising youth and players in the twilight of their careers. Teenager, Phil Hardy was the baby of the group, though only just, in a dressing room that also contained twenty-year-old duo Gareth Owen and Steve Watkin twenty-one year olds, Wayne Phillips and Karl Connolly and the former F A Youth cup winner, Andy Thackeray, who, also at twenty-one, had been released by Manchester City. Brian Carey was on loan from Manchester United, having never been able to get a game at Old Trafford while Mark Sertori was already an established regular at The Racecourse. Keeper, Vince O'Keefe had been around many clubs in the lower divisions while the experience from the big time came from thirty-six-year-old former Chelsea and Wales midfielder, Gordon Davies and the flawed genius of thirty-seven year old Mickey Thomas. Thomas was the only survivor of the Wrexham side of '78 but had enjoyed a roller coaster ride of a Football career in the years since that would, and indeed did, fill a colourful biography. Manchester United secured Thomas' talents, which earned him a place in their cup final side of 1979, a game they lost to Arsenal. But Thomas had something of a self-destruct button off the field and his antics led to him being shown the door to a path of short stays at other clubs, most notably Chelsea where he later claimed to have entertained women in the dressing room at night. Now he was back where it all began with this almost certainly set to be his final big game in the spotlight.
Thomas was lured back to The Racecourse by his former Welsh International team mate, Brian Flynn, who was in his first management job after a top flight career at Burnley and Leeds where his cup highlight had been one losing semi final appearance for The Clarets. While Flynn picked a reasonably young side, he kept the highly experienced former Liverpool stalwart, Joey Jones on the bench and indeed the Wrexham sub was the only player named in the thirteen of either side who had a European Cup Winner's medal.

Despite the absence of three big names in Anders Limpar, Ian Wright and Steve Bould, Arsenal's team was expected to win easily on paper. Brian Flynn advised expectant journalists that "On paper they should murder us, but the match isn't being played on paper."

The BBC cameras were there to provide highlights on that evening's Match of the Day programme. Tony Gubba is the commentator with post match interviews from Des Lynam

George Graham later stated it was the worst day of his Football career and it didn't help Arsenal's poor League form, which continued with no wins in their next four games, though they recovered sufficiently to finish the season in fourth place. 

Meanwhile Wrexham were rewarded with a day out in London in round four at struggling First Division West Ham United where the cup run continued in an exciting game. The Fourth Division outfit came from behind twice, having found two West Ham corners too hot to defend as Wayne Phillips and Lee Jones, the latter an unused sub in the Arsenal game, earned a replay at The Racecourse.
The crowd for the replay was even bigger than that for the Arsenal game with 17,000 packed in to see if Wrexham could book a trip to Second Division Sunderland in round five. The Welshmen were the better side for long periods against the Hammers but once again came undone at a corner, which proved to be the only goal of the game.
Back to the bread and butter of the League, their form became more stable, which ended with a satisfying fourteenth place finish and a promotion of sorts when the old Division Four was renamed Division Three with the creation of the Premier League. Even better followed in 1993 when Wrexham won proper promotion to the third tier.  Vince O'Keefe had retired at the end of 1992 and Gordon Davies and Andy Thackeray had moved on but Phil Hardy, who had been named player of the year in that team and celebrated along with team mates Mark Sertori, Gareth Owen, Karl Connolly, Steve Watkin and Wayne Phillips with these players forming the backbone of the side who also went on to win the Welsh F A Cup in 1995 before they gradually moved on to other lower division clubs or Non-League Football.

Loan player Brian Carey was the one member of the team who did go on to play in the big time. having failed to get a game at Manchester United, he was sold at the end of the season to Leicester, helping them gain promotion to the Premier League. By 1996 Carey was back at The Racecourse though, continuing an association with the club that saw him take over as manager in 2007. Mark Sertori also made it to the Premier League albeit in quite a different fashion when he became a sports masseur, filling that role at 2012 League Champions, Manchester City and the England National team. One player stood out from his team mates, and yet again it was his activities off the field that kept him in the public eye.
Mickey Thomas was the man given the credit for inspiring Wrexham's comeback with his well struck free kick but his retirement in 1993 was enforced by, of all people, The Police, when he was arrested on suspicion of money laundering. Thomas was later sentenced to eighteen months as a guest of Her Majesty, which gave him time to plan a future as a popular after dinner speaker as well as a pundit on the TV station of his former club, Manchester United. Thomas himself later quipped that he was getting paid the same money as Roy Keane of Manchester United until the Police found his printer.
Wrexham: 1:Vince O'Keefe, 2:Andy Thackeray, 3:Phil Hardy, 4:Brian Carey, 5:Mickey Thomas, 6:Mark Sertori, 7:Gordon Davies, 8:Gareth Owen, 9:Karl Connolly, 10:Steve Watkin, 11:Wayne Phillips. Manager: Brian Flynn
 
Arsenal:1:David Seaman, 2:Lee Dixon, 3:Nigel Winterburn, 4:David Hillier, 5:David O'Leary, 6:Tony Adams, 7:David Rocastle, 8:Kevin Campbell, 9:Alan Smith, 10:Paul Merson, 11:Jimmy Carter {Replaced by 12:Perry Groves}. Manager: George Graham
 
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