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The Romance of the Cup

Peter Davies is impressed by Richard Partington's new book detailing Wrexham's giant-killing exploits over the past 25 years.

I would like to wager that Wrexham possess the most impressive giant-killing record in modern British football. And as if to prove my point, a new book has just been published, chronicling the club's amazing knockout exploits.

It's just hit the shops and it's a must-buy item.

"The Giant-Killers - Wrexham AFC 1974-99" is a fan's-eye view of epic footballing deeds. Librarians in North Wales should file it under 'F' for Fantastic Nostalgia.
Devoted Dragons supporter Richard Partington is the author. Passionately and evocatively, he takes the reader through 13 astonishing cup victories: Southampton '74, Leicester and Spurs '76, Sunderland '77, Bristol City '77 and '78, Newcastle '78, Notts Forest '82, FC Porto '84, Arsenal '92, Ipswich '95, West Ham '97 and Middlesbrough '99. Perhaps Lyngby '90 should also have been included?
Arsenal and Porto are obviously the Big Ones but it is interesting how in the late-'70s Bristol City were also regarded as footballing "giants". This season of course we'll play them twice in the depths of the second division.
Partington presents his terrace view in emotive terms, but it's well contextualised and is accompanied by a neat selection of photos and stats.

I particularly enjoyed the 1970s material and the Ipswich section - if only because the latter brought back memories of Bennett's amazing shirt-waving antics and Marriott's last-ditch wonder save.
The 96-page book also raises some serious issues. When you read through the Porto chapter you can't help but feel aggrieved at Wrexham's bizarre - and in my opinion, totally unjustifiable - exclusion from European competition today.
The story of the Reds' glorious visit to Portugal also reminded me how much the club's Euro-triumphs have been underplayed.

On 19 September 1984, minutes after the final whistle blew in Porto, I tuned into watch Sportsnight on BBC1. I remember Harry Carpenter saying something like: "Oh, and Welsh side Wrexham have beaten Porto. Now let's move on to horse racing."

He talked about the Reds' victory over one of Europe's biggest and most glamorous clubs as if they had just beaten some obscure Icelandic outfit in a pre-season friendly. I still haven't forgiven Harry for that.
Finally and fundamentally, Partington's book raises the whole issue of David-versus-Goliath confrontations. This is no criticism of the book at all, but sometimes I do get slightly tired of all this "plucky little Wrexham" stuff.
Like the author I've got brilliant memories of my team upsetting bigger and better sides, but when some football people talk about the Reds as "giant-killers" they have a tendency to do so in slightly patronising terms.
At times too I think that fans, players and coaching staff at the Racecourse are a little too ready to talk about the club's giant-killing history, occasionally to the detriment of real ambition.
I know the Red Dragons are unlikely ever to evolve into one of the "Goliaths" of British football, but that does not mean to say we have to remain a humble little "David" for the rest of time. Put it like this: I'd be tempted to trade in Wrexham's giant-killing heroics for promotion to, and survival in, division one.
Sometimes I feel that Brian Flynn should think this way as well.

* Richard Partington, The Giant-Killers - Wrexham AFC 1974-99, is published by Bridge Books and costs £6.99.


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