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Wrexham defeat Arsenal in FA Cup and what happened next

By Tony Attwood

The defeat of Arsenal by Wrexham of the fourth division on 4 January 1992 was not just a big piece of giant killing, it was the giant killing of the league champions, and as such needs to be seen alongside the defeat of Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal by Walsall of the third division north.

What’s more the Wrexham game was a real top v bottom affair since not only had Arsenal won the league the previous season, Wrexham had finished bottom of the Fourth Division, and had been saved removal from the League by the “re-election” process.   This involved the bottom four  clubs having to apply for re-election while various non-league clubs applied for election.  The third and fourth division clubs then voted, and most of the time the bottom for got re-elected.

But not always, for Colchester, who had finished bottom in 1990, had been thrown out.   Wrexham must have been worried that they could have gone the same way.

In 1991/2 Wrexham rallied and finished 14th in Division 4 (a league that also included Cardiff City) while Arsenal slipped back under George Graham and finished fourth, ten points behind Leeds United, who won the title.

If I mention that Arsenal scored the opener with Paul Merson cutting back to Alan Smith, you’ll appreciate that this was not a second XI team of the type that Mr Wenger has sometimes deployed.  The famous back four was there too.

Not only was it a wonder moment for Wrexham, but also for Mickey Thomas (not, of course, the Thomas who beat Liverpool to win the league in 1989).  Thomas was a local lad who had played for Wrexham before going to Man U.  Before the game the Wrexham manager said of him, “He trains when he wants to train.  I don’t see him too often.”  We later found out why.

Apart from his opening spell at Wrexham Thomas never played more than 100 games for any of the 13 clubs he represented – but he did finally return to Wrexham in 1991 (having left them in 1978) at the age of 37.

It was he who placed a disputed 25 yard free kick past David Seaman on 82 minutes.  On 84 minutes  Steve Watkin’s scored the winner and Arsenal were out.

There is a film (if you can take it) here

In the next round Wrexham were defeated by West Ham after drawing 2-2 away.  Arsenal recovered under Graham to win both the FA Cup and the League Cup the following season.
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As for the old man who rarely trained, Thomas he was soon after jailed for 18 months for his part in a money counterfeiting business.  He also had an extra marital affair which resulted in him being knifed.
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By the 21st century the club was involved in attempts by their own chairman to have them evicted from their ground so his property company could use the land for house building.   The club went into administration in 2004, and a new version of the club now plays in the Conference.

 

1 comment to Wrexham defeat Arsenal in FA Cup and what happened next

  • Andrew Golledge

    Sorry to be pedantic but felt that I must pull you up on the paragraph about being relegated from the 4th division. Automatic relegation from the 4th division had been in place since 1987 so the re-election process occurred for the last time in 1986.
    The reason Wrexham were not relegated after finishing bottom in 1991 is because of the expansion of the First division to 22 clubs. This wasn’t a last minute reprieve either. It had been known long in advance that there would be no relegation in 1991 and in 1992 because of the planned expansion of the first division.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_League_Fourth_Division

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