DEAN KEATES won six promotions in an illustrious playing career but captaining Wrexham to FA Trophy glory on the club's first ever Wembley appearances tops the lot.

Before arriving at The Racecourse in the summer of 2010, Keates was used to playing his part in campaigns that ended with Walsall, Hull and Peterborough going up a division.

The 41-year-old never celebrated promotion during his five seasons with Wrexham - there were near misses with three play-off defeats - but the midfielder achieved the highlight of his career with the Reds.

Seven years ago yesterday, Andy Morrell's Wrexham beat Grimsby 4-1 on a penalty shoot-out after the Conference rivals drew 1-1 after extra-time.

Keates played as high as the Championship after winning back-to-back promotions with Peterborough but nothing compares to winning a cup competition and leading his team-mates up the famous Wembley steps to collect their prize.

"They were happy times," said Keates, who returned for a second spell as Wrexham manager in October.

"You look back on seven years and a lot has happened in those seven years.

"I will never forget that day. I have achieved a few things in my career but that was the highlight.

"It doesn't matter what cup you are playing in, to be able to say that you have played at Wembley and led the team up those steps as winners was unbelievable for me."

Nearly 20,000 Wrexham supporters made it to the capital despite the wintry weather than had hit north Wales.

A couple of feet of snow was not going to stop them witnessing one of the most memorable days in the club's history and although Keates saluted the fans for their commitment to the cause, he wasn't surprised they made it to London.

"It just showed everything that the football club is about for the fans to dig themselves out with all that snow in the area," said Keates.

"As players, we were looking at social media and chatting about it in the hotel down there the night before the final.

"We couldn't believe how many fans we took down there, nearly 20,000 people managing to dig themselves out.

"I wasn't surprised if I am honest knowing the characteristics of what the people of Wrexham are about; the togetherness, the passion that they have for the football club, they were never going to miss out and a couple feet of snow was never going to stop them."

Supporters would have feared it wasn't going to be Wrexham's day after Andy Cook put Grimsby - with current Reds' captain Shaun Pearson in defence - ahead in the 70th minute.

But Kevin Thornton equalised from the penalty spot in the dying minutes to take the game to extra-time.

Neither side could find a winner in the additional 30 minutes so the showpiece had to be settled on a shoot-out and Adrian Cieslewicz, Danny Wright and Chris Westwood made no mistake from 12 yards before Johnny Hunt converted his spot-kick, leading to wild scenes in the Red end of the stadium.

Keates was not needed to take the fifth penalty, but the Wrexham skipper was very surprised to see centre-back Westwood put himself forward for a spot-kick.

"Johnny will always go down as the main one," said Keates.

"But I think I played with Westy seven years all in all at Walsall, Peterborough, a short period at Wycombe and then back together at Wrexham, and his is the one that will always stand out for me.

"Westy would never take a penalty. He used to say: 'if penalties were ever happening, I will be back in the shower washing my dreadlocks!'

"He would never put himself down for a penalty but he was stood there and Mozza was asking who would take a penalty.

"Obviously I was designated penalty taker and I said it was probably best I take the last one just in case it went down to it, or I will go in sudden death because my legs were absolutely shot.

"I was cramping up but I said if you want me to, I will take the first and get it out of the way.

"But Westy stepped forward and said 'I will take one'.

"I said to him: 'Westy, you are going to take a penalty, you have never taken one?' and he went: 'yeah, I know, but we are at Wembley and I am never going to get this opportunity again. I am going to tell my grandkids about this - I ain't missing this penalty'.

"I just started laughing, Mozza said he could take one and Westy scored!"

Wrexham, beaten in the play-off final by Newport when they returned to Wembley six weeks later, have got no nearer to clinching a place back in the Football League and are currently fighting to avoid relegation to the sixth tier.

The coronavirus outbreak has suspended the season and put the battle to beat the drop on hold, but Keates is determined to preserve Wrexham's National League status before ensuring there are more memorable days for fans to enjoy.

"The Trophy final was an unbelievable day and that spirit and togetherness is what this football club needs to build back on now and start going forward," said Keates.

"If and when we do get these nine games going again, everybody needs to think of that mentality, get through these remaining games and look at taking the football club back to where it needs to be, and that is back challenging.

"But we have to address what happens this season first and foremost."