BARRY HORNE’S not one to blow his own trumpet but the former Wales captain knows exactly what his goal in Portugal 36 years ago meant to Wrexham Football Club.

Wrexham were on the crest of a slump, spiralling back down the Football League. The super Seventies had been eclipsed by the awful Eighties and down-in-the-dumps Reds fans were looking for something to give them a much-needed lift.

Finishing 20th in Division Four the season before at least ended the threat of a relegation hat-trick. The one silver-lining on the dark clouds that had permanently hovered over The Racecourse was that Shrewsbury Town had won the Welsh Cup, and because they were English, runners-up Wrexham were back in Europe and paired against Portuguese giants Porto in the first round.

For Horne, the 22-year-old from Bagillt in Flintshire, it was the beginning of a professional career that would ultimately lead to much bigger and better things.

Scoring the winner - a spectacular last-minute volley to boot - against one of the greats of European football wasn’t a bad start though.

“I’d only been playing for Wrexham for two months,” said Horne. “I’d left university, Bobby Roberts had signed me from Rhyl and then the Porto game happened.

“I know fans talk about the 2-1 FA Cup win over Arsenal but that victory against Porto was something else and, for me, that was the best result in Wrexham’s history. Beating one of the champions of European football over two legs!

“To play in that game in Portugal and the way we won it, was a great memory. They went 3-0 up, Jake King scored two to make it 3-2 and they scored a fourth and switched off.”

Cue Horne, who only four days earlier had scored his first Wrexham goals with a double in another 4-3 defeat at home to Stockport County in front of just 1,516 fans.

“I remember the goal and, yes, it was spectacular,” added Horne. “I just pointed to John Muldoon where I wanted him to put it. And he did. We’d lost 4-3 but went through an away goals. It was an unbelievable night, the rain was torrential and there was a full house. My dad and brother were there, in fact there were lots of Wrexham fans there.

“It was an amazing result and don’t forget the 1-0 home win too. I had a Geoff Hurst moment in that game where the ball bounced down off the underside of the bar and then onto the line.”

The European Cup Winners’ Cup adventure ended in the next round after the Reds put up a more than respectable show against Roma.

“Carlo Ancelotti was in the Roma team and Sven Goran Eriksson was their manager,” recalled Horne, whose side went out 3-0 on aggregate. “They had Bruno Conti too and two of world football’s best midfielders in Cerezo and Falcao.

“We played well, especially in the Olympic Stadium where the ref gave them a penalty. And it was never a penalty!”

It was back to the depths of Division Four where Bobby Roberts was trying desperately to turn the Reds’ flagging fortunes around.

“Bobby was great for me, an experienced football man and very hard-working,” added Horne, who signed from Wrexham after impressing on trial while he was still on the books of then Northern Premier League side, Rhyl.

His move to The Racecourse seemed like destiny. Manchester United, Everton, Sheffield Wednesday, Blackpool, Chester and Wrexham all wanted Horne to join them after taking his O Levels.

“Becoming a professional footballer in those days wasn’t like it is today,” said Horne, who’d spent time at United and Everton - the team he supported - as a teenager.

“Today you’re signed up as a six year-old and although it’s still difficult to become a professional footballer there are more opportunities nowadays.

“At the time, Everton had too many youngsters, United had youngsters from all over the UK and Ireland but although football was my love, I thought that so few people get the chance to become a professional footballer.

“I decided to stay on at school and then go on to university but if I had signed for anyone at that time it would have been Wrexham. Definitely.”

Brian Prandle - affectionately known as BP - was in charge of the Reds’ youngsters at the time while Cliff Sear was doing the same at Chester where he had Ian Rush in his youth ranks.

“Rushie used the play in the same Hawarden Rangers team as me and I remember him coming to present the end of season medals at Deeside Leisure Centre just after he’d signed for Chester,” said Horne. “I was player of the season and Alan Whittaker was top scorer. I remember the picture.”

While education and an eventual Chemistry degree took number one priority it didn’t stop Horne from captaining the Liverpool University side to National champions glory as well playing for Courtaulds and Rhyl.

Despite becoming a professional footballer at the late age of 22, Horne became an instant hit with Wrexham, where he improved season on season.

“I was speaking to Steve Charles (former Wrexham captain) the other day and he reckons we were only one or two players away from being a good team,” said Horne, whose goal in the two-legged Welsh Cup final win over Kidderminster helped seal another European ticket to ride for the Reds under Dixie McNeil in 1986.

Horne added another goal to his Euro collection against Zurrieq before the Reds were unlucky to bow out to Real Zaragoza with the Spaniards going through on away goals after a 2-2 draw at The Racecourse.

He hardly missed a game in a three-season stay, making an amazing 184 appearances before one of the highlights of his career.

“I signed for Portsmouth who were managed by Alan Ball - England’s man of the match in the 1966 World Cup final win and an Everton legend,” beamed Horne. “To be chosen by someone of his standing was a real honour for me. Wrexham didn’t do too badly out of the deal. Money and Kevin Russell in return.”

While Rooster became the new fans’ favourite in town, Horne was the headline act on the south Coast where after just two season at Fratton Park, Southampton splashed out a club record £700,000 to take the now well-established Wales international to The Dell. But the move didn’t go down well with both sets of fans.

“I was the first player since the war to move from Portsmouth to Southampton and the two sets of fans hate each other. I actually received hate mail from both sets of fans,” said Horne, who played in a great team alongside the likes of Alan Shearer and Matt Lee Tissier.

From being an attacking midfielder, Horne was now a ball-winning leader in the middle of the park - a trait that was well-admired by another Everton great back on Merseyside.

“Howard Kendall was the Everton manager who signed me in 1992 and it was a dream to play for the club I supported and to again be picked out by Howard,” said Horne.

“I loved my Everton days. People talk about the 30-yarder I scored in the game we needed to win against Wimbledon to stay up but there was much more than just that during my time at Goodison.

“We won the FA Cup and Colin Harvey was the coach. So to be managed by Alan Ball and Howard Kendall and coached by Harvey - they were Everton’s Holy Trinity - was a real honour for me.

“And I can’t not mention Joe Royle - another Everton great under who I enjoyed the best time of my career.”

It was during Horne’s Toffees’ stay that he experienced what he calls his ‘worst day’ in football - Wales losing 2-1 to Romania and Paul Bodin’s missed penalty - in 1993.

“The World Cup in the United States was in sight but that defeat to Romania was my worst day in football,” said Horne, who captained The Dragons that November night in Cardiff and didn’t miss a game in that campaign.

“Terry Yorath had a good side, Peter Shreeves - another good football man - was with him. But they went after the defeat and it went downhill rapidly from that moment onwards.”

At least Horne, who also showed his powers of leadership by becoming chairman of the players’ union, The Professional Footballers Association in 1996, was there to see to good times return to Wales, who were revitalised by the late Gary Speed before Chris Coleman took them to European Championship finals in 2016.

Horne was part of the Sky commentary team and the Red Wall fans; adventure that saw ‘The Barry Horns’ band named after him.

“I don’t think I missed a game in 12 years so to not go to the finals in France and commentate on Wales’ games was bitterly disappointing,” said Horne. “We were there in Bosnia when they qualified and I was at the Slovakia game in France and watching grown men cry after winning the game.”

After quitting football following brief spells with Birmingham City, Huddersfield Sheffield Wednesday and Kidderminster, Horne took on a teaching career at King’s School in Chester, where he has been for 15 years.

As well as teaching science - remotely at the moment due to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions - Horne is also out on the football field in a coaching capacity.

“We’ve not had a pupil become a professional footballer yet but the under 13s and under 18s were the national champions a few years ago,” said Horne, who also headed back to The Racecourse as a member of the Wrexham Supporters Trust’s board in 2011. “I came on board, purely as a volunteer and to give my football knowledge,” said Horne, who quit five years later.

“We came close to getting back into the Football League, losing the play-off final to Newport but we won the FA Trophy at Wembley. That was a great day.”

Horne experienced many other great days during his footballing life but admitted: “It wasn’t what you’d call a stellar career.

“I had to work hard to prove myself everywhere I went. But playing for the two clubs I supported as a boy, Wrexham and Everton and captaining Wales, I can look back at those times with real personal satisfaction.”