HE went on to become one of England’s top managers domestically and internationally but Terry Venables may owe Wrexham one for the part they played in his successful career.

Venables playing career was coming to an end at Crystal Palace in 1974 when Wrexham headed to South London for an FA Cup third round tie.

Palace had slipped into the Second Division while at The Racecourse, John Neal was building a side that would ultimately blossom in the club’s best team of all time.

Wrexham handed out some capital punishment at Selhurst Park with goals from Dave Smallman and Mel Sutton and Reds legend Arfon Griffiths remembers that game, that 1973/74 FA Cup run and what Venables had to say to him afterwards.

“We played really well,” said Griffiths. “We weren’t just a team who attacked and scored goals, we worked very hard when we had the ball and worked even harder to win it back.

“John Neal was building a very good side and Venables asked us after the game about our tactics and how we managed to get everyone so fit and how we trained.

“He’d said that Palace had gone on a pre-season tour to Sweden and we told him we’ve gone running in the sand dunes in Aberystwyth!”

The plaudits kept on coming with Smallman, being scouted by a whole host of clubs including Everton, who he eventually signed for 12 months later, grabbing the only goals of the games at home to Middlesbrough and away at Southampton - who, at the time, were managed by two greats of the game.

“Jackie Charlton was Middlesbrough’s manager,” added Griffiths. “He’d won the World Cup seven years previous with England and he was an up-and-coming coach.

“We beat them in a run that was getting more and more attention. Charles Roberts was a director at the time and had us dressed in undertakers’ suits in the build-up to the match.”

A crowd of just over 20,000 watched The Reds ‘Bury The Borough’ as flamboyant director Roberts had wished for and he was inviting Coronation Street stars like Peter Adamson - aka Len Fairclough - to a trip down to the south coast in round five.

Griffiths said: “Dave Smallman scored again at Southampton and that was a great win. Lawrie McMenemy was the Saints’ boss. He was a nice guy, very complimentary of us and he took the defeat well.”

Wrexham were now through to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history with a trip to Burnley to look forward to.

“I think we were tiring by the time we played Burnley,” recalled Griffiths on the 1-0 defeat in front of 36,091 - and thousands of Wrexham fans - at Turf Moor.

“The expectation was growing too and we fancied our chances. But the fact that we played on a lot of heavy pitches in those days was taking its toll on us.

“Playing away suited us because although Dave was getting the headlines for scoring we had players like Michael Thomas, Geoff Davies and Mel Sutton who could run forever.

“We weren’t as sharp as we could have been at Burnley and I missed a great chance which I get reminded of every time I take a putt at Llangollen.

“You missed one from that distance at Burnley, they all say. And they’re right. I had a similar chance 12 months later against Austria for Wales at The Racecourse

“But I scored that one to send us through to the European Championship quarter-finals.”

Griffiths was player-boss at Wrexham three years later when the last-eight hoodoo struck again in a 3-2 defeat at home to Arsenal.

And former Wrexham favourite knows all about being a jinx when it comes to quarter-finals.

Big Billy – as he was known at The Racecourse – terrorised defences in the Seventies as Wrexham became the talk of not only the town but among football fans at home and abroad.

Wrexham FC were putting the North Wales border town on the map and Ashcroft – with his big mop of curly ginger hair – more than played his part in creating the headlines.

The Reds – first under Neal – the manager Ashcroft called the ‘best-ever’ – and then Arfon Griffiths twice reached the FA Cup quarter-finals in the Seventies.

Ashcroft didn’t play in either.

In the 1973/74 season, Ashcroft was establishing himself as Wrexham’s new number nine but he didn’t play one tie in an FA Cup run that saw the Reds knockout Middlesbrough and Southampton.

“I was out of form although they call it rotation these days,” said Ashcroft, who missed out altogether on Wrexham’s last eight clash at Burnley.

“I didn’t even go to Turf Moor to watch. I was in the reserves team and I don’t think that game got played either!”

Ashcroft was one of a crop of young talented players who were nourished into first team stars by Neal.

“We had Mickey Thomas, Graham Whittle, Dave Smallman, Joey Jones. They cost nothing and would be worth millions nowadays,” added Ashcroft, who scored one at Roker Park and the winner in the replay at The Racecourse as Wrexham shocked Sunderland in the third round of the 1976/77 FA Cup.

Cardiff ended Wrexham’s run that year but it didn’t stop the Reds reaching a quarter-final in the last eight of the European Cup Winners Cup.

“People still talk to me about the Anderlecht games,” added Ashcroft.

“We were a little third division side and players like Frankie Van der Elst still talked about the day Wrexham played them and almost beat them.

“We were a great team and we feared no-one but unfortunately we missed out on promotion that season.”

Legendary Reds boss Neal was lured back to his native North East to become Middlesbrough’s manager and Ashcroft was his number one transfer target.

“I think both of us would have stayed if we’d have gone up but the prospect of playing at Anfield and Goodison and not going to places like Workington. Well, who’d turn that down? And the money was good too!

“John paid £90,000 to bring in John Mahoney and then forked out £130,000 for me. It was big money in 1977 although players get paid that a week now.”

Ashcroft became a big hit at Ayresome Park, scoring twice at bitter rivals Newcastle United, certainly helping his cause.

And on March 10 1978 – the day his former club Wrexham were taking on Arsenal at The Racecourse and being cheated out of another FA Cup shock in a 3-2 defeat, Ashcroft’s quarter-final jinx was re-emerging again.

Boro were held 0-0 at home by Orient in the quarter-final clash and went on to lose the replay 2-1 at Brisbane Road.

“I was a guest of former Boro keeper Jimmy Platt at Middlesbrough when Everton were there this season and they were talking about a sitter I missed in that game against Orient,” added Ashcroft.

“But I can’t remember that. Although now your talking about all these quarter-final defeats, I’m beginning to think I was a jinx!”