BRIAN FLYNN says Wrexham’s football fairytale when causing the greatest FA Cup shock of all-time was a real-life ‘Roy of The Rovers’ story.

“We had the local lad playing Roy in Steve Watkin who scored the winning goal to beat the league champions,” said Flynn looking back on Wrexham’s amazing 2-1 win over George Graham’s Arsenal 30 years ago.

“He’d scored a hat-trick against Winsford, a late winner against Telford and then the goal against Arsenal. It was real Roy of The Rovers stuff. You couldn’t write it. These were dreams coming true for Wrexham fans.”

Flynn wasn’t wrong.

In his first season as manager, Wrexham had finished bottom of the entire Football League. Arsenal, with a team jam-packed full of internationals, won the league.

But the magic of the cup paired the team that had finished 92nd at home against the best team in the land. There was only going to be one winner, wasn’t there?

“The club had been struggling for a few years,” said Flynn, who took over in charge of the cash-strapped Reds after Dixie McNeil – the man who had brought Welsh international midfielder Flynn to The Racecourse – had resigned.

Flynn inherited a small squad and immediately set up plans to blood a number of talented youngsters who were coming through the ranks at the club.

“At the beginning of the previous season when we knew there would be no relegation from the league we had decided to go with the youngsters and by the time the Arsenal game came round they had all benefited from a year’s experience,” added Flynn.

Match-winner Watkin teamed up with fellow Reds rookies, Phil Hardy, Waynne Phillips, Gareth Owen and Karl Connolly, who had been snapped up after being spotted playing in the Liverpool Sunday League.

But the team also had experience. Andy Thackeray was excellent wherever he played, and was outstanding at right back, coping with the quick-footed trickery of Paul Merson.

Mark Sertori – Flynn’s first signing – arrived with the hope of scoring goals to get Wrexham out of trouble. But he was switched to the centre of defence and the forward never looked back after that.

His partner was 19-year-old Manchester United loanee Brian Carey, who Flynn was desperate to sign permanently.

“He was 19, raw, but so commanding and I told the chairman that I could build a team around him. He was that good,” recalled Flynn.

“The chairman said ask United what they want. I rang Alex and he was adamant that Brian was not for sale.

“Alex said that they’d only just paid £50,000 for him from Cork.

“I kept pushing him for a ball-park figure but Alex said: ‘Brian. I’ve told you. We’re not selling him. You can keep him on loan but he’s not for sale.’

“Eventually he said he’d accept £75,000. I told the chairman and he said ‘forget it’ and that the club couldn’t afford it.”

After the cup success against Arsenal and Carey’s impressive performances on television against West Ham in the next round, Flynn was again on the phone to Old Trafford looking to do business with Ferguson.

“With the money we’d made from gate receipts, I thought I’d ask again but Alex said: ‘He’s worth £300,000 now!’

Instead it was left to another ex-United star, Mickey Thomas, to grab all the headlines with that fabulous free-kick to bring Wrexham back into the game.

“That was our plan from the off, from the Monday morning when we started thinking about the game,” added Flynn.

“We kept telling the players to try and stay in the game but we were lucky to still be in the game at half-time. They battered us.

“If they’d have done all the stats like they do now, Arsenal’s possession would have been about 80 per cent.

“But we stopped them playing in the second half, nicked the ball off them and grew with confidence.

“I’m not convinced it was a free-kick leading up to Mickey’s goal but Gordon’s used all his experience and Mickey’s scored the goal that everyone’s talked about for years. And then Wrexham’s Roy of the Rovers, Steve Watkin, hits the winner.”

Arsenal were the first of 10 top-flight cup opponents Wrexham played over the course of the next decade with Manchester United the only team to beat them at the first attempt.

And despite being gracious in defeat as he left The Racecourse red-faced that day, Arsenal boss George Graham was seething – even years after when Flynn saw him at a League Managers’ Association meeting.

“He said ‘I wanted to kick your bum that day for what you did to us’ and looking back I can imagine how he felt.”

Striker Alan Smith, who scored the goal to put Arsenal 1-0 up at the break, unearthed even more misery from The Gunners’ ill-fated trip to North Wales.

“George Graham was a man of very few words and especially at Wrexham that day,” said Smith. “He told us to ‘get changed and get on that coach’.

“We did get on the coach quickly but it broke down in the middle of nowhere and we spent some time on the hard shoulder waiting for the replacement coach to pick us up. I suppose that summed up our day.

“Losing at Wrexham was a sickener but you always get one major shock every year in the cup. Unfortunately that year it was us.”