ARFON GRIFFITHS knows what it’s like to beat Austria - and lead Wales to a major tournament.

Griffiths - arguably the greatest player in the Reds’ history - fired Wales into the quarter-finals of the 1976 European Championships in front of his home-town fans in Wrexham - something he will never, ever forget.

Griffiths, who was brought up in Hightown, holds the record number of 592 league appearances for Wrexham during a 20 year association at the club and he also managed the team to the Third Division title and Welsh Cup glory in 1978.

Three years earlier in the twilight of his playing career, Griffiths was enjoying an international renaissance with Wales.

That goal - the only one of the game - against Austria in front of 27,578 success-starved Welsh fans put Mike Smith’s men through to the last eight.

Back then the quarter-finals were not technically part of the finals tournament, as they were played over two legs rather than in a host country - but don’t mention that to any of the team who made the dream happen that season.

Griffiths was joined in the Wales team that day by Wrexham team-mate and goalkeeper Brian Lloyd plus two young Reds stars’ who had headed off to Merseyside in big-money deals, Liverpool’s Joey Jones and Everton’s David Smallman. Brian Flynn, who went on to become Wrexham’s longest serving manager in their history, was also in the Wales team.

And Griffiths, who had a pretty impressive strike-rate of six goals in 17 internationals, remembers his Wales days fondly.

While his club side were in the old Football League’s third division, Wales’ golden boys included the likes of John Toshack, Leighton James and Terry Yorath.

“It’s not easy to go into an international side when you’re in the Third Division and you’ve got players playing in the First Division,” said Griffiths.

“I kept thinking whether they’d accept me. But they did and it felt just like going from one club side to another really. It was wonderful.”

Under manager Smith, Wales topped their qualifying group to reach the last eight.

The man dubbed the ‘Prince of Wales’ by Reds fans loved the whole experience of that build-up to the tie against Austria in November 1975.

“I can always remember the coach trip down to The Racecourse from the Bryn Howell hotel near Llangollen,” he said

“There were so many people about. Thousands. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

“I was nervous obviously, but there was a lot of confidence in the team.

“We had some good players, although Leighton James was probably our only true world-class player at the time.

“When I scored the winning goal I was just numb and just couldn’t believe it really. A Hightown lad, a local lad scoring a goal like that.

“I remember the goal – I’ve seen a few replays of it – and it was just a case of keeping my head down and hitting – bit like I do in golf now.

“I had a similar chance the season before at Burnley in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup but I missed it. I suppose I learnt from that when scoring that goal for Wales.

“And to score at The Racecourse was even better. The atmosphere under the lights was brilliant.

“The Welsh lads used to love playing at The Racecourse. We had a great record there and there was always a good spirit in the team when we stayed in Llangollen at the Bryn Howell or at The Royal.”

Manager Smith, who Griffiths described was ‘ahead of his time’ also knew how important playing in North Wales was.

“Mike was very good,” added Griffiths. “His preparation was excellent and every player going out onto the pitch knew exactly the job they had to do.

“Technically, Mike was ahead of his time and he deserves credit for getting us to the last eight where we came up against a very good Yugoslavia side.”

Wales’ hopes sadly came to an end in the quarter-finals as they lost 3-1 on aggregate against Yugoslavia, meaning they missed out on a place in the finals tournament which contained just four teams.

But the campaign ended on a high for Griffiths as he was named BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 1975.

“I didn’t want to go down to Cardiff for the ceremony for sure,” he said. “But John Neal said to me ‘I think you’d better do anyway, just to show your face’.

“I was sat there at the function and I can remember John Toshack was in the running as was Merv the Swerve, the rugby player.

“When they said the runner-up was Mervyn Davies, I turned to my wife and said ‘Good God, I think I’ve won this!’I couldn’t believe it and couldn’t get my words out afterwards to be honest’.

“Looking back, it’s unreal really when you look at Gareth Edwards who won it the year before and then Mervyn Davies who won it the year after – two icons of Welsh rugby really.”