IT’S 30 years since Wrexham took on Scunthorpe United at The Racecourse in the club’s first ever play-off match but Darren Wright remembers it like it was yesterday.

The left back blasted in a 30-yard-belter to stun Scunny in the May sunshine as Dixie McNeil’s Reds romped to a 3-1 first leg win.

“I remember the goal, I remember the game and those play-off games like it was yesterday,” said Wright. “It’s hard to believe it was 30 years ago but talking about it brings back some great memories, I really loved it at Wrexham.”

Wright’s blockbuster and a double from Ollie Kearns gave Wrexham the confidence they needed going into the second leg at Glanford Park where two goals from top scorer Kevin Russell earned Wrexham a 2-0 win.

That set up a two-legged final against Leyton Orient - the only year the play-offs weren’t held at Wembley - and The Reds suffered capital punishment in the East End losing 2-1 after the first leg at The Racecourse ended a goal-less.

“We were confident going to Orient but we paid for not scoring at home,” added Wright, who now lives in Cornwall after moving south from his native West Midlands.

“Orient came to Wrexham to defend and we couldn’t break them down. Everything just seemed to go against us. Not having the final at Wembley for one.

“I know the club’s finances weren’t the best but we had great team spirit with the likes of Joey Jones, Neil Salathiel and Steve Buxton in the squad. And Kev Russell upfront. He couldn’t stop scoring.”

Wright, who joined Wrexham from Wolves, settled in well in north Wales alongside one of his best mates in the game, Roger Preece.

“Rodge and I loved it at Wrexham,” added Wright. “We’d played together at Wolves but then he went to Coventry and we both ended up at Wrexham.”

Preece didn’t feature in the play-offs but he remembered Wright’s goal.

“Darren Wright wasn’t a great goalscorer but he was the scorer of great goals. When he caught them right, they’d normally fly in,” said Preece, who wasn’t the only friendly face Wright remembers of his Racecourse arrival.

“When I arrived, George Showell came up to me in the reception area and said: ‘Hello, son, I understand you came from Wolves. My name’s George, I come from Bilston.

“He loved me, George did and I didn’t know at the time he’d played for Wolves - in the same team as Billy Wright.”

McNeil was also a big influence on Wright, who made the number three shirt his own but only after telling his new boss he could play with both feet.

“I was a right back when Wolves let me go and Dixie said we’ve got Neil Salathiel who plays there. So I said I was just as good with my left foot and Dixie liked the idea of full backs who could cut inside.

“Being two-footed was one of the first things I wanted to do when playing football. We played a lot of street football as kids and I consider it a basic for anyone who wants to become a professional footballer.

“I was a big Wolves fan and signed schoolboy forms when I was 15 and played for the reserves when I was still at school.

“I was in a physics class at the time and was called to the front by the headmaster. ‘What have I done?’ was all I could think. He told me I should make my way to Molineux.

“I played against Coventry as a centre half against Coventry boss Bobby Gould. And it was in another game against Coventry in 1985 that I played really well against Dave Bennett.

“Bill McGarry was manager at Wolves and watched the game and told me afterwards I would be travelling with the first team to Plymouth.

“I just thought it was to experience first team life, carry the kit etc but in the hotel on the Friday night, McGarry said I was playing. To pull on the old gold shirt as a Wolves fan, you can imagine what that was like.”

But Wright turned out to be a one-game wonder. He wasn’t kept on and was soon making his way to Wrexham.

“I had five great years there, played in the European Cup Winners Cup and we even played at Molineux when Wolves were back in the old fourth division.”

But after making more than 100 appearances in a five-season spell at Wrexham, Wright was forced to quit the game at the age of 22 after suffering a career-ending cruciate knee ligament injury.

“The knee just wouldn’t recover and to finish your career at just 22 was devastating,” added Wright, whose left back berth would be filled by the likes of Alan Kennedy and Phil Hardy.

But Wright wasn’t finished yet and despite taking his PFA money for quitting the game as a professional, he moved into non-league football, first with Worcester City and then at Cheltenham.

“They were the Manchester United of non-League at the time,” recalled Wright. “Steve Cotterill was the manager and we won the FA Trophy in 1998 and promotion to the Conference.

“The season I left, they went into the League but they would have had to pay back the insurance if I registered as a professional again so I decided against it.”

Wright still remained heavily involved in football in the Black Country as well as taking over the franchise for a delivery firm although he didn’t have the best of experiences on his return to North Wales five years ago.

“I had a heart attack when I was playing for Wrexham Veterans against Mold Alex,” added Wright.

“One minute I was playing, the next I was lying on the ground thinking what’s happened here?

“I ended up in Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool having a stent fitted. It was naturally a shock: I have always been trim and as fit as a fiddle.

“But it didn’t stop me wanting to be involved in football. I remember going to a healthcare clinic in Walsall. It was full of geriatrics and the doctor said: ‘Where do you want to be in 12 weeks?’ and I said playing football again!

“It was a massive shock but I wasn’t going to let that stop me .”