Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
Wrexham’s players will get a chance to perform in front of a big crowd tomorrow, but we won’t be challenging the biggest attendances in the club’s history.
The biggest crowd to witness a Wrexham match was at Anfield for a fourth round FA Cup tie in 1970. 54,096 supporters turned up to watch us lose 3-1 despite Ray Smith scoring to give The Kop a fright.
Previously, the record was 48,315 but it stood for just four months! Earlier in that season we reached the third round of the League Cup, where we attracted that number of fans to Old Trafford to see Manchester United beat us 2-0.
The two biggest crowds attracted to The Racecourse were also against Liverpool and Manchester United. In January 1957 we drew the famous Busby Babes in the fourth round of the FA Cup, leading to the implementation of a massive logistical operation to get all the fans safely in and out of the ground. The Mold Road was turned into a one-way street to facilitate the mass movement of fans and 34,445 supporters arrived to see the famous Manchester United side beat Wrexham 5-0.
The only other time we’ve crammed over 30,000 fans into The Racecourse was in January 1963. No doubt fans were attracted by the visit of Liverpool to a third round FA Cup tie, but they would also have been hungry for a bit of football by then: the famously bitter winter of that season meant home games were a rarity. In fact, we hadn’t played at home for five weeks!
A massive effort was made to get the pitch playable and it was ultimately successful, but the club weren’t rewarded with an upset as Liverpool won 3-0. At least we won our next home game – and it was a Welsh Cup tie against Chester at that! – but it was another five weeks after the Liverpool game that the match-starved fans were able to return to The Racecourse to see it! Apart from those big efforts to put a couple of big cup ties on they didn’t get to watch any football on home territory for three months!
The biggest crowd we’ve attracted to neutral territory was one of the most famous games in the history of both sides involved. In the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1978 we drew Blyth Spartans, and after a controversial late equaliser earned us a replay we went up to the North East hoping to avoid a cup upset and get into the quarter finals for the second time in our history.
Interest in the tie was massive so Blyth decided to approach Newcastle United, who were happy to host the tie at their Saint James’ Park stadium. 42,267 fans came to see if Blyth could get to the last eight, but they were thwarted by two terrific goals – an early penalty thrashed in by Graham Whittle and then Dixie McNeil’s fine volley. Although Spartans grabbed a late goal, we held on to earn a home match against Arsenal.