IT didn’t take much to persuade Steve Buxton to re-sign for Wrexham in 1985 - £45-a-week to be exact!

“Dixie McNeil was one of my all-time heroes and he wanted to sign me, I couldn’t say no to that,” said Buxton, a forever-willing frontman, who made 300 appearances across 13 seasons for his adopted hometown club.

The only problem for Buxton, aged 25 at the time, was that he had just taken up a full-time job at Tetra Pak on the Wrexham Industrial Estate.

“Dixie offered me non-contract terms but Tetra Park were brilliant, especially a manager called Colin Jones, and I would fit playing and training with Wrexham around my shift patterns.

“We used to work four-on-four-off and then we changed to eight-hour shifts. So if I worked in the morning, I’d train with Wrexham in the afternoon and vice versa.

“Wrexham were struggling financially. Dixie didn’t have much of a budget so bringing in me - £45-a-week I got paid - and others like Nicky Hencher helped the cause.”

Buxton, now 60 and running his own gardening landscape business, scoffed when it was suggested today’s modern-day footballers should follow the journey he took in his dream of playing the game he loves.

Combining work with play came easy for Birmingham-born Buxton whose family moved from England’s second city to Acrefair in 1964 where his father landed a job as a sheet-metal worker at Air Products.

“Can you really see that happening? Players taking up part-time jobs,” said Buxton. “I don’t think the hunger is there, even in the lower leagues and non-league.

“A lot of players are going to struggle to get clubs and no, I don’t think they’d do what I did.

“It’s become a lot easier for players since my day. They’re on decent money, have all got nice cars. I was driving around in a Marina until I was 30!

“It wasn’t really until I moved to Telford United in 1990, when I was on really good money for non-league football, that I bought myself a decent motor.”

The Nineties saw the end of Buxton’s long association with The Reds where he can proudly boast that he was signed by a manager who knew a good player when he saw one - the legendary John Neal.

“John signed me but he was soon to take up the Middlesbrough job,” said Buxton, who took up a one-year Racecourse apprenticeship, 12 months after his Ruabon School team-mates, Peter Williams and Phil Jones had signed deals.

“I missed out that first year because they thought I was too small - a stigma that did annoy me in football,” said Buxton. “We had a great team at Ruabon. Gareth Powell, who went on to win everything with Brymbo on the amateur scene, was our PE teacher.

“We reached the quarter-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup - a competition open to all schools in England and Wales while I was also playing for Wales Schools with OM Edwards as our coach. We beat England 2-0 and then hammered Scotland 3-0.”

Buxton’s progress earned him a chance at Wrexham where he became part of the club’s greatest team of all-time in the Seventies.

“They were unbelievable times,” recalled Buxton. “That first season we lost our last two games and missed out on promotion.

“That game at home to Palace was amazing. They went 2-0 up early on, we got back to 2-2 with Graham Whittle smashing one in from the halfway line.

“But Palace went and scored two more. They were a good team. Kenny Sansom was that good that John Lyons - a striker - had to go on and mark him!”

The tears soon turned to cheers as Wrexham, with their own Prince of Wales, Arfon Griffiths on the throne, were crowned champions in 1978.

“Just to be around the place and training and mixing with those great professionals was something I’ll never forget,” said Buxton.

“I used to love the night games, under the floodlights at The Racecourse. The games always seemed special.

“We beat Newcastle 4-1, Bristol City 3-0 - all top flight teams at the time. The Arsenal game in the FA Cup. I’ve never seen The Racecourse so packed out and what about that League Cup quarter-final against Liverpool?

“The game should never have gone ahead. The pitch was unplayable. We were told to go on the pitch four hours before kick off and put on as much chicken feed we could. They reckoned that was the best thing for drying out the surface!”

Buxton was in awe of the likes of McNeil, Graham Whittle and Bobby Shinton in that super 77/78 Championship-winning team. A Division Three team that also won the Welsh Cup and reached the quarter-finals of the FA and League Cups.

Buxton enjoyed success too, scoring the winner in the Welsh Youth Cup win over Swansea City before finishing the season off in the best possible way - his Wrexham first team debut at Sheffield Wednesday.

“We travelled with the first team - Peter Williams and me - but Arfon didn’t tell us we were in the squad,” added Buxton.

“Jackie Charlton was the Wednesday manager and they gave us a guard of honour before kick-off. Pete started and then I came on for him - and Hillsborough is not a bad ground to make your debut.

“We lost 2-1 but I had a hand in the goal, laying it off to Les Cartwright who banged it into the top corner.”

Griffiths had seen enough in Buxton to reward him with his first professional contract although he had to play second, third and sometimes fourth fiddle to a forever-changing Racecourse frontline.

“The team was changing,” recalled Buxton, who holds the record of making more substitute appearances (70) than any other Wrexham player.

“Mickey Thomas went to Manchester United and no-one’s going to say no to United. Bobby went to Manchester City - the biggest mistake he made - but they did change their manager after he went there.

“He was a magic man. The best trainer I’ve ever seen. He just wanted to play football and entertain the fans when he played.

“You used to learn a lot of all of the players. I respected them although some may say I came across as arrogant in my younger days. But I just wanted to play, I was also a bad loser, always have been. I just wanted the chance to prove myself.”

Buxton made his full debut at another great ground - Sunderland’s Roker Park - where 25,000 plus saw the hosts win 1-0 and three days later he came off the bench for his first Racecourse outing and scored the winner in a 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers.

His other goal in that 1978/79 season came in what Buxton described as his best moment as a Wrexham player.

“It was just a sweet memory - a 2-0 home win against Luton,” he recalled. “Peter and I both started upfront and both scored while Ian Roberts, another youngster came on.

“Joey Jones captained the side and Luton were a great team - had the Steins, Mal Donaghy and Steve Foster. They also had David Moss but once Joey nailed him early in the game, you never saw him again!”

Buxton was becoming a regular. He played the last 12 games of that season and started the next 12 in August, scoring in a 3-1 defeat at Chelsea.

“We started well and would have gone top if we’d have beaten Oldham at home on the Tuesday night. The next day Arfon signed Ian Edwards.”

Buxton didn’t start another game that season and his appearances were limited in the next two campaigns that saw the departure of Griffiths while Mel Sutton’s one and only season as manager ended in relegation in 1982.

Bobby Roberts was brought in as manager and although Buxton admits to ‘a clash of personalties’, the striker enjoyed his most prolific season ever with 15 goals.

“I was the union man at the club when Bobby came in and I wasn’t afraid of voicing my opinion,” added Buxton. “I had a good season in his first one at the club but money was again tight.

“I think we started with four 17-year-olds in one game so relegation - or relegations I should say - were a mere formality.”

So was Buxton’s departure although he didn’t expect his eight-year Racecourse stay to end with a move to Sweden.

“I got offered the chance to play for IK Tord - a Swedish Third Division side - and I decided to give it a go,” said Buxton. “My wife and I moved out there although the place we lived in was in the middle of nowhere.

“We weren’t sure about staying so the chairman let us move into his place in the town.

“I played and did alright but when we came back home during the half season break they have out there, Stockport County offered me a deal and I decided to take it.”

Buxton scored on his debut but money was so tight at Edgeley Park he had to wait months for an operation and eventually left to go part-time at Altrincham as the new chapter of his working life at Tetra Pak began - thanks initially from a tip-off from ex-Reds team-mate Alan Hill.

But it was the call from another former Wrexham player that enticed Buxton into giving it a second go at The Racecourse.

He formed a Little and Large strike partnership with Jim Steel, taking his overall Reds tally past the 60-goal mark.

One of those goals came in the 2-2 European Cup Winners Cup draw at home to Real Zaragoza on Bonfire Night in 1986.

“We played brilliantly that night but their keeper played even better and we went out on away goals,” said Buxton, who despite not starting a game in Europe, has two Cup Winners Cup goals to his name.

“I remember the first one at home to Magdeburg in 1979,” recalled Buxton. “Dixie laid it off to me and I just side-footed it home.

“The away game in East Germany was an eye-opener too. We had to go through Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall and I remember the day after we were flying back, Gorbachev was due to visit and they were handing out flags to everyone, telling them they must wave them the next day.

“We were told not to go out but any sniff some of the players had of a night out - and I’m not naming names - then they’d be out.

“I was too worried about not getting home, so I stayed in the hotel.”

It was overnight hotel stops - or the lack of them - that eventually ended McNeil’s managerial days at Wrexham.

McNeil resigned after he and his players had to take cars, trains and taxis to an away game in Maidstone in October 1989.

“It was laughable but people were trying to force Dixie out,” insisted Buxton. “Brian Flynn, who Dixie brought to the club, became manager and a month later we were away at Exeter - and guess what? We stopped overnight!”

Buxton did feature in Flynn’s early line-ups, scoring his last Racecourse goal - the winner against Peterborough on January 6 1990 - before netting his last ever Reds’ strike from the spot six days later in a 2-1 defeat at Southend.

Still only 30, Buxton’s career path headed into non-league football and then the Welsh Premier League scene where he played, coached and managed.

He has also coached the Wrexham Schoolboys side to international glory and believes it is the playing fields of North Wales where Wrexham must start looking for the stars of the future.

“The way football is changing, clubs must start giving young players a chance,”added Buxton.

“Wrexham has always been a club to blood youngsters but it’s not been happening since they dropped into non-league.

“They really do need to start doing it again because there’s nothing the fans love more than seeing a local lad turning out for Wrexham.”