“I’ve got to be the only manager who has never lost a game in Europe!”

That’s one of Wrexham legend Dixie McNeil’s claims to fame during his long association with the club.

The player-turned-manager, president and now board director has experienced the good and the bad times in his Racecourse days.

He helped put the club on the map in the never-to-be-forgotten 1977/78 season when Arfon Griffiths splashed out £60,000 to bring the striker in from Hereford United.

Wrexham won the Division Three title that season and reached the quarter finals of both the League Cup and FA Cup - a competition that saw McNeil score in every round,

He scored goals in Europe too before taking them to the brink of the European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals 10 years after they were knocked out by Anderlecht in a last-eight classic.

In 1986, McNeil’s Wrexham had won the Welsh Cup, beating Kidderminster Harriers in the final and that earned them a first round draw with Maltese minnows, FC Zurrieq.

The Reds won 7-0 on aggregate and then amazingly held top Spanish side Real Zaragoza to a goalless draw away from home.

“We came so close at The Racecourse only to go out on the away goals rule after a 2-2 extra time draw,” recalled McNeil.

“Their keeper had a blinder. Made save after save and then they brought on a player they’d just paid £1m for and he got the all important goal.

“And I’ll tell you what my team talk was that night. I’d managed to sneak in on the Tuesday night to watch them train at The Racecourse. Their keeper was awful, he was dropping everything. So I told the players to put in cross after cross and to shoot whenever they had the chance. He won the match for them!”

“It was disappointing but at least I scored in every European round I played in,” added McNeil, whose record as a Reds’ manager was even better.

“I never lost a game in Europe. We beat Zurrieq 3-0 and 4-0, and drew 0-0 in Real Zaragoza, who were a top La Liga side at the time. And then we came so close at The Racecourse only to go out on the away goals rule after a 2-2 extra time draw.”

The lure of playing in Europe was one of the reasons why McNeil was first enticed to join Wrexham.

But he was also impressed by player-boss Arfon Griffiths. And it’s fair to say the feeling was mutual.

“Why did I spend £60,000 on Dixie McNeil? Because every time he played against us he was a bloody nuisance,” said Griffiths, who took over as manager after John Neal left for Middlesbrough, taking big centre forward Billy Ashcroft with him.

“He was a nuisance when he played for us too. No only joking. He was a terrific goalscorer and a terrific signing. He was worth every penny of that £60,000.

“He was always on my list. We’d had £120,000 for Billy Ashcroft after he moved to Middlesbrough to team up with John Neal again and Dixie came with the experience we needed.

“Signing him, Dai Davies and Les Cartwright gave us that experience and we never looked back that season.”

McNeil, who scored 86 goals in 218 appearances during a five year stint as a Reds’ player, remembers the club’s European excursions well.

“Obviously winning the title was the main aim but to win the Welsh Cup and have the chance to play in Europe, that really excited me,” said McNeil.

“We had a great reputation for being a side who could beat anyone in the cup. The season before I came, Wrexham had reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners Cup and came so close to beating Anderlecht.

“Then in my first season, we reached the quarter finals of both the FA Cup and League Cup only to lose out to Arsenal and Liverpool.

“So it was fair to say we fancied ourselves and that’s why I was so disappointed we didn’t achieve much in Europe when I was playing.”

McNeil’s first outing in Europe was in Rijeka – and he doesn’t have happy memories.

“We lost 3-0 and I got taken off,” recalled McNeil. “I gave away a free-kick on the halfway line. They launched the free-kick and scored. And Arfon ripped into me.

“The argument continued on the pitch, in the dressing room at half time and eventually I got taken off in the second half.”

McNeil does remember what a great ground Rijeka played at.

“It was the old Yugoslavia and we flew onto an island before getting the ferry back to the mainland.

“The ground was halfway up a mountain and I’m sure there was a rock on one side where some fans watched the game from.

“It was a beautiful place, just a shame about the result!”

Wrexham won the second leg 2-0 with McNeil scoring his first European goal at the grand old age of 31.

He also scored along with Steve Fox and Steve Buxton 12 months later in a cracking 3-2 win at home to East Germany cup winners, FC Magdeburg, who went on to win the return leg beyond the Berlin Wall 5-2 after extra time.

Buxton remembered that trip to the Eastern block - not that he was tempted out of the hotel to sample the East German nightlife.

“The away game in East Germany was an eye-opener too,” said Buxton. “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.”