CHRIS ARMSTRONG will always cherish his early days at Wrexham but says he owes a lot to the coaches that first honed his raw skills at The Racecourse.

Armstrong, who started off playing in goal for Llay during his early Wrexham and District Youth League days, was plucked from the Welsh National League 30 years ago and was handed his first professional contract by Dixie McNeil.

McNeil played his part his Armstrong’s journey but the former Tottenham striker was quick to praise the rest of the Reds back-room staff at the time,

“I owe a lot to the likes of Brian Prandle, Idris Pryce, Joey Jones and, of course, Cliff Sear,” said Armstrong.

Former Welsh international Sear, who died in 2000, was famous for unearthing Ian Rush at Chester City but it was at Wrexham where he excelled in bringing through a whole host of teenage talent.

“Cliff was a lovely man, a great coach but so were the others,” said Armstrong. “They gave me so much help and just look at the group of players who came through the ranks. They were good players, who became first team regulars.”

Armstrong became a Reds regular under Brian Flynn, who had faith to give youngsters like Armstrong, Steve Watkin, Jon Cross, Phil Hardy, Gareth Owen and Waynne Phillips their chance in the Football League basement, safe in the knowledge that no team would be relegated to the Conference in 1991.

Armstrong played 60 times and scored 13 goals - including the winner in the European Cup Winners’ Cup first round tie at Lyngby in Denmark in 1990.

“That has to be the highlight of my early days,” added Armstrong. “Going away in Europe and scoring the winner. We then played Manchester United in the next round.

“Playing at Old Trafford for a youngster was a great experience but we also played Everton home and away in the League Cup that season too.”

Armstrong’s pace and aerial ability was soon attracting scouts to The Racecourse and Millwall boss Bruce Rioch forked our £50,000 for the striker, who only two years previously had given up in football and was packing beefburgers in a factory in Wrexham.

Armstrong had impressed Rioch and Mick McCarthy - who was player coach when Armstrong ran him ragged in a pre-season friendly at The Racecourse.

“Mick went on to become player manager at Millwall and he was brilliant. He gave me so much confidence after making what was a big move for me to London,” said Armstrong, whose career really kicked on in the capital.

Crystal Palace boss Steve Coppell liked what they saw in Armstrong, who despite scoring only five times in 28 games at The Den, moved across London in a £1m deal.

Goals flowed at Palace - 45 in 118 appearances - and after turning down a bid from Newcastle for whom Kevin Keegan was about to pay £4.7m to take Armstrong back to his home-town club, the lure of London and Tottenham was too good for the free-scoring striker to turn down.

“There were a few clubs after me,” recalled Armstrong, who was Palace’s record Premier League scorer with 23 goals before Wilfried Zaha passed that tally in 2018.

“Everton and Aston Villa were in for me and it was a difficult choice,” said Armstrong. “Everton would have meant moving back closer to home but after a few years in London, I was enjoying life down there. But it was purely a decision based on football and after speaking to manager Gerry Francis, I was impressed.”

Armstrong signed for Spurs in 1995 for what was a record £4.5m Tottenham transfer at the time - not bad for someone who used to go to Highbury to watch arch enemies Arsenal with his brother as an eight-year-old!

In a seven-year stay at White Hart Lane, he netted 48 goals, scoring one every three games for the North London.

Injuries held Armstrong back and aged 32, he eventually ended up where his football career had kicked off.

“I came back to The Racecourse when Denis Smith was in charge,” said Armstrong. “It was good to return to a club where I had so many good memories. It was just a shame we got relegated.

“I was still struggling with the injury and in the end I had to retire. I just wish I could have done a bit more back at the club.

“I always look out for their result and just hope that they’ll get back into the Football League.”