Wrexham would have welcomed a player with the guile and creativity of Bobby Shinton last weekend.
The former winger, who enjoyed a prosperous three-year spell with the Reds from 1976 to 1979, was at the Racecourse for Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Halifax.
His distinctly 70s perm and moustache have gone now, but memories of his time with the club have not.
A key player in the side that lifted the Division Three title, Shinton is considered one of the best to have donned the Wrexham shirt
“Three or four of us were named in the league’s team of the year,” he said of the title winning campaign. “We got to the quarter-final of the FA Cup and the quarter-final of the League Cup. We won the Welsh Cup as well so it was great.
“I played at probably the best time in Wrexham’s history. I was here for three years and it was the best time of my life.
“The people and the crowd, too. In those days you seemed to know all the supporters individually. It was a really good time.”
In those days the crowds were significantly larger, too, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Shinton.
“When I played we used to have over 15,000 fans at the Racecourse,” he said. “For me to sit in the stand and see 3,000 people is a bit upsetting really. To see that compared to what it was. But it looks like they’re trying to rebuild so hopefully it’ll get back to that level.”
Shinton, like many others watching on from the sidelines, has been encouraged by the progress made this season.
“It’s nice to see the club at the top of the league,” he added. “I don’t get to see them that often and the pitch is looking well.
“There’s probably 8,000 fans waiting to come back, so if they can just get a winning side together and get back in the Football League, the big crowds will come back.”
In a career that included a £300,000 move to Manchester City and a spell with Newcastle, Shinton still views Wrexham as the zenith of his playing days.
“Without doubt the best time in my football life was playing for Wrexham,” he said. “I’ve got lots and lots of great memories.
“Even playing for clubs like Newcastle couldn’t compete with the time I had at Wrexham. John Neal was the manager and when I signed for the club he said, ‘you’re the last bit of the puzzle’. He was proved right.”
And Shinton admitted that his decision to leave Wrexham for City “was a big mistake. I would have stayed here but I think the club wanted to get a bit of money for me. At the time I could have gone to Tottenham. But I left and that was a bit sad really.”
The 66-year-old now works at a builder’s merchant in Cambridgeshire. Football is a thing of the past for Shinton, a game that in its modern form can often appear unrecognisable.
His assessment of the development of the game was typically frank. “Do I miss football? No, not really,” he said. “I miss the money some of them are getting now.
“I think when I played football it was better to watch: people making tackles, none of this keep ball. The crowd want to see goalmouth excitement and I think that’s what brings people back. If I was playing today I’d be pulling my hair out.”
In summary of his own career, he added: “It was just me, Bobby Shinton, enjoying playing football.” Few who were regulars at the Racecourse in the late 1970s would dispute that.