Mick Buxton discusses his transfer dealings ahead of the 1979/80 campaign
- Mick Buxton on Town’s amazing 1979/80 season
- Former Manager goes into detail on his signings
- Find put why he brought Ian Robins to the Club
Mick Buxton set the tone for rein as Town manager with his first foray into the transfer market.
While some managers are keen to build from the back, forward-thinking Buxton went on the offensive straight away.
Happy with his defensive resources and goalkeeper, Buxton immediately set his sights on bolstering Town’s attack after succeeding Tom Johnston as manager.
And within a month of Buxton taking charge, Town had struck a £20,000-deal with Oldham to sign striker Ian Robins and a re-building process began in earnest.
It turned out to be a shrewd investment as Robins hit the ground running by scoring 16 goals in his first season at Leeds Road.
And then he went on to etch his name in Town folklore by scoring both goals in the 2-1 win over Hartlepool in front of the Cowshed to clinch the club the Fourth Division title 40 years ago this month.
It also took his tally of league goals for the season to 25 as Town broke the 100-goal barrier for the first time in the club’s illustrious history.
“My first signing was Ian Robins because I knew we could build a team around him,” Buxton said in this second instalment of an in-depth interview with htafc.com.
“I had to go over to his home in Bury to persuade him and his wife, Elaine, that the move to Huddersfield was right for him but it was well worth the trip.
“I saw him as crucial because we already had the makings of a back four already and a good goalkeeper in Alan Starling, who we used to work really hard in training and who did a hell of a job for us.
“Then there was our skipper Peter Hart in midfield and Peter Fletcher up front but we badly someone we would play the ball into and play around him.
“Ian could keep the ball up front and it wouldn’t come straight back, and he was a very good finisher as well.
“He worked hard for the team, fitted in well with the lads, and made a habit of being in the right place at the right time – most memorably in that Hartlepool game.”
Robins, who would score 67 goals in 186 appearances for Town before his retirement in May 1982, often profited from the sterling work down the right wing from another new arrival in the shape of Brian Stanton.
Stanton was signed from Bury for £15,000 in September 1979 after a promising start to the new League campaign.
Robins and Hart scored in a 2-0 victory over Aldershot as Town won their opening fixture of the season for the first time since 1972.
Town won their first three league fixtures before a 2-0 defeat at Lincoln that prompted Buxton’s swoop for Stanton.
“It was after Ian Robins that we started to add the finishing touches to the squad,” Buxton said.
“I brought in Mick Laverick to play alongside Peter Hart because I knew he was a clever midfielder from my days at Southend
“I travelled to see him all the way down to Torquay where he was on his summer holiday to get him to sign.
“And there was Fred Robinson who I knew was a good player because I'd seen him at Doncaster and then I saw him again playing behind a pub one day.
“Then there was Bernard Purdie who played against us three times for Crewe early in the season and was the best player on each occasion.
“There was a common denominator because they were all good characters who wanted to succeed.
“I didn’t want people who were just there for a few bob – I wanted them to be there for the right reasons.
“As for playing ability, I wasn’t bothered about big, strong lads, I wanted people who were bright and could handle the ball.”
Buxton’s recruitment campaign proved to be spot-on as Town pushed for promotion.
Club Chairman Keith Longbottom and his board of directors (Joseph Christie, Stanley Kinder, Clifford Senior, Edward Lodge and ex-Yorkshire cricketer Mel Ryan) showed their faith by funding a record-breaking deal.
And in return Town signed Steve Kindon who would go on to become a cult hero among supporters, scoring 37 goals in 82 games for the Terriers.
“The signing of Steve Kindon was like a Christmas present to the fans,” Buxton said.
“We had a quiet group who got exceptionally well I wanted someone who could really wake the place up.
“I thought they needed a lift in the dressing room and someone with a bit of extra flair on the field.
“I’d known Steven since he was 15 or 16 at Burnley and we actually played in the same reserves team.
“It was just a matter of persuading him to drop down the divisions. I knew he wouldn’t particularly like the amount of work we did but he’d get on with it.
“He would cost a few bob but I told the chairman ‘look, we’re getting along all right but if we get Kindon in he’ll put a few thousand on the gate and that’ll help pay for the transfer.’
“And, lo and behold, crowds went up from the day he came to watch us beat Rochdale 5-1 on December 21 when there was 4,550 to 9,898 against Darlington on New Year’s Day and then 8,108 against Lincoln the next home game.
“Getting Steve Kindon showed the people of Huddersfield that we meant business, which was important.”
Kindon hit the ground running and scored 14 goals in 17 Town games during the 79/80 season – including one in a 4-1 defeat at promotion rivals Portsmouth.
“We were trailing 3-1 at half-time and I did what I always did and told the players to sit down,” said Buxton, who also signed Andy Rankin when Starling was injured.
“I’ve since heard Keith Hanvey say that he came in expecting a rollicking but that couldn't have been further from the truth.
“I remember saying ‘I can't believe how well you’ve played and if you play like that over the course of the next 13-and-a-half games then we will definitely get promoted.
“That’s because I was never overly bothered about results – it was how the team had played that really counted. If we’d played well we’d win games.
“But sometimes it was just not to be – if we’d been beaten by the better side or the opposing manager had got his tactics better than mine.
“It was no shame losing to Portsmouth who were very much a bogey side for us but also a very good team but I always looked at the performance rather than the scoreline so I wasn’t downhearted.
“But what also got me was Portsmouth’s brilliant support and that game spurred me on.
“I’ll always remember travelling down to Fratton Park on the bus and there were thousands of Pompey fans coming from all directions, wearing their blue and white scarves.
“And I remember thinking to myself, this is the support we need and that’s what we got because the Town fans really got behind us.”
Town did not lose another game that season and ultimately pipped Walsall to the Fourth Division title on the finishing line.
“We drew 1-1 at our place in mid-April just four games left and just about everyone thought our chances of finishing top were gone,” Buxton said.
“Yes, Walsall were a very good team but they’d got promoted with six games left and I think they thought they’d achieved their goal.
“But my goal was the win the league and I told the players ‘we don't finish working like hell until the final whistle blows at the end of the last match.’
“That was because we wanted to end up as champions and that never-say-die spirit was crucial in the final reckoning as we chased Walsall down.
“In a sense I was pleased it was all over when we beat Hartlepool to win the Fourth Division trophy.
“But more importantly I was pleased for all the people who had worked like hell to come along to watch us, all the staff behind the scenes and my players who got their just rewards.”
While the 2-1 win over Hartlepool will go down in history as one of Town’s most memorable games, it was the 6-3 win over Bradford on New Year’s Day in 1983 that really stands out for Buxton.
“There were parts of that game which must rank as the best we ever played in my time at Leeds Road,” Buxton said. “There was loads of first-time passing, we really popped the ball around, the way players ran off people well was exceptional.
“They did things which I'd always wanted them to do which was extremely satisfying. Brian Stanton had the game of his life with four goals in one half and it was against our neighbours, which gave us the local bragging rights and we ended up winning promotion again which was a great achievement."