Lewis Buxton wants to help Sheffield Wednesday escape their relegation battle and earn himself a new Hillsborough deal.
The 29-year-old right-back – one of the longest-serving Owls players having first joined the club on loan in October 2008 – will be out of contract this summer.
Unlike some modern-day footballers, though, the former Stoke City defender has not been knocking on the chairman’s door asking for a new deal and is determined to put the club’s needs first and try to help secure Wednesday’s Championship status.
The Owls sit just three points outside the relegation zone heading into today’s game at Hillsborough against fellow strugglers Wolverhampton.
Victory over Dean Saunders’s side could see the Owls leapfrog Ipswich Town and Birmingham City and move to within just one point of Wolves.
That is the only numbers game Buxton is focusing on despite his contract running down.
“I would like to stay, definitely,” said Buxton. “Hopefully I can stay, I enjoy it here. I enjoy living and playing here.
“It’s an honour to play at Hillsborough. I think we have a great set of fans, a big stadium and the club deserves to be in a better position than it is.
“We have not had any contract talks yet, it is early days. I will just concentrate on playing the games and worry about that after. I’ll just concentrate on playing football and climbing the table.
“I am one of the longest-serving players now, along with Jermaine Johnson and I have enjoyed my time at Wednesday.
“Last season, we were winning all the time and that was a good time for everyone, enjoyable.
“This season, we started well, then struggled, but now we have a bit of form and this is what we did all the hard work last season for.
“Hopefully, we can win the next few games and push into that block of teams and go on from there.”
That recent form has seen Wednesday impressive on the road, with victories at Barnsley, Bolton and Hull City, as well as picking up a 0-0 draw at Huddersfield Town.
At Hillsborough, though, they have slipped up, losing to Bristol City and Burnley, while League One side MK Dons held them to a draw in Sheffield before winning the FA Cup replay on Tuesday night 2-0.
“Hull was probably the best we have this played this season, against a team that is second in the Championship,” said Buxton. “It was a good all-round performance, had plenty of chances, and we had a ‘goal’ disallowed.
“But against MK Dons we just didn’t play well. The penalty I gave away didn’t help things early in the game. It was always going to be difficult once we gave that first goal away.
“It wasn’t great, but there were a lot of changes and, hopefully, we can get back to winning ways in the league against Wolves.”
The Dons’ penalty came after Buxton tugged his opponent’s shirt, an incident which can infuriate fans in the stands.
But the defender believes players – both attackers and defenders – try to gain any possible advantage.
“I just tugged the guy’s shirt and then let go,” he said.
“He just stopped, didn’t go down, and the referee gave the penalty.
“I have not watched it back but it was just one of those things. I got slightly out of position and ended up giving a penalty away.
“You just know when a ball has been played, and it’s broke the defensive line, that if you are slightly out of position you try and get back goal-side of that player.
“Quite often, people put their arm out, it’s just a natural instinct as you play the game. A lot of the time you put your arm out to block someone. Sometimes you stick your arm out and end up grabbing someone’s shirt and it can cost you.
“If players get the opportunity to go down – or give up the opportunity to score – they would rather take the penalty or get a free-kick. That’s just the way things are now.
“You have to realise that as a defender. It’s easier said than done, but you have to try and be clever yourself and know when you can get away with holding someone a little bit and when you can’t.
“That part of the game happens at all levels. The most obvious time when you see that is at corners; there’s always people bumping and shoving. It’s just part of the game.”
Buxton missed Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat at Molineux in September through injury, but is bemused that the club who were relegated from the Premier League last year have struggled to adapt to Championship life.
“I am surprised with where Wolves are. They got relegated and, at the start of the season, you fancied them to be up there with the players they have got,” said Buxton, who started out as a player at Portsmouth.
“Most of them have played in the Premier League for a few seasons, so it has been surprising, and it ended with the manager getting the sack. A new manager has come in and maybe that will turn things around for him.
“Dean Saunders will be looking for a good start. They drew against Blackburn, where they did alright at home, but I think they are a better side away from home at the moment.
“Because things aren’t going so well, the Molineux fans can get on their backs a bit at home so they have a bit more freedom playing away from home.”
Similar claims have been made about Wednesday sides playing in front of an expectant Hillsborough crowd over the years, but Buxton does not believe that is an issue.
“We have done well away from home recently, and won at places that are tough places to go in Barnsley, Bolton and Hull. We have got results. We just have to try and bring that into our home form as well. Beating Hull and Bolton highlights that we can beat anyone.
“The Wednesday fans have had to sit through a lot of games where we haven’t played well and watch us get beat. The frustrations will always be there, but I think they have been behind the lads for most of the time.”