They say you should never go back, and in general I fully subscribe to that theory. Thank goodness Chris Maxwell doesn’t though: he could be the exception that proves the rule.
Generally, going back to the scene of your greatest successes is fraught with danger. Expectations are too high, players are often older and a little over the hill when they rerurn, and it just doesn’t turn out right. Turning up expecting a repeat of great things can simply set you up for a fall. Have you seen “Godfather 3”, or “The Simpsons” in the past ten years? Then you know what I mean.
Wrexham seem to have specialised in this sort of doomed pursuit of the familiar in recent years. It was the one great failing of Denis Smith, a superb manager who I’m totally convinced would have kept us out of the Conference if he hadn’t been ludicrously dismissed. The balance sheet on returning players is, to my eyes, a bit lop-sided:
Okay, I’m sure I’ve forgotten some players, and I must admit to being unsure which side of the table I ought to put Waynne Phillips (probably slap-bang in the middle), Kevin Russell (who returned a different player) and Christian Smith. I still think the table tells a story though (and the more I’m thinking of it, the more wonder if I should shuffle Lee Jones into the middle of the table too.)
Maxwell’s circumstances are different though. I’ve always been a public supporter of his, and rate him extremely highly. Joslain Mayebi undoubtedly has good qualities, but I’ve always regretted the fact that Maxwell’s time at Wrexham ended the way it did. There’s no question that Maxwell has the ability to turn this move into a terrific success: it’s what we need and, having fallen victim to cash–rich Fleetwood’s hoovering up of non-league talent, he desperately needs it too.
The fact that the move has happened at all is a real compliment to Andy Morrell’s man management style too. The initial fall-out between Maxwell and the management of the club last season was very clumsily handled. I remain unconvinced that Maxwell said anything in the now notorious Daily Post interview which went beyond what you’d expect a motivated professional to say. One suspects the subtext was what was important: it seems Dean Saunders felt that he had a player he needed to take down a peg or two and took advantage of the story to do exactly that.
There’s nothing wrong with a manager doing that in itself, but he did it in a very public way: I’m not sure Saunders is a coach who you can fall out with and then expect things to return to normal. But let’s not link Maxwell’s schism with the club purely to Saunders. After Morrell took over, Maxwell was left out again in identical circumstances, and it was Morrell who decided to keep faith with Mayebi for the remainder of the season. The goalkeeping situation wasn’t something he inherited, it was something he chose.
However, one suspects Morrell is a little more sympathetic when it comes to handling players: I feared the putative deal to bring Maxwell back would be impossible as his nose would have been pushed out of joint by how he felt he was treated by Wrexham last season; the fact that it has been completed so swiftly not only suggests that last year’s accusations of Maxwell having an attiude problem are ludicrous, but that Morrell handled the situation brilliantly.
There is one name I’ve missed off my list of returning heroes, an exception to the rule that suggests coming back can be a good thing when the circumstances are right. It’s a man whose experience of a successful return to The Racecourse hopefully shows that Maxwell’s second coming has every chance of success. Andy Morrell hasn’t quite hit the goalscoring standards he set himself in 2002-3, but you can hardly complain that we haven’t enjoyed value for money from his second spell at the club, can you?