As I write a storm is brewing over Wrexham FC. Or, more accurately, the WST. Danny Wright has just tweeted his justification for leaving The Racecourse, and it makes for uncomfortable reading:
So what to make of that? One has to immediately say that a popular player who leaves a club might feel the need to justify his decision, and any such account will be a one-sided one. Having said that, Wright’s words seem sincere, are certainly unprompted – I’ve hardly noticed an outbreak of effigy burning in Eagles Meadow (although Starbucks might consider it now one of their best customers has left!) – and most worryingly of all, strike a chord. He seems to be describing a situation many have feared over the last year or so.
The trust’s critics have regularly levelled the complaint that they drag their feet at them. Often the criticism has been uncalled for and even sinister: they took a long time closing the deal to take over the club, while Geoff Moss regularly complained to the press that they were dragging their feet, but considering the mess they inherited they were right to take their time and endeavour that no stone was left unturned. Heaven knows what sort of disastrous situations they would have found themselves in if they’d jumped in and signed the dotted line without finding the devil in the detail!
However, if Wright’s account is correct, it’s extremely worrying. Perhaps he would have decamped to Forest Green anyway; perhaps a failure to make him feel wanted was an irrelevance. But if we did fail to make our top scorer feel like we wanted him to stay, we’ve handled things extremely badly.
The WST likes to do things by the book, and after the chaos which preceded them, I welcome that. However, some matters have to be dealt with with urgency. Wright was, as I understand it, brought in on a wage which put him firmly at the top end of the pay structure by Dean Saunders, at the conclusion of those worrying days when Moss was allowing him to recruit with abandon.
Therefore, it’s perhaps understandable that the trust, looking to balance the books, see an opportunity to negotiate, However, you can also see that from Wright’s point of view: being rewarded for being Player of the Season with the offer of a pay cut is hardly a motivation to stay!
But this situation seems to have unfolded a couple of months ago. It’s hardly an impossible impasse to negotiate, and Wright implies he was happy to see what the next move was. If it’s true that there was no more communication, the board have questions to answer.
Why not recognise Wright’s situation? Why not engage him, and make him feel wanted? Perhaps they felt he was playing a game of chicken by seeking a move early in the Summer, but if they failed to speak to him, that would be an assumption based purely on supposition. The alternative conclusion, that they really did see him as a large wage earner to strike off the budget, really doesn’t bear thinking about.
The board need to respond to this, to put their side and explain what they feel happened, because at the moment it’s difficult to find a positive spin for them. It’s a matter which, if not addressed, could have repercussions. What message does it send to other key players who are out of contract, like Dean Keates and Martin RIley? How does Andy Morrell feel if he identifies the players he wants to keep and not enough is done is perceived to have been done to secure their signatures?
The bottom line is that, irrespective of anything else, I feel happy that the club is being run by the right people. The fans won’t gamble on the club’s future in order to speculate, the fans won’t put the club’s future into hock in order to pursue a crazy short term dream, the fans won’t sell the club off to some opportunist with his own interest at heart. Seeing the contract negotiations of our star player breaking down is irksome, but let’s keep it in perspective: it’s a football drama. After the horrible off-field dramas of the last fifteen years, where I’ve felt sick to the core because I thought my club would be destroyed, it feels nice to be getting worked up over the things I follow them for. Getting upset because we lose a game or lose a player is far preferable to the feeling when you lose a club. This isn’t a good thing, but compared to the extinction of Wrexham FC, it’s trivial.
Having said that, there is a balance which can be struck between sensible stewardship of the club and acting with alacrity. If we are losing players because of our own procrastination and failure to talk to them as human beings rather than take them for granted as employees, then something is wrong. There’s a tendency in modern institutions to be very correct in how they deal with matters, and combat issues with reports and buzz words. There’s definitely a place for thoroughness and structure – God knows anyone who saw the inner workings of Wrexham over the previous decade and a half should know that! – but it’s not the whole answer. It would be a supreme irony if we were run by the fans but failed to engage with issues on a human level rather than a corporate one.