So Kevin Wilkin it is then!
I’d love to make out I had some inside knowledge, but I must say that the board played their cards impressively close to their chests throughout this process. My attempts to put two and two together and assume Micky Mellon was the man after he left Barnsley yesterday merely taught me that speculation is never a wise idea!
Wilkin’s credentials are interesting, and Wrexham’s fans have been besotted with the idea of a manager who knows the non-league scene well for some time. Now we’ve made such an appointment for the first time it’ll be interesting to see how he pans out. I might be a little simplistic, but I don’t particularly buy into that theory; I still reckon that football is football, and players will succeed because they’re good and motivated, not through their provenance. Wilkin, you suspect, will look to players who have experience at this level and, if he listened to Barry Horne’s comments on the squad this week, avoid experienced ex-Football League pros.
Bringing players down from the higher levels was a policy which goes back a lot further than Andy Morrell. Dean Saunders leaned on that approach and before him both Brian Little and Brian Carey brought in high profile players. There’s usually a trade-off involved in such deals; theoretically you can land a player who is better than Conference standard, but they’re only usually willing to make the step down because they can’t find a Football League club to take them. Often that’s because there’s something wrong: Patrick Suffo’s undoubted talent was offset by his troublesome knee injury; Jay Harris was coming back from a ban and perhaps some clubs were a little wary to commit; Frank Sinclair was older than Cliff Richard
Such transfers carry an intrinsic gamble but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a flawed policy. After all, for every Christian Gyan there’s a Dean Keates; for every Lamine Sakho there’s a Neil Ashton; for every Matty Wolfenden there’s a Glen Little. As I said before, the mixture of quality and motivation is what really matters. If Wilkin goes in the opposite direction the fundamental nature of the squad will change and we’ll get to see if youth equals hunger and quality. He certainly seems to have got that equation right so far this season.
From what I know of Wilkin he’ll offer a similar style of management to Andy Morrell. He doesn’t strike me as the type to rant and rave; in fact his post-match interview after Nuneaton beat us 2-0 earlier this season was perhaps the most softly-spoken interview I’ve ever seen. That match suggested that what Wilkin can offer is a willingness to adapt to situations as the game demands. Morrell was often criticised for a lack of flexibility, which any regular reader of this blog will know I consider to be nonsense. Like most managers, Morrell didn’t tear up the planned formation readily but instead would look to alter the emphasis of his side’s approach. Wilkin did this most successfully during that match. We dominated possession in the first half but failed to capitalise; after the break Nuneaton played a more direct game, forced us back by getting behind us and turned the game around completely. Here’s how I described them at the time:
The direct balls worked because their two strikers were big and mobile [but] Nuneaton certainly weren’t a long ball team. They are a side who can mix it up and were tactically adroit enough to change their emphasis and turn the game around.
If I can describe next season’s Wrexham side in those terms, I’ll be more than happy!