I’ve been watching “The Honourable Woman” lately, and it fits squarely into the BBC’s portfolio of critically-praised drama which is over-written and therefore a bit hard to follow. It’s a bit like Wrexham’s academy deal with Glyndwr: it seems good, but is quite difficult to understand.
The positives underwrite the whole project: as I understand it, it isn’t costing us anything and all the players are registered to us and therefore available immediately if one of them develops or Kevin Wilkin has an urgent need for more bodies in the squad. In that respect we’ve surely got the deepest squad in the league, even if the quality might not run any deeper.
So it’s all good – a no-risk initiative which might be of benefit to the club and costs us nothing if it isn’t. I’m still not totally clear on some of the fine detail though.
Perhaps I’m just being a bit slow. My initial reaction to the scheme was highly sceptical, but as time has passed and more information has come out I’ve round to a more positive conclusion. I have a tendency to take folk at their word which isn’t necessarily the most worldly characteristic, so when Barry Horne launched the idea by suggesting aging players might opt to combine playing with Wrexham with studying for their post-playing lives, a couple of days after he announced Andy Morrell’s successor would have to weed out the superannuated members in his squad I have to admit I was bemused.
Perhaps I just got hold of the wrong end of the stick, but it’s taken me a while to shake the confusion off and see this scheme for what it actually is, and appreciate what Horne explains in the rest of his piece for the Daily Post.
The evidence of last night’s match muddied the waters further before finally reinforcing my newfound faith in the project. In the first half of the game there was little to get the pulse racing and suggest any of the players were going to be fast-tracked into Wilkin’s plans. That’s fair enough, of course: with one exception, the fifteen players are teenagers and must be given time to develop, and judgements based on 45 minutes of football are extremely dubious in the first place.
Having said that, the second half, following ten half time substitutions, offered enough evidence to suggest there were players out there who had something interesting.
Massive credit should go to Lee Jones, who had clearly done a lot of good work on the training ground to get a side which had only recently got together into such good shape. Their pressing was organised and there was a fluidity to the movement of the front four which looked well-grooved. No doubt Jones was helped in this respect by the Wrexham squad members who were peppered into the side: Robbie Evans in particular orchestrated the excellent off-the-ball work which smothered Manchester City’s youngsters and allowed us to dominate the second period, his swift, simple shifting of possession often the starting point of our attacks.
There were some interesting performances from the students in that second half: Lewis Nuttall, a left winger released by Burnley, ripped in a couple of terrific free kicks from the left flank, one of which led to our goal, and showed some promising touches and an ability to hang onto the ball under pressure. Salvyn Kisitu, a Ugandan right back, bombed up and down the line with enthusiasm and two very young-looking Joes, Newton and Whittington, showed an encouraging creative spark married to an unexpected physical robustness.
Throw in first half skipper Corey Roper, who was identified early on in the Summer as a player who might have the potential to make a breakthrough, and there are some interesting options to augment our existing youth set-up.
That is my one lingering concern though, and it’s a deal-breaker for me. Where does this leave the youth team? If the GWFA is a permanent establishment which will always stand alongside the existing work at Colliers Park then I welcome it without reservation; if it is something which might eventually absorb or replace the youth set-up the club has nurtured, and fans have invested in, for decades, then it should go no further.
Surely that’s not the idea though: the GWFA couldn’t offer provision for the lower age groups unless it underwent a root-and-branch overhaul, and to attach degree-level education as a condition to joining Wrexham’s youth team would be to massively narrow the talent pool we’d be fishing in, not to mention cutting adrift a swathe of Wrexham’s youth who would be unable to access the system due to their academic ability. There’s no way Glyndwr could attach itself to such a Darwinian approach to education: even Michael Gove might shudder at that idea!*
It’s fair to say, from the football club’s point of view, that if just one player comes through and signs a contract with us then it’s been a success. But in a much broader, and far more important, sense, the criteria for success is much more specific. If young lads can benefit from the course and emerge with skills to make the most of their talents, it will have been an unequivocal success irrespective of its impact on Wrexham F.C.
I’ve decided I like the Glyndwr Academy, and I’m starting to get into “The Honourable Woman” as well.
*I take that back. No he wouldn’t.