It’ll be good to get Dean Keates back on the pitch again, as his experience and leadership are crucial. I’m looking forward to seeing how his nous and ability to regulate the pace of a game will slot into Kevin Wilkin’s gameplan. However, the new-look 4-2-3-1 has worked well in the centre of the park in his absence, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to a man not known for his discipline Step forward Jay Harris, whose controlled performances have been the unsung element of what makes the side tick this season.
Harris is no stranger to plaudits, of course. He has long been the fire in the heart of the team, marauding around the pitch and catching the eye with his forward-looking approach, energy and aggression. Those qualities are still there, but being channelled in a very different way.
The Harris we’re seeing this season is different, which seems to have unnerved quite a few of the Wrexham fans I know. They’ve not been happy with how Harris has been deployed in a deeper position and feel that a Wrexham side which lacks Harris’ ability to get in the face of the opposing midfielders in their own half is diminished.
I see where they’re coming from, but have to weigh that against what we’re getting out of Harris in his new role alongside Joe Clarke. He’s been playing with impressive control, helping us to get a grip on the middle of the park. For me, he’s been our most consistent player so far this season.
Furthermore, in the last couple of seasons that niggling back problem he’s had has slightly curtailed his consistency and effectiveness in that all-encompassing Tasmanian Devil role he used to play. Being a little deeper, with clear guidelines to play within, is perhaps allowing him to ration his efforts a little and play with a touch more control.
Also, he has more scope to indulge a part of his game which has long been undervalued. Everyone loves his energy, heart and tackling, but I’ve always enjoyed his long passing. He can ping a diagonal with the best of them, but we tend to be dazzled by his all-action style and tackling, ignoring his ability to swiftly change the phase of play.
In a deeper role he’s more able to sweep balls forward to the advanced positions Wes York is able to take up because he’s covering for him. It’s not a radical change for Harris, more a tweak than a rebirth, but it’s giving an already feisty contributor a new lease of life.