Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
There were encouraging signs last Saturday as we sought to put the 3-0 defeat to Gateshead out of our systems. Louis Moult gave a fine display of forward play, Elliot Durrell had his best game in a Wrexham shirt and Jay Harris was the epitome of discipline in his new, slightly deeper midfield role.
However, it was Blaine Hudson I was most pleased about, partly because before the game he was the player I was least certain about.
Hudson didn’t have the happiest time against Gateshead, and Jon Shaw lost him rather easily to score the third goal. With Leon Clowes gone there’s very little cover at centre back if things go wrong there, so Hudson needed to kick on from his midweek disappointment and show what he was made of against Nuneaton Town in our next match.
Admirably, he was willing to put his hand up after the Gateshead game and take his share of the blame. More importantly, he then went out on the pitch the following Saturday and put in a faultless performance at the back.
He clearly has the attributes to be an important centre back at this level and beyond. After all, he’s huge! Some people worry about the lack of height in a midfield consisting of Jay Harris and Dean Keates, but I don’t fret about them sitting in front of the back four because if you add Keates and Hudson together and take an average, you’ve got two six footers in the team!
However, height is no guarantee of being good in the air: if it was, Stephen Merchant would be in the England team. Hudson’s early performances reminded of the initial showings of another massive central defender of ours, Dennis Lawrence.
The Trinidadian, difficult as it might be to imagine, actually had a much rougher ride than Hudson when he first pulled on a Wrexham shirt. To be fair to him, he was adapting straight from a much less competitive standard in his domestic league, and whereas the likes of Carlos Edwards and Hector Sam found their feet pretty quickly as their natural flair meant they were always likely to chip in with a creative contribution, Lawrence found adapting to the organisation of a professional league’s defence difficult.
However, he worked hard, took responsibility for his performances and improved massively. Not only did he become a cult hero, but he was a key part of the 2002-3 promotion campaign, galloping forwards from his position in a back three as well as defending with iron resolve, and was part of the side which beat Southend in the LDV Vans Final at the Millennium Stadium.
We can’t ask the same of Hudson, but he starts from a much better place than Lawrence did and seems to have the character to take responsibility and work to develop his game. With a manager who has been employed partly because he has a record of nurturing talent, he’ll have every chance to build on last weekend’s early progress.