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.
So Kyle Storer is our second transfer window arrival. It was a relief to hear he’d signed as up until then Kevin Wilkin had had a particularly frustrating month. Quite apart from negative results and unsubstantiated gossip, he’s found that post-Christmas shopping isn’t as easy as it ought to be.
Wilkin has known all along what he needed to do; the problem was that he’s been thwarted in his attempts to do it. The Stoke windfall put him in a better position to spruce up his options than most Wrexham managers have tended to be in January, but closing deals has proven to be elusive.
Wilkin rebuilt the squad in the close season, but that was a case of replacing players with those of his own choosing. Now he has been trying to add the cherry on top, and slightly altered his sights accordingly. While his Summer signings were made with an eye to immediately augmenting his first eleven, there was still a fairly youthful air about them; Wilkin was also building the foundations for the future. Now there’s no real need to do that. First and foremost, his targets must have the capacity to improve the starting eleven immediately; secondly, there’s no harm in bringing in a gnarled old hand or two at this stage, as long as they aren’t over the hill.
Should he look to bring in some old stagers it’ll be crucial to develop the correct relationship with them from the start. That might sound a little odd, but the most experienced of managers can fail to do this. The most remarkable mid-season rebuild I’ve ever seen at The Racecourse took place when Brian Little, tasked with saving us from the drop into the Conference, drafted in thirteen new faces during the month.
It was an approach doomed to failure on two counts: the complete rebuilding of a team half way through a season was always likely to be a fiasco; and Little was oddly diffident towards the senior figures who might have had the capacity to haul the side out of the mire.
Indeed, he was remarkably uncomfortable with changing room leaders it would seem, and ultimately moved on the likes of Neil Roberts, Drewe Broughton and Danny Williams. The consequence? We crashed out of the Football League.
Not all experienced managers fall into that trap of course. Denis Smith’s recruitment of Scott Green midway through the 2002-3 season was a classic example of an old hand coming in and immediately adding street smarts to a decent squad. But then Smith was secure enough in his decision-making to embrace a strong leader rather than fear him; let’s be honest – if Smith hadn’t been dismissed we probably wouldn’t have found ourselves in the Conference in the first place.
As I said, Wilkin knows what he needs. The addition of a couple of key signings could be what is needed to round off a squad which has been frustratingly erratic so far this season. Hopefully Storer will be the authoritative leader in the middle of the park we need to compensate for Dean Keates’ injuries. Throw in an augmentation of our wide options and perhaps a specialist alternative at right back might be what’s needed to make the table look rather more pleasing.