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.
Hold your horses though. We’ll have to wait to discover the identity of the new Wrexham manager, and that’s probably a good thing.
After all, Kevin Wilkin had a few weeks to get to know his new squad at the end of last season and it didn’t exactly help him much.
I view this time last year as a missed opportunity, and with hindsight the rather early beginning of the end for Wilkin. It was a period which had an eerie air of phoney war about it, and it made me uneasy.
The facts were these: we had nothing to play for as a team, but as individuals the stakes were high. It was widely assumed both in the media and on the terraces that Wilkin would embark upon a cull, stripping the squad down to its essentials and rebuilding. Therefore, the closing weeks would mean everyone would be playing for their futures and attempting to impress the new boss.
However, it didn’t particularly look that way.
I expected this set of circumstances, married to the inevitably inspirational effect a new manager has on his squad, to spur us on to a strong finish to the campaign. Instead, it was flat and depressing. The final home game of the season, a 1-0 defeat to Lincoln in which one of the worst sides to visit us last season won at a canter on a soporific afternoon in which we resembled a dozing lion, stomach full of gazelle, peeping occasionally at the surroundings through half-open eyelids and basking on our back. All Lincoln had to do was tickle our tummy and we rolled over for them.
Alarm bells started to ring in my head then. Why isn’t there more fight about us? Didn’t the players know their futures were at stake?
Maybe it was all too cosy from the start. Wilkin hadn’t had that immediate effect, most of the squad were retained anyway, and a chance to build early momentum was lost.
I wouldn’t want a new manager to walk into that sort of situation; I’d rather start the season with a new man having the opportunity to hit the ground running, his first impact to get the team purring through pre-season than go through the end of last season again.
The new boss will have had plenty of opportunity to see what we’re like. In fact all he has to do is call: I’ve got every minute of every game from this season on my laptop!
He’ll have some wise heads to call upon as well. Joey Jones and Michael Oakes know what they’re about, and Carl Darlington appears to have the team playing as if a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. That’s not something to be taken lightly, and it is a quality we need to take advantage of. It’s also something that was lacking from this time last year. The resources are there for a new man wise enough to know how to capitalise upon them.