Every Wrexham player has an extension clause in his contract. EVERY WREXHAM PLAYER HAS AN EXTENSION CLAUSE IN HIS CONTRACT! Gary Mills is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t he?
Dean Keates deserves a lot of credit for improving the team he inherited. He deserves a great deal more credit when you consider he’s still a greenhorn manager, making vast improvements on the work of a vastly experienced predecessor. But when you consider the toxic legacy Mills left behind him, it really is remarkable to consider the impact he’s had.
Keates is constantly encountering obstacles strewn in his path by the previous manager; the extension clause fiasco is just the latest, barely believable example. Why on earth you would create such hostages to fortune beggars belief.
Trying to interpret it logically, I assume the thinking was that players could be tempted to sign for us by being offered the security of a second season. By doing this, of course, Mills was actually committing to the controversial two year contracts which were such a hot potato at the start of the season. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of offering an incentive for a player to perform, but to offer those terms to everyone? It opened up the possibility of a number of players earning a contract extension, which of course would include the extra two months’ wages saved by each one year contract. In rough terms, six players triggering an extension means one less salary to play with next Summer. Such a scenario would mean having to retain a sizeable chunk of the squad we had at the start of the season, with less means than we had then to improve the quality of the rest of the playing roster. It was a remarkable act of faith in the squad he put together this summer; a squad which, by any impartial measure, was the worst in our history. Top judgement, Gary.
Also, there’s plenty to suggest that players were offered much higher wages than they merited in the Summer, so triggered the extensions would saddle us with honoring those bloated deals for another twelve months. If half the stories going round about players’ salaries are true, Mills was reckless, but even disregarding that, I’d have thought the sheer fact that the budget was the same as the year before should tell you that inflated wages were being paid: the deterioration in the quality of the squad over the course of those twelve months, for the same outlay, is stark.
There’s no doubt where the blame lies here, either. There’s no point in looking to blame the board, because they would be failing to do their duty if they didn’t back their manager. Football is an odd business: the coach, in effect, is a middle-manager, but he dictates the terms rather than those above him, and pays the price if his judgement is flawed. That’s how it should be though; when chairmen start thinking they’re managers, clubs really go downhill fast.
Obviously, Keates still has a great deal of work ahead of him before he can be free of Mills’ legacy. I feared that a miserable second half of the season, caused by Mills’ poor recruitment last Summer, would have a knock-on effect as crowds dwindled well below the cut-off figure, leaving Keates with a horribly diminished budget for next season. It looks like this threat has been massively reduced by two factors: the superb loyalty of the Wrexham fans, who have consistently numbered 3,500 since the turn of the year; and the improvement Keates has brought about. It’ll be nice to reach the point where we can finally see how he can perform without being handicapped by the errors of others.