It came out of nowhere, but Curtis Tilt’s move to Forest Green, or at least somewhere, soon, was inevitable. Its timing might not be ideal, but for a deal we could hardly stop, it’ll turn out to be a good one for Wrexham.
First things first: there was little the club could logically do except accept the offer. A piece of brinkmanship by Forest Green, like Donald Trump’s “take it or be left with the thing you despise” offer to Republicans in the House of Represntatives over Obamacare, it left us between the devil and the deep blue sea. Accept and be left short-handed at the back; refuse and miss out on a nice donation from Dale Vince to our “Build The Budget” appeal.
The long term benefits of letting him leave are obvious. Tilt would have left in the Summer, and we wouldn’t have received a penny. Would it have been worth it, just to get another seven meaningless games out of him as we try to finish tenth? That seems like the definition of cutting your nose off to spite your face; the possibility of Olly Marx and perhaps Ben Burrows getting the chance to gain valuable minutes on the pitch seems like whatever the opposite of cutting your nose off to spite your face is. Leaving your nose there, I suppose.
Would it have been worth it, just to get another seven meaningless games out of him as we try to finish tenth
Saving ten weeks’ wages is a bigger deal than it sounds. Rather than looking at it as a quarter of a salary, consider this: when we replace Tilt, we’ll be able to upgrade on the signing we’d lined up by adding a further 25% to his wage. That’s the whole concept of “building the budget” – allowing Keates to go up to the next level of quality with some of the players he’s looking to bring in. Tilt has, in essence, just upgraded himself.
I admit, it’s not ideal to find our back four so exposed for the rest of the season: with Marx out on Saturday as a result of his collision with Chris Dunn when Barrow scored on Tuesday, and James Jennings suspended, the prospect of a Barry-Riley-White-Carrington back four, with only one of those players in his actual position, is not massively far-fetched. (Let’s consider the conspiracy theory which says White dreamed of being a centre back all along, his collision with Forest Green’s Ethan Pinnock last Saturday setting up Tilt’s move and opening the door to him at last!) However, the long term advantages outweigh the short term problem.
In itself, I wouldn’t say the departure of Tilt is not a massive body blow to next season, anyway. Tilt has done very well in his first season of full-time football, but over the course of the season Martin Riley has proven to be our most reliable centre back. Tilt has great attributes, most obviously genuine pace and good ability in the air. However, he also has a mistake a game in him, as was shown at Barrow when his failure to deal with a straight ball over the top led to an early free kick on the edge of the box which Dunn had to save. His headlong charges deep into enemy territory, so beloved by some fans, used to worry me, as he tended to get his head down and run until he got into trouble rather than look for options, and when he lost it we found ourselves scurrying back with a whole in the back four.
These rough edges could be smoothed over with time and experience, but it’s worth remembering that Tilt is 25, not 18. In the short term world of a National League side desperate for next season to be the promotion campaign we’ve been waiting for, we need the finished product in as many positions of the starting eleven as possible.
Tilt was a rare creature this season: a good Gary Mills signing. He has done us proud, keeping his head up throughout a difficult season. It’s the right time to let him move on and develop his game.