The departure of Nicky Deverdics this week came as no surprise to anybody, However, there’s a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that his time at The Racecourse could have panned out very differently.
When Dean Keates brought him in, there was a sense of excitement. That process of injecting creativity into a side built around a strong defence had apparently found its catalyst. Deverdics was a proven performer at this level, he’d topped the division for assists during one of his seasons at Dover, and less than a fortnight earlier he’d given us a close-up view of what he could offer. His move from Hartlepool was a very badly-kept secret, and when we won at Victoria Park shortly before it was confirmed, he showed us his range of passing despite being bizarrely required to play at left back. On paper, Keates had pulled off a coup.
His debut was full of promise too. At Guiseley he looked slightly off the pace, but still pulled the strings, finding space and creating nice angles for forward players to run off him. Yet there was a sense that he didn’t really kick on from there. He continued to not quite look up to speed, and naturally didn’t offer the same solidity in midfield as the players he’d replaced. In the remainder of the season he managed just one goal and one assist.
This sense that he didn’t really deliver on his promise lingered for the rest of his spell at The Racecourse, but not all his statistics are negative. Over the course of his time at Wrexham he was available for selection for 69 matches, but started just 14. That figure is even more striking when you realise that he was in the eleven for his first 9 games. Furthermore, he was substituted in 8 of those 14 games, and he tended to be withdraw early. On average he came off after 66 minutes, and five times failed to get to 65 minutes. However, we only lost one of those games – the 3-0 collapse at Ebbsfleet last season.
Was he a victim of Keates’ departure? Although his performance levels had slipped, Keates started him in every match after he signed him, and we remained unbeaten and on track for the play-offs. When Keates left we were fourth, and that farewell match was a 2-0 win over Chester in which Deverdics scored one and set the other up.
Deverdics would start the next three games under Carl Darlington, but didn’t impress or make it to 90 minutes in any of them. His final start in that sequence, at Bromley, was particularly troubling. The home side had a player sent off in the first half but managed to battle to a draw – it was suggested by the BBC reporter that Deverdics’ failure to impose himself had essentially made the game 10 versus 10.
Deverdics didn’t make the bench for the next game, and started just one more time – that catastrophe at Ebbsfleet – as the season petered out.
This season has seen three successive managers not see enough in him to want to give him the opportunity Keates appeared willing to offer. It didn’t help that, after a lively pre-season, injury ruled him out of the first three games of the season. It must be said, though, that Mike Fondop offers evidence that pre-season performances against lower level sides doesn’t necessarily translate into a season of achievement.
Once he was fit, Ricketts gave him a couple of late run-outs off the bench in away wins at Maidenhead and Eastleigh, and starts in our next two home games, but withdrew him early on both occasions. Between those starts he was left out at Solihull Moors, a decision which seemed to suggest Ricketts didn’t fancy Deverdics when the going got rough. And that was essentially that. Bryan Hughes gave him a start in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous performance against Barrow, but he was hooked after 54 minutes and never got into the eleven again.
Would Keates have persevered and found a way to incorporate his style into the side, injecting it with some creativity and fluency? We’ll never know. The decision to release Deverdics feels right, although there’s no suggestion that his frustration at not being selected ever became an issue off the pitch. There was a sense of frustration when watching him, that there was something better in him that wasn’t coming out. The sensations were that he wasn’t doing enough to justify selection. Yet he only completed the full 90 minutes 6 times for Wrexham: was that enough opportunity to settle into the side? Who knows if Keates might have been the man to bring that latent talent to the surface?