Things got historically bad for us last Saturday, but this is a time for cool heads. We need to get out of this mess, and if we look at the situation rationally, the most likely route to salvation is pretty obvious.
The mood has partially lifted after Tuesday, and that cathartic revenge win over Eastleigh. To end our long wait for an away win, and even longer wait for an away clean sheet, against the side that cruelly ended our previous season felt symbolic.
Of course, symbolism counts for nothing in the real world, but a win like that can lift the spirits, which is no bad thing to carry into a tough match like today’s.
So, able perhaps to take a calmer look at the situation, where do we actually find ourselves, and why?
Calling for the heads of the board and the management team is the usual kneejerk reaction to catastrophe, but logical thought is more useful than emotional reactions. Consider the Brexit referendum. People were rightly concerned about the deterioration of the NHS, and its chronic understaffing. They voted to restrict immigration, reasoning it would ease the burden on hospitals However, in fact that would worsen the issue as many of the skilled staff in the health service are not UK passport holders. People who voted leave for that reason did so with good intentions, but the logical consequence of their actions is the situation gets worse.
Such specious reasoning applies to Wrexham’s predicament. We have the right people to get us out of this mess, and need to pull together and back them.
Dean Keates was clearly the right appointment, and is the man to get us out of trouble. I’m not basing that on sentiment or wishful thinking, but past experience. When he inherited a similar situation in his first stint at The Racecourse, he hauled us away from danger, but the improvement didn’t happen immediately.
We only won 3 of his first 15 games, as he wrestled to get the best out of a squad which was short on quality. Sound familiar? However, after that 15th game, a 3-2 loss at Southport, the transfer window opened and he got to work.
In the 6 intervening days before our match against Woking, he managed to offload 9 players, and 5 players would make their debuts in the next 3 games – a 6th would arrive another 2 games later. The result? An immediate 6 game unbeaten run, 6 wins out of 9, and a 6 position leap up the table.
That’s why Keates was the right appointment, regardless of the fact that he did so well in his first spell with us that he was poached by a team two divisions above. You can’t guarantee he’ll repeat the trick, but it’s logical to rely on someone who has done exactly this sort of job before.
The evidence this season is that he has retained a clear vision of the type of players he wants to recruit. To achieve such a turnabout, he clearly didn’t have scope to bring in many duds, and his aim in the transfer market continues to be true.
Consider the four players he’s loaned in so far. James Horsfield looked far too good for the National League, but sadly picked up a serious injury before we could fully benefit from his quality. Let’s hope Tyler Reid, another signing who started brightly but then pulled up, will be able to show what he’s got soon.
Kieran Kennedy has already shown hos worth, although we knew his qualities from last season already, and Omari Patrick is clearly an upgrade on the attacking players we already have: on Tuesday he became the first Wrexham player to score two goals in a league match since February!
There has been frustration over the lack of a new striker, which is quite understandable. Bobby Grant isn’t a square peg in a round hole, but he’s not an out-and-out striker. He has sacrificed himself admirably for the team, despite the unfair abuse he receives from some quarters, but would be better suited to a more withdrawn role.
However, a consideration of those four players Keates has drafted in explains why he hasn’t drafted a striker in yet. He isn’t interested in bringing bodies in for the sake of it; each new man must be an upgrade on what we already have. There’s no point in rushing to bring in a forward if he isn’t better suited to the role than Grant, so if the right player isn’t available we mustn’t waste our budget on a substandard alternative. If we’d approached the transfer market with that attitude last Summer, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Which, of course, brings us onto the vexed subject of the board, who have come under concerted attack this season. To an extent that’s inevitable as we’ve never sunk so low in the league pyramid, but if we examine the root cause of our situation, it should be easy to see things from their point of view. My understanding, supported by the club statement issued at the start of the week, is that we had a considerable budget to spend in the Summer. Unfortunately, the quality of players we brought in made it look like we’d not spent much. On the basis of the second-best defence in the division we finished fourth last season, just five points off the title. A couple of quality attacking additions to the squad was all that was needed. Instead, we made a succession of bad deals and everything fell apart.
Is the board to blame for this? Don’t fans want the people running their club to back them up in the transfer market? That certainly seems to have been the case this Summer, it’s just that the money was spent badly. Having backed the management team, it would have been odd for the board to intervene as the deals were made. Undermining the manager like that would have been both destabilizing and hypocritical. History suggests they won’t have to contemplate such a course of action with the current manager.