With no game this weekend, there’s no obstacle to indulging in every football fan’s favourite pastime: idle speculation.
Gossiping, guessing and gushing about who your team will bring in during the transfer window is one of the most important elements of the modern game, and for Wrexham that’s never been more true than it is right now. After all, we’ve never had as much money to spend in the transfer market as we do now since…well, since the last transfer window actually, but there’s still grounds for excitement.
Soon we’ll enter the silly season of player sightings in town. I’ll get the ball rolling: I’m sitting in Starbucks writing this and, fresh from Asda, there’s a bloke at the table across from me who looks suspiciously like Jolean Lescott with a woolly hat on.
Working on the basis that Lescott has no current club and I’ve no reason to believe he’s allergic to wool products, I’m confidently declaring that by Monday he’ll be on the back page of a local paper near you – very near you, as you’re reading it – holding up a TikTok shirt, explaining how a transatlantic call convinced him of our project and that signing for Wrexham is a childhood dream come true.
Okay, he might be unattached because he’s 39 and announced his retirement in 2017, but why let the facts get in the way of a good story?
Get used to that sort of thing. Kylian Mbappe will be spotted at the Burger King drive-in; Erling Haaland will be browsing for Jordan Davies mugs in Tŷ Pawb; Jude Bellingham is queueing up outside Bellis’, waiting for strawberry-picking season to start.
These stories are nothing new. My dad took Nobby Stiles on a tour of St Giles in 1967, and says he would have signed for us but apparently the local dentists weren’t up to his expectations.
When it comes to speculating about Wrexham’s transfer targets, the names will tend to come under three categories: famous players; players who used to play for us; and players who have played well against us.
These avenues of speculation tend to be dead-ends. Funnily enough, one of the reasons we selected an experienced manager to lead the club is because he knows lots of players, knows lots of people in the game, and has a handle on the value of modern scouting methods and data analysis.
The reason we didn’t appoint a fan is because we have none of those things, so our speculation is going to be a bit off given our limited knowledge of the market.
That’s not to say that we’d never sign players from one of those three categories, but they’d be scouted thoroughly first to ensure they offer value; there’s no point in bringing someone in purely because they tick one of those boxes.
We’ve had fun recently, speculating on the inevitable arrivals of Jack Wilshire, Neil Taylor and Louis Moult. There’s an inherent danger in wanting to sign players we’ve heard of though. Why wwould they come to us?
Likewise, signing a player because he caught the eye against us is a dangerous game. An example of a player who always looked good against us but was not successful once we signed him comes immediately to mind.
I’m not suggesting that was why Brian Flynn signed Kevin Dearden, although word of mouth was a lot more important 20 years ago so his efforts against us might have tipped the scales.
Dearden was short for a goalkeeper, but quick and fairly agile. His trademark was tearing off the line to smother the ball at a striker’s feet, or get a block on a shot by quickly reducing the space between him and the ball.
These attributes were always to the fore when he played against us. It almost felt like he had some personal vendetta, such was his ferocity and determination to shut us out. So, we signed him.
Once we did, however, we started to see his weaknesses. Being small, he was not keen to come off his line for crosses, leading to us defending much deeper. Why had we not noticed this before? Probably because Flynn’s sides liked to keep the ball on the floor.
While Flynn had attacking players who were good in the air like Karl Connolly, Dean Spink and Mark Sertori, he never set his team up to swing crosses into the box. Perhaps that’s why the latter two ended up being converted into centre backs.
So Dearden looked good against us because we didn’t probe his weakness. I’m not saying he was an unmitigated disaster – he played a key role in the win over Middlesbrough, after all – but he certainly wasn’t at the level of Andy Marriott.
As for going back for former players, I’m not saying that can never work. After all, Jordan Davies is proof you can succeed second time around. However, you have to go through a lot of Lee Roches, Chris Armstrongs, Juan Ugartes and Martin Rileys to find an Andy Morrell.
So play the speculation game if you wish, but I’m not going to. I want to get a nice surprise when I see who we sign.
That’s enough from me. I’m off to get a selfie with Joleon.