WREXHAM fan Mark Hughes is confident his hometown team can use the heartbreak of losing last season’s Conference Premier play-off final to finally earn promotion back to the Football League.
The Reds will kick-off their sixth season in non-league football after they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Welsh rivals Newport County on May 5.
Ruabon-born Hughes was in attendance at Wembley as Wrexham conceded two goals in the last four minutes to suffer a traumatic loss.
And although the 49-year-old found the defeat hard to take - especially having watched Wrexham beat Grimsby to win the FA Trophy in March - he is hoping player/boss Andy Morrell can use it to his side’s advantage.
“I was desperately sad for everyone involved,” said Hughes of Wrexham’s failure to win promotion.
“The club needs to be in the league pyramid, unfortunately they are not at the minute and the fact they have been so close makes it even harder to take, but I am sure if they keep the group of players they have at the moment I am sure they will have a good season once again because they play the game in the right way.
“The longer it (promotion) takes the more difficult it becomes for them.
“I hope they can keep the guys here together, both on and off the pitch, and if they do that they will have a good season.
“They have had the benefit of the disappointment of not going up. Maybe they can use that disappointment to spur them on and go that extra step.”
He continued: “I am a Wrexham fan. I want them to do well because it is my hometown club.
“I’ve spent many Saturday afternoons on the Kop cheering them on in the good old days. It is my town and I want them to do well.”
Hughes has twice managed at The Racecourse previously as Wales boss, the ex-Manchester United striker seeing his team lose 2-0 to Switzerland in 1999 before beating Canada 1-0 nearly five years later.
The chance to return to The Racecourse was not one he was prepared to turn up, especially with so many links between Stoke and the area.
First team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki played more than 100 times for Wrexham, while Damian Roden, head of sports science with the Potters, originates from the town and turned out for Welsh National League outfit Gresford.
On the pitch, striker Jon Walters is a former Wrexham and Chester player and Ryan Shawcross played for Buckley Town having grown up in Flintshire.
Hughes said: “There are a lot of guys from Wrexham working for Stoke, I am one of them, but there are a number who are from this area so it was one of those fixtures that when it got presented to us made sense.
“(I am) delighted to bring the team here, hopefully they have a little bit of finance to the club because that is always important to the town, because it is not always easy when you fall out of the Football League and every penny counts. We understand that and it was part of my thinking.”
While the game made sense in terms of location, Hughes was also encouraged by the competitive nature of the friendly, which Stoke won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Walters.
“I thought Wrexham played really well and gave us the test that I hoped for to be perfectly honest,” he explained. “I saw Wrexham last year, I went to the play-off and the Trophy final so I knew they would be the right test. They want to get the ball down and pass and move and that’s what they did.
“I was really pleased and I expect them to have a really strong season again, hopefully they can get up this time. That was exactly what we needed in terms of our match sharpness and we will be better next week when we play Genoa.”