WREXHAM FC boss Dean Saunders has expressed his delight at Dean Keates' decision to join the Reds.
After signing a pre-contract agreement with Wrexham, the 31-year-old will join the Reds on a two-year deal.
A veteran of more than 420 league appearances since making his professional debut in 1996, scoring 51 goals, Keates has won promotion six times with three different clubs – Walsall, Hull City and Peterborough United – in his career.
And Saunders is delighted that Keates, who penned a six-month contract at Wycombe Wanderers in January following his release by Peterbrough, has opted to join Wrexham next season.
“We have got Dean in for the middle of midfield and know he can do a job in there,” said Saunders. “Dean can score goals and he can create them.
“He is aggressive, is a good character and a good professional, which is what I want at the club. At 31 he is experienced enough and not too old.
“Dean has won six promotions and has played in the Championship this season. He also played for Peterborough in the lower leagues and did well there.
“Dean comes highly recommended by Darren Ferguson and Kevin Russell, they are two people I went to who had him during Peterborough’s successful spell.
“I am really pleased to get Dean, he is a great signing for the club. He is highly thought of by everyone he has played for.
“I did not think I could get him so it is brilliant for us.”
Saunders delayed announcing the signing of Keates until Wycombe, relegated from League One, completed their campaign at the weekend.
Determined to bolster Wrexham’s midfield, Saunders is pleased that Keates did not make a U-turn after agreeing to sign.
“Dean signed a pre-contract agreement to join us next season and he has been true to his word,” added Saunders.
“Dean’s family is from around the north-west and he wanted to come back up this way. I tried to get him in as soon as possible and he wanted a new challenge.
“Lots of clubs would like to have him, he gave me his word and he has stuck by it.”
Saunders added: “Dean is something we have been missing. I know that and the fans can see it.
“I tried to put it right but I have not been able to. People say do something about it but I just haven’t been able to. I have had a budget to work to and sometimes the players I want I can’t get.”
Saunders, operating with a reduced budget next season, released 11 out of contract players last month.
And putting the emphasis on quality rather than quantity, Saunders insists there had to be a player cull at The Racecourse to enable him to sign the likes of Keates.
“We are going to have to have less players next season,” said the Reds’ boss. “We lost a few with their wage demands and the only way to do it with our budget is to have less players with more quality.
“That’s why I have had to make the cuts – I have to get the likes of Dean in.”
Having already recruited Histon’s versatile Nat Knight-Percival, Saunders is hoping to announce more new signings this week with a defender set to complete his move.
However, Saunders, eager to bring in a second goalkeeper and add to his attacking options, won’t rush in and is prepared to play a waiting game.
“There are a few more I am waiting on,” he said. “Two or three have nearly agreed, hopefully they will be sorted in the next couple of days.
“I know I have got to get the right strikers in and I am working hard on that.
“But I have to get the rest of the team right too as well and I need another goalkeeper.
“The hard work has already started and I am going to carry on all summer. I don’t want to jump in and sign some players in case others come out of the woodwork.
“Some just want to get their futures sorted like Dean did but I might have to hold fire with a few.”
Although he has cut his squad, Saunders is hoping defenders Aaron Brown and Ashley Westwood, midfielders Kristian O’Leary and Christian Smith, and strikers Gareth Taylor and Marc Williams agree new deals.
Centre-back Mansour Assoumani is expected to move on because of his wage demands and Saunders is still holding talks with the other players.
“I am still negotiating with Gareth, Ashley and a few others so until I get them sorted it is play it by ear,” added Saunders.