The start of every season is accompanied with assurances that this is a big campaign, but this time it’s particularly true. Wrexham simply can’t afford another season as also-rans.
When we were first relegated from the Football League I suggested that we needed to impose ourselves or risk the danger of gradually reducing ourselves into a Conference club.
That danger is now greater than ever. Operating on a seriously reduced budget, Dean Saunders has had to balance the books like never before.
Considering that, on paper he’s done a good job this summer. Watching Saunders work out his approach to the job over the last couple of years has been a fascinating experience.
There has been the suspicion that, as he has learned the ropes of the job, he has been tempted to put all his eggs in one basket.
He has gone through periods of backing ex-Football League players to be too good for the Conference, then put his faith in young lads from the Premiership
But has now settled on what looks like a much more balanced approach.
The players he’s brought in look capable of addressing some of the problems which dragged us down last season.
Our inability to break teams down when they refused to come out to play was an obvious issue, although in some senses it was understandable. The World Cup showed that even the best sides struggle to create against sides with no ambition.
More worrying was the fact that mediocre teams were able to keep us comfortably at bay, not through a particularly defensive approach but merely by being well-organised.
Saunders has addressed this by bringing in players who look equipped to unlock defences through a variety of means.
Dean Keates and David Brown appear to be more incisive passers of the ball than anyone we had in the squad last season, Nat Knight-Percival can win the ball in the air and Kevin Gall offers pace and elusive movement.
If they are able to provide service, it would be hoped that Andy Morrell and Andy Mangan will have the sharpness required to capitalise.
Saunders has also undertaken some interesting experiments with his formation in pre-season, and the players have adapted well. If we can switch comfortably according to the match situation, we should cope better than last season.
I’ve particularly liked when we’ve been set up to allow the full backs to get forward at the same time, offering extra threat from wide positions. Interestingly, It’s Declan Walker and Johnny Hunt who seem most effective when we play that way. Their progress could prove crucial to our season.
The return of Morrell obviously offers us a reason for optimism.
However, it also puts a certain perspective on our recent history; his last season
with us, which began eight years ago, was the last decent campaign we had.
Since then it’s been a descending cycle of mid-table mediocrity, then relegations and now an apparent settling in mid-table of the Conference. That’s a pattern we
have to break as soon as possible.