Wrexham FC boss puts on a brave face

Reporter:

Richard Williams

DEAN SAUNDERS says he remains fully focussed on being successful at The Racecourse after being relieved of his duties with Wales.

Saunders was appointed assistant manager to national boss John Toshack in June 2007 and continued in the role after taking charge of Wrexham nearly two years ago.

Toshack stepped down on Thursday after the opening Euro 2012 qualifying defeat in Montenegro and Brian Flynn has been appointed caretaker manager for the next two group games – against Bulgaria and Switzerland in October.

The 54-year-old youth team coach will lead Wales with assistants Alan Curtis and David Williams also stepping up, but there is no place for Toshack’s assistants Saunders and Roy Evans.

And Saunders’ sole intention now is achieving promotion with Wrexham.

“I spoke to (International Head of Department) Mark Evans on Sunday and he said Bryan was taking over for the two games,” said Saunders.

“So I am not there any more. When John left, myself and Roy Evans went as well.
“I have to speak to the FA of Wales when the two games are over. But I knew when I took the Wrexham job I was taking a big risk that might affect me in the future.

“I am just getting on with the Wrexham job now. I am proud to be manager and am determined to do well, and we will.”

Saunders, who won 75 caps for his country, scoring 22 goals, hopes Wales will also be successful.

“I enjoyed it,” said Saunders. “I started at the age of 21 and have been involved for 25 years, except for a couple of years when I was at Newcastle.

“It has been a big part of my career, both playing and coaching, and a big part of my life.

“I just want Wales to win whoever takes over. Hopefully we win the next two games – Brian gets some wins under his belt – because the group is still wide open.”

Toshack, who took charge in November 2004, had to deal with a number of high-profile international retirements with experienced players including Ryan Giggs, Gary Speed, Robbie Savage, John Hartson, Mark Delaney and Simon Davies quitting Wales during his tenure for various reasons.

Toshack put his faith in youth and fast-tracked talented youngsters such as Gareth Bale, Jack Collison, Joe Ledley, Aaron Ramsey and Wayne Hennessey into the senior side.

And Saunders believes the next Wales manager will benefit from Toshack’s work: “What John has done is a complete rebuilding job,” he said. “There has been an unbelievable turnover of players, and he has given the young players a chance.

“Chris Gunther went to Tottenham Hotspur because John put him in the team.

“John, Roy and myself used to talk about the young players getting found out.

“But if you keep them together, they will have 40 caps each and have been playing with each other for ten years.

“They are learning the game and although they will come up against the best players in the world and lose a few games, they might learn from their mistakes.

“The next manager will definitely benefit from what John has done.”

Wales have not qualified for the finals of a major tournament since 1958 and Saunders hopes this will change: “We have stumbled from failure to failure,” he said. “Teams I have played in with the likes of Ian Rush, Neville Southall, Kevin Ratcliffe, Mark Hughes, Ryan Giggs, Gary Speed and Barry Horne – we never qualified so it is hard.

“To qualify now as the fifth seeds in the group is a tough job. We have just gone down a different route and and given the youngsters a chance to get experience earlier than they would.

“Hopefully in the next ten years things will happen.”

Saunders will now attempt to lead Wrexham up the Conference table.

Although unbeaten in five matches, Saturday’s 1-1 draw against York City was the fourth draw in that sequence leaving 15th placed Wrexham nine points adrift of leaders AFC Wimbledon.

“We have just got to keep this run going and turn draws into wins,” said Saunders.

“If we win the next two games the draws are alright. Draws are okay as long as you get wins as well.

“We had enough chances to beat York but that was also the most pressure we have been under since I have been here.

“We are five games unbeaten but there are still a few missing links in the team. I know what is not quite right but I know we are more right than wrong.”

Goals from Gareth Taylor and trialist Mathias Pogba earned Wrexham a 2-2 draw against Crewe Alexandra in a friendly at Colliers Park yesterday.

“A few of them were blowing but they got a game,” added Saunders, who also gave a run-out to Neil Ashton, Jamie Tolley, Chris Maxwell and Wes Baynes.

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