I FEEL that Dean Keates has passed his test at Wrexham.
All eyes were on him when he was appointed; the new man with no managerial experience trying to rescue a sinking ship.
He was thrown in the deep end but he’s brought a stable environment back to the club. That was essential and he’s done it with his back against the wall.
Dean has some good young players coming through and he’s brought in a few new faces, but his biggest strength has been getting that dressing room to believe again.
That’s an attribute you cannot buy. He’s worked hard with the players and they’re buying into his ideas and moving the club forward.
They are certainly moving in the right direction here and now, but what does the future hold for such a great club?
Everyone surrounding the club must have the same ambition.
Consolidation for this season and a top half finish is pleasing but I’m interested to see how they are going to build in the next few months, so that everyone is looking forward to the next term and whether they can compete for a place in the play-offs, at least.
People say they are just 11 points above the drop zone, but I see it as them being just 10 points from fifth place.
Dean can only do what he can and that’s keep getting the best out of his players. Onwards and upwards I hope.
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While TNS have the first leg in the bag by winning the Welsh League Cup last weekend, their quest for the quadruple remains on course.
They have also created a 21 point gap between themselves and Gap Connah’s Quay at the top of the Welsh Premier League, after going on an historic run, winning 21 out of their 22 matches.
With 64 points already, they have already matched the total that won them the league last season.
They only need 10 points from the 10 games that are left, and you can anticipate that Craig Harrison’s relentless drive for more titles will continue. My opinion is that they’ll get the quadruple.
It’s easy to suggest that they should because they’re the only full time team in the league, but I must stress, they have the best 20 players in the league as well. They’ve taken the Welsh Premier to another level this season and it’s great to see.
Other than that, the league continues to strengthen, with a major battle between GAP Connah’s Quay, Bala Town and Bangor City for that elusive second place and an automatic Europa League place.
As Bala continue to fight for it, Andy Morrison’s Connah’s Quay have added another two quality players – Kai Edwards and Ryan Wignall - to try and push them over the line. Kai is a major player and his experience of winning will be invaluable in the dressing room.
Bangor have lost four key players this month; Jamie Reed, the exciting Jordan Davies, who has signed for Brighton and Hove Albion from Wrexham, Brayden Shaw and Leon Clowes. The players they’ve brought in don’t look up to this level.
It makes a change to see two south Wales teams – Carmarthen Town and Cardiff Met – make the top six. They have both overachieved and will be happy that they have their play-off place.
Aberystwyth Town and Llandudno will be going all out for the 7th position and getting that final play-off place, and then it’s two from four to go down, between Newtown, Airbus, Rhyl and Cefn Druids. Rhyl and Airbus as the two worst teams from what I’ve seen so far, but it’s all to play for. All 12 teams have something still left to play for.
In terms of the players who have stood out during the First Phase, I would say that Ryan Brobbel has been fantastic for TNS, but Jon Routledge has made the biggest impression. He sits in front of the defence and has given them a new perspective and a new flexibility in attack.
Nathan Woolfe is someone who Andy Morrison knows from his time at Northwich Victoria, and he’s been very consistent for Connah’s Quay this term.
Two players have stood out for Bangor City: Jordan Davies, who we will be hearing more about in the future for Wales, and Brayden Shaw who has returned to his parent club Accrington Stalney, but made a big impact.
I’ve also got to mention Bala Town stalwart Stuart Jones, who has been excellent year in, year out for them.
He’s so determined and just one of those players a manager can totally rely upon.
Shhhh…….rumours are very strong that Gareth Bale WILL be fit for Wales’ match against Republic of Ireland in March….but you didn’t hear it from me!
Malcolm Allen is part of the Sgorio commentary team. S4C’s Sgorio will show live coverage of the JD Welsh Cup 4th Round tie between Caernarfon Town v Rhyl on Saturday, January 28, kick off 5.15pm. S4C will also show highlights of Wrexham’s National League clash with Boreham Wood on Clwb2 at 10pm on Sunday.
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