DEAN KEATES has wielded the axe at Wrexham and offered new deals to just two out-of-contract players.
The majority of the first team squad is out of contract this summer and big changes are being made after Wrexham finished 13th in the National League this season.
Goalkeeper Chris Dunn and midfielder Russell Penn were the only players offered new deals, although Keates will hold talks with Cheltenham left-back James Jennings, who has been on-loan at The Racecourse, about extending his stay.
Mark Carrington and Leo Smith are already under contract while Paul Rutherford has accepted the offer of a new deal, but captain Rob Evans and newly crowned player of the year Martin Riley are among the nine players released.
Top scorer Jordan White, Iffy Allen, Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls, Anthony Barry, Shwan Jalal, Izale McLeod, and Callum Powell have also left the club.
Curtis Tilt, Hamza Bencherif and John Rooney are currently out on loan and will not to return to Wrexham, while Ntumba Massanka and Ollie Shenton have gone back to their Premier League parent clubs, Burnley and Stoke City.
Keates defended his decision to release so many players and will now rebuild the Reds squad ahead of a 10th season in non-league.
“They are not decisions that have been taken lightly, they have not just been made overnight,” said Keates.
“We have looked back at all the games and taken everything into the equation for the club to go forward and they aren’t part of my plans.
“The hard work starts now. The wheels have been turning but all being well we get one or two in the building as soon as we can.
”But teams are still competing for things at this level and above so we will have to be a bit patient.”
Arguably the biggest surprise was not to offer centre-back Riley a new contract.
Riley returned to Wrexham for a second spell last summer from Tranmere Rovers and made 29 league starts this season before coming on as a substitute in Saturday’s final day draw at Eastleigh.
A consistent performer after regaining his place in the side in December, Riley was voted Player of the Year and won a host of other awards from the various fans’ groups, but Keates decided against retaining the defender.
“Martin did well in the second half of the season and he won a lot of awards,” said Keates.
“I have known him personally and played with him, he is a great lad, but for the club to go forward he is just not part of my plans with the direction the club is going.”
White, brought in from Livingston last summer, contracted a bloodstream disease in pre-season and did not figure in the first team until the end of November.
The striker finished the season strongly, netting five goals in as many games to take his tally to seven, but he too will be plying his trade elsewhere.
“Jordan had the illness before Christmas and he gave me something to think about,” said Keates.
“It was a decision that I didn’t take lightly but every decision has been taken in the best interests of the football club to go forward.”
Tilt, Bencherif and Rooney are on loan at Forest Green Rovers, York City and Guiselely respectively, and Keates confirmed: “They will not be coming back.”
Keates is hoping Dunn and Penn will agree terms and commit their futures to Wrexham before the end of the week.
“Both have done well,” said Keates. “We have put something to them and hopefully we can agree, we will see what happens.
“We are in the process of trying to get something sorted and they will get back to me by the end of the week.
“There is no point in it being dragged out, if they are going to stay we want to know as quick as possible. If not, we will look at other targets.”
Keates would like to keep Jennings, who is waiting to see where he stands at League Two side Cheltenham Town.
“James is still contracted to Cheltenham but he knows how I feel about him,” said Keates.
Rutherford, who activated a contract extension, is set to put pen to paper on a new deal.
“It is just a case of Paul signing,” said Keates.
Scholars Olly Marx and George Harry have both figured in the first team and the duo are waiting to see if they will be offered professional contracts.
“There is still one youth team game left so they are still in,” added Keates. “We will sit down with the scholars after that.”
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