Martin Riley disappointed to leave Wrexham AFC


Richard Williams

MARTIN RILEY  insists he did not even discuss a new contract with Wrexham boss Dean Keates before being axed by the club.

The newly crowned Player of the Year was arguably the biggest surprise when he was announced as one of nine players who weren’t retained by Keates after Wrexham finished 13th in the National League this season.

Some reports suggested Riley was not prepared to take a pay-cut but the centre-back says he didn’t get offered a new deal.

“I did not even get to discuss terms,” said Riley. “The gaffer told my agent a few weeks ago that he wanted to keep me under reduced terms.

“I was expecting an offer on lower terms but it never came.

“I did not get any offer which I was surprised about because I was expecting something but that was not the case. Since the gaffer has come in I have barely put a foot wrong.

“I have seen (on social media) that I was on too much money but I was prepared to take a small pay-cut to stay.”

Riley, who rejoined Wrexham for a second spell last summer when he arrived from Tranmere Rovers, was released along with captain Rob Evans, leading scorer Jordan White, Shwan Jalal, Iffy Allen, Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls, Anthony Barry, Izale McLeod and Callum Powell.

Curtis Tilt, Hamza Bencherif and John Rooney, all currently out on loan, are also leaving while only two players – goalkeeper Chris Dunn and midfielder Russell Penn – have been offered new deals.

Keates, who will also hold talks with on-loan Cheltenham  left-back James Jennings about extending his stay, only has Mark Carrington and Leo Smith under contract, with Paul Rutherford set to put pen to paper, and Riley took it on the chin that he is surplus to requirements.

“I have always had a great relationship with the fans. That was the main reason why I came back to Wrexham,” said Riley who won the FA Trophy and also reached the play-off final in 2013 during his previous spell at Wrexham.

“I have been released, that is football. He is a new manager and he wants to bring in his own players, I was not one of his players.

“He wants a clean slate, that is his decision and I respect that.”

Riley departs having been recognised for his efforts during a turbulent season.

Gary Mills was sacked as manager in October following the poor start to the campaign but although Wrexham risked being dragged into a relegation battle around the turn of the year, the Reds pulled clear of trouble under Keates.

Riley, recalled to the side in December, made 29 league starts and appeared as a substitute in the final day draw at Eastleigh, and the 28-year-old was delighted to scoop the Player of the Year award.

“It is nice to have some recognition from everyone, although it is bitter sweet now,” said Riley.

“It has been a really difficult season but I think I can at least hold my head up high.

“The first couple of months and the last couple of months were really hard. The way the team was set-up at the start of the season was tough, and then the last two months when we had a young, maksehift team when the gaffer made changes was hard at times.

“But the middle of the season, especially the 10 or 11 games where we picked up a lot of results and people were talking about us going for the play-offs, I really enjoyed playing.

“I enjoyed my football again, which I had not done for a while, and that is probably why my performances were better.”

Riley and Tilt were the centre-back pairing as Wrexham enjoyed a successful start to 2017, climbing to mid-table safety and passing the 50 point mark with a 2-1 win at Braintree on March 4.

Tilt, who impressed throughout his first season at this level, was then allowed to join Forest Green  on loan and Riley felt his former team-mate was a leading contender for the Player of the Year award.

“I gave a shout out to Curtis when I got the award,” added Riley. “Everyone knows that if Curtis was still here he surely would have won.

“It is probably the first time that I have been happy that Curtis left!”

Former Wrexham left back Anthony Stephens is one of three nominations for the Welsh Premier League Young player of the year.

Stephens played his part in Bala Town’s shock 2-1 Welsh Cup win against champions The New Saints at the weekend.

The other nominees are Bangor City’s Henry Jones and Llandudno’s James Joyce.

The winner will be announced at the  Awards on  May 20.

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