Wrexham AFC: Dean Keates welcomes new play-off format


Richard Williams

Dean Keates has welcomed proposals to include six teams in the play-offs next season but insists there should be two automatic promotion spots.

The new system in the National League, which will see two-legged ties scrapped, will result in teams finishing from second to seventh vying for promotion in the end of season play-offs.

The title winners will be promoted automatically, while those teams finishing second and third will progress straight to one-off home semi-final matches.

Teams finishing fourth down to seventh will then play a one-off qualifying tie for the right to an away semi-final, before the final at Wembley.

Keates, who saw Wrexham finish 13th last season, believes teams will be pleased there are more play-off spots up for grabs but says  more automatic promotion places should be available.

“Obviously it opens up the chasing pack a little bit more so it makes it a bit more interesting when it comes to the end of the season,” said Keates.

“But for me, it needs to be two automatic positions that go up and another one through the play-offs.

“If this is the new formula that they have come up with then so be it but there needs to be three promotion spots with two teams that go up automatically in my eyes. It has been for a long time.”

Although he believes two teams should go straight up, Keates admits clubs in League Two would be against the idea as it would mean more relegation places.

“I don’t think there is that much difference between the top 10 teams in the Conference all the way up through League Two,” said Keates.

“It is a bit pre-dated if I am being honest so it should definitely be two automatic promotion places.

“I think every manager in this division would say the same thing, but the managers from the division above wouldn’t want that extra spot to come down.”

Wrexham, captained by Keates, finished in the play-offs three years running from 2011 to 2013.

A club record haul of 98 points saw Wrexham finish runners-up to Fleetwood Town in the 2011-12 campaign before losing to Luton Town in the play-off semi-finals.

Luton also triumphed at the same stage the previous season after Wrexham amassed 81 points for fourth position.

Wrexham ended the 2012-13 campaign in fifth place on 80 points and reached the play-off final where they lost 2-0 to Newport County at Wembley Stadium.

“What has happened in the past has happened,” said Keates. “If you finish with 98 points you would like to think you win the league but unfortunately we didn’t.

“The extra places in the play-offs would now give the chance for somebody who is finding some late form to make a late surge, and it opens up a lot more.”

Regardless of how many play-offs spots are available, winning the title and automatic promotion to the Football League is the ultimate aim when Wrexham begin a 10th season in non-league in August.

“Ultimately you are aiming for top spot or to finish as high as you can,” said Keates.

“Now it opens up an extra two places to make the play-offs for more teams to contend in.”

Keates is revamping his squad and defender James Hurst became his first new signing  of the summer when he joined from Dover Athletic last Friday, while Chris Dunn, Mark Carrington, Leo Smith and Paul Rutherford remain from last season.

Having released Shwan Jalal, Keates definitely wants to bring in another goalkeeper to compete with the experienced Dunn, who made 19 league appearances last term and is also the Reds’ goalkeeper coach.

“We have got options out there so it is a case of seeing what comes back,” said Keates.

“For me, Chris was absolutely outstanding last season in the games he played and that was the reason why I wanted to him to stay.

“I am glad that he has committed to the football club. Chris is this side of 30 so I wouldn’t say he is old in goalkeeping terms.

“I am over the moon that Chris has agreed, all being well we will get another goalkeeper in the building soon as well.”

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