DEAN KEATES knows Wrexham can’t afford to ‘run before they can walk’ as he looks to drag the Reds up the National League table.

Keates has returned to The Racecourse in a similar position to the one he encountered when he replaced Gary Mills in the hotseat just over three years ago.

The Reds were in 16th position with six wins from 16 outings back in October 2016, and fast forward 37 months, Keates returns with Wrexham in 20th having won three of 15 matches.

Given that Wrexham are only out of the drop zone on goal difference, Keates squashed talk of a play-off challenge, insisting that moving away from the bottom four was the number one priority.

“Without looking too far, we don’t need to run before we can walk, we just need to stabilise ourselves,” said Keates when talk of a play-off push was mentioned as he was unveiled yesterday.

“I was given the (chance to manage) the club a couple of years ago, we built something when the club was a little bit disjointed, a bit rudderless.

“We stabilised it, kept the club in the division and started building from the back.

“The second year we added better players around what turned to be a record-breaking back five.”

Keates, who will take charge of tonight’s home clash with Harrogate, knows instilling confidence in his players is crucial to turning results around.

“It’s a great opportunity for myself to come back and it’s very similar to last time where we need to get the club back on the front foot and back up the league,” he continued.

“I know what the club’s about and a lot has been said about when I left previously, but it’s in the past, it’s behind us and I can only effect what’s in-front of us.

“We’ve got to build on what’s in place, fill the lads full of confidence, get the lads motivated and get them out on the pitch doing well for the football club.

“When you are down the bottom of the league it’s a question of confidence, which effects everybody.”

There is a core of players still at the club from Keates’ last spell in charge with the likes of Shaun Pearson, James Jennings, Mark Carrington and Paul Rutherford working under the returning boss.

“There’s still a framework of players I brought in and that I know,” added Keates. “They know what I am and I know what makes them tick and how they operate.”

While there is a group of familiar faces, Keates insists that he is a different manager to the one who left for hometown club Walsall in March last year.

“Things have changed and you have to evolve, that’s not just players and football clubs, but as a manager and coaching staff,” said Keates. “Over the last 18 months I’ve learned a lot and I am not the same person who was here 18 months ago, I am more experienced.”

Keates took a “short sharp session” yesterday morning ahead of tonight’s home clash with Harrogate, who head to The Racecourse on the back of three successive victories without conceding a goal.

Wrexham are seven points and 10 places below Harrogate in the standings, and Keates knows that his new side must sharpen up in both boxes - and cut out individual errors - if they are to climb up the table.

“What I have noticed, which is what football is all about, is the two 18-yard boxes,” he said.

“If you are not taking your chances in one and conceding in the other (then you won’t win matches).

“The patterns of play in the bit in between I wouldn’t say have been too far off.

“People in football speak about fine margins and you struggle to effect individual errors.”

Keates confirmed that Andy Davies, who was placed in caretaker charge of the Reds when the 41-year-old left for Walsall, has returned as his assistant manager.

“Andy knows the players and has worked with the group,” said Keates, while a statement from Wrexham thanked Brian Flynn for his efforts since he arrived back in north Wales, firstly as assistant to Hughes and then as interim manager for the last three games.

The statement read: “The club would like to place on record our thanks to Brian for all his hard work on his return to the club, and especially in taking interim charge of first-team duties.”

Harrogate boss Simon Weaver, meanwhile, hopes to “guess right” when it comes to how Wrexham will line up under Keates.

“Wrexham have got really good individuals and they did really well last season and the year before under Dean Keates,” said Weaver. “You look back into the history of what he did and the players they’ve got available now and try to guess right.”