THE jury will always be out when Wrexham fans are called to make their final judgments on the case of former Reds’ manager Kevin Wilkin.

Rob Evans - who was a first team regular in Wilkin’s short stint at The Racecourse - was definitely a fan just as he was with the manager who replaced him in the hottest of hotseats, Gary Mills.

“Kevin Wilkin was a very good manager and I think his time at Wrexham was definitely cut too short,” said Evans, the youngster from Penycae who became one of the youngest captains ever at his home-town club on the Welsh Football Podcast.

“I think he could have made a good name for himself there, I really enjoyed working under him and he brought some very good players in like Louis Moult and Connor Jennings.

“It didn’t seem to work out, but bringing a team together and just giving them 12 months was definitely tough on him and he deserved more time.”

Wilkin was the surprise choice as club boss when the Wrexham board plumped for the former Nuneaton manager who had masterminded three promotions in four seasons at the Midlands club.

He lasted less than one season in charge - nothing new in that with the back-them-then-axe-them approach adopted by the club’s board of directors.

Wilkin was booted out less than 24 hours after Wrexham had suffered Wembley heartache in a shock FA Trophy final defeat to part-timers, North Ferriby United.

Ten weeks earlier he had been on the verge of creating one of the biggest FA Cup shocks in the modern era when Mark Carrington headed the Reds into the lead with just 17 minutes to go in their third round clash at Mark Hughes’ big-spending Stoke City.

“There were just nine minutes to go and we were winning 1-0 at Stoke – a Premier League club that had spent millions on players,” said Wilkin, now boss at Brackley Town – one of the most southern of all the teams in National League North.

“I’ll never forget that day at Stoke or that season at Wrexham either.

“To see 5,000 Wrexham fans having that belief that we could beat Stoke was amazing. It would have been one of the biggest FA Cup upsets of recent times. That day will always stick in my memory.”

Wrexham, who have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup three times in their proud history, were never going to make it to Wembley in that competition.

But they still had a chance in the FA Trophy and despite an alarming dip in league form after Christmas – that’s an in-thing at Wrexham in their non-league era – Wilkin led a Welsh army of Wrexham fans to their second trophy final in two years at the home of English football.

Two up through goals from Louis Moult and Jay Harris, Wrexham were pegged back to 3-3 and lost in the lottery of a penalty shoot-out in one of the greatest FA Trophy upsets of all-time.

There was no bonus ball of another season for Wilkin who must have known his number was up after that bitterly disappointing defeat.

“It wasn’t the nicest way to leave,” said Wilkin, who will always have bittersweet memories of the first time he led a team out at Wembley.

“It will all come out one day about what really went on but there’s no point looking back. I enjoyed my time at Wrexham. It’s a great club and I did all I could to help them get back where they wanted to be.”

No-one can question Wilkin’s recruitment policy during his year in charge. While his successor Mills, who lasted just a bit longer before heading out of The Racecourse’s revolving door, opted for quantity, Wilkin went for quality, bringing in the likes of Moult, Manny Smith, Wes York, Jennings and Kieron Morris, whose two goals at Torquay set up Wrexham’s Wembley day out.

“I was proud of the calibre of the players I brought in at Wrexham,” said Wilkin. “We had Kyle Storer who went on to captain Cheltenham to the National League title the following season and Dan Holman too.

“Fans moaned that I didn’t play Holman. But we had Connor Jennings and Louis Moult upfront at the time!”

The three goals at Wembley – two of them from star man Moult – took Wrexham’s goalscoring tally in an incredible 15 cup ties that season to 34 – 43 if you count the nine spot-kicks scored in the shoot-outs at Gateshead and on that fateful day at Wembley.

Those money-spinning cup runs plus the sale of star striker Moult to Motherwell for an undisclosed fee, meant that Wilkin did leave a lasting legacy in the profit and loss column that matters so much to the powers-that-be at Wrexham Football Club.

“We played 15 cup ties that season – more than any non-league club. That’s 61 games for the season,” added Wilkin, who believes the likes of Wrexham and other fallen giants need to measure their ambitions when it comes to dropping down into non-league football.

“I think clubs need to have a bit more measured ambition. There’s an obsession with reaching the play-offs and just because you’ve got a great stadium, it doesn’t mean you have the divine right to go straight back up.”

While Wilkins was much-favoured by Evans, the ex-Reds midfielder, who now plays for Curzon Ashton, will always plump for Mills as his top boss.

“He brought a good squad in,” added Evans. “He got us playing football, so I felt like I worked well under him.

“He was only there for 16 months, but I learned a lot being a box-to-box midfielder more that season. That was my best season from when I started until today.

I only missed one game, I got young player of the year again and we definitely should have got promoted with the squad we had.

“For me, I thought Gary Mills was brilliant.

“How he spoke and how he demanded things. He was old school, but that suited me because I had Joey Jones as my youth team manager and he was exactly the same.

“I always remember we used to do a training thing in pre-season when the pitches were dry as hell and he used to put a manikin in the ground - I don’t know how because there was no water - and we used to put a ball behind it and we used to have to do a slide-tackle around the manikin, take the ball and the manikin out.

“Considering it was 25 degrees outside with no water on the pitch, you used to come off with grazes down the side of your legs. That was just the type of manager he was.

“All the pre-season drills, there was none of this jogging, it was literally run around the pitch until you were sick.

“He was at Gateshead and every Gateshead team you played you knew you were getting passed off the pitch, they used to pass the ball for fun, so that’s what excited me as well.

Wrexham used to get the ball as fast as they can out wide to get crosses into the box. When he came it was play from the back and I’d never had that before.”

Wilkin and Mills came after Brian Little, Dean Saunders and Andy Morrell had both had a crack at getting Wrexham back into the Football League.

After Mills departed, Dean Keates stepped in, the former skipper now back in The Racecourse dugout after a failed spell in charge of hometown team Walsall.

In between Keates’ spells, there was a chaotic period that saw Sam Ricketts, Graham Barrow and Bryan Hughes all come and go inside just 16 months.