BRYAN HUGHES believes it was “harsh and a bit premature” to relieve him of his duties as Wrexham manager less than two months into the season and was adamant he could have revived the Reds’ fortunes.

The 44-year-old, who came through the ranks at The Racecourse and became the club’s first £1million player after joining Birmingham in March 1997, was a surprise choice when the rookie boss was named as Graham Barrow’s successor in February 2019.

The third manager of a turbulent campaign, Hughes led Wrexham to a fourth place finish and play-off spot for the first time in six years but the promotion dream was ended by Eastleigh in the eliminator tie.

Despite making a promising start to the 2019-20 season, the Reds faded and after being given the dreaded vote of confidence by the club’s board, Hughes was dismissed following the 3-2 loss at fellow strugglers Fylde on September 24.

Defeat left Wrexham second from bottom in the National League but Hughes felt he could have turned things around if he was given time and says making another managerial change was not the way forward.

He hasn’t spoken publicly about his Reds exit before but sent a letter to The Leader’s Wrexham FC reporter Richard Williams, explaining his side of the story.

“I felt that losing my job after 12 league games into the campaign was harsh and a bit premature,” said Hughes.

“But I knew and felt the need for success from the terraces was the underlying issue for change.

“After a promising start in the first six league games, which saw one defeat, the next six games was my downfall with four defeats and two draws; all of which were winnable games which added to the frustration.

“Ultimately five defeats in 12 league games was enough to lose my job unfortunately. I’d previously had five defeats in the final 15 league games of the previous season to give it some comparison.

“With a new younger team established, and introducing new ideas and principles to them, there was always going to be some stumbles along the way.

“I felt at the time, and still feel today, this was a time when the group needed positive support, and not change. They had three changes of manager the previous season to deal with.

“When I look back and see that after nine games we were three points better off than Barrow at that stage, it just shows what could have been achieved.

“Like I said, the squad of players were totally behind me in what we was doing, and wanting to achieve.”

Hughes, who previously had a spell as joint manager of Scarborough, was looking forward to the challenge when he was appointed Wrexham’s third boss of 2018-19 after Barrow and Sam Ricketts.

He enjoyed a positive start and guided Wrexham to top spot but the automatic promotion push faltered in the run-in and there was more disappointment in the play-offs, although Hughes could not fault his players’ efforts.

“I’ve been privileged to have been involved in professional football for over 25 years at all different levels,” said Hughes, who brought in the man who gave him his debut, Brian Flynn as assistant manager.

“During that time I’ve learnt and understood how football management works.

“I’ve seen and witnessed many times more experienced managers than myself losing their jobs. It’s a results-based business at most clubs, and no more so than at Wrexham due to the club being out of the Football League for such a long period of time.

“This has truly hurt everyone concerned at the club, which makes the demands for success that much greater. “When I arrived as manager, I was nervous to be back but excited by the challenge ahead.

“I felt I was inheriting a good squad which was potentially lacking a bit of confidence after five defeats in their previous six games.

“My first job was to lift that confidence, and start getting back to winning ways and produce results. The impact was instant, and we quickly went from fifth position to the top of the league within a few weeks.

“Unfortunately as the season came to an end we couldn’t hold that top position, and had to settle for the play-offs.

“We were so close to achieving our goal of a Football League return, and then was heartbreakingly denied in the play offs. We gave it a really good go, and I was proud of the players’ commitment to the cause.

“I felt at that point it was time to reflect and rebuild after a rollercoaster first few months as manager. My strategy was to keep the nucleus of the squad that went close, but add a more vibrant youthful aspect to it, and gradually start introducing the youth team players into the first team environment, which I did.”

After keeping the nucleus of the squad for the club’s 12th season in non-league, Hughes added the likes of Devonte Redmond and JJ Hooper to the ranks.

The emphasis was on making Wrexham more attack minded, but it had a negative impact at the other end of the pitch where the Reds had a superb defensive record over the previous two campaigns.

Hughes felt individual mistakes were costly as his eight month reign ended with Wrexham in the relegation zone, although he maintains it wouldn’t have been a season of struggle if he’d have kept his job.

“In the summer I felt the recruitment of players was positive in how I wanted the team to play, whilst also being able to flip into a different formation when necessary,” said Hughes. “I felt we needed to be adaptable. Alongside that I brought a different style of play which was based around a more attacking brand of football. This gave the players freedom to express themselves within a team structure.

“I knew we might leave ourselves open at times defensively, but felt this was something we could deal with, having retained the majority of the defensive unit including the goalkeeper from the previous season, which had kept a record number of clean sheets.

“Looking back at the majority of goals we conceded, it wasn’t because we got exposed for being attack minded. “They were generally down to individual errors that as a manager are uncontrollable, and ultimately cost us points.

“That can be frustrating, and these frustrations were felt by everyone. I felt all the players had bought into what we were doing as a team, and were fully supportive in putting things right on the pitch. We played some excellent stuff at times, and they were a great group to work with every day.

“I honestly believe we would have turned our form around instead of it spiralling into as a whole, a disappointing season for everyone.”

Hughes, who featured in the Premier League for Birmingham, Charlton and Hull during an illustrious playing career, has no regrets and was grateful he had the opportunity to manage the club where it all began.

“Looking back now on my time as manager, I have no regrets. It’s disappointing that I didn’t get the time to bring stability back to the club, which I believe is needed to progress,” said Hughes. “But I enjoyed every minute being back at the club where I made my professional debut aged 17. Walking out at The Racecourse as your manager is something I’ll never forget.

“Thanks again and I hope everyone is safe and well in these strange times. Good luck in the future. I’m sure our paths will cross again.”