PAUL RUTHERFORD has lifted the lid on Wrexham’s “terrible” 2019/20 National League campaign that started with him on the outside looking in.

Rutherford was wondering what the future might hold after he found himself as a bit-part player under Bryan Hughes at the start of the season.

When Hughes was relieved of his duties 12 games into the season, Rutherford had played just 277 minutes of league action, starting just twice, and the experienced midfielder cut a frustrated figure.

“He didn’t treat me badly and I played all pre-season until I rolled my ankle ahead of the friendly with Crewe,” said Rutherford.

“I tried to get back for the Crewe game, but he said ‘don’t worry, make sure you get it right’.

“It was then I started to think about my place in the team, but we spoke quite often.”

Rutherford was forced into more drastic action when, with Wrexham having picked up just nine points from their opening seven games, he was left out of the matchday squad for the 2-1 home defeat to Stockport County.

Rutherford, who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Friday, revealed: “It was before the Stockport game that I put it on him and said ‘gaffer, why can’t I get in this team?’

“There wasn’t really an answer, so I said that he obviously doesn’t fancy me as a player, but he said he did.

“I’m not a hassle to have around the place and I understand the game at my age.

“I can be used to help get the best out of other players. I can be in the team and help take some pressure off the likes of Devonte (Redmond, pictured right). I know what I’m good at.

“I’ve found that throughout my career, when I’m in the team people look and think ‘could we upgrade that area?’ When I’m out of the team people can see what I was bringing to the side and what’s now missing.

“I’m my own biggest critic and I didn’t really feel like an established first team player at points last season.

“But then Dean came in and there was a purpose again, even if I wasn’t starting every game.”

Rutherford made an instant impact under caretaker boss Brian Flynn, climbing off the bench at home to Ebbsfleet to score a crucial winner, before starting the next two matches against Solihull and Woking.

Under Keates, Rutherford went on to start 15 of the 22 matches before coronavirus ended the campaign early, featuring another five times off the bench.

“In terms of us as a collective we were able to regroup when Dean came back,” said Rutherford, one of five players, along with Mark Carrington, James Jennings, Davis Keillor-Dunn and Christian Dibble - set to have talks over new deal with Keates. “He had an almost completely different squad to the one he left behind, but he managed to get us out of trouble.”

That’s not to say that Rutherford reflects on the 2019/20 campaign with fondness as Wrexham escaped the very real threat of relegation by the skin of their teeth.

“There’s no point beating around the bush, it was terrible,” declared Rutherford.

“I’m not sure we will ever fully say how we’ve interpreted the season, but we had such high hopes going in after going so close the season before.

“Things changed a little too much probably and we couldn’t get the right formula, things were not quite right.”

One of Rutherford’s former clubs, Barrow, have appointed David Dunn as their new manager.