DEAN KEATES ‘fully understands’ James Jennings’ decision to leave Wrexham and sign for Stockport County.

Jennings was one of five players, alongside Mark Carrington, Paul Rutherford, David Keillor-Dunn and Christian Dibble, that Reds boss Keates wanted to talk to regarding a new deal at The Racecourse.

But with Keates unable to offer anything concrete as the club waited to find out when the 2020/21 National League season would start, Jennings was lured to Edgeley Park, where he will link up with brother Connor.

“JJ called me a couple of days before it came out and I fully understand his decision. He’s got a young family,” said Keates, who brought Jennings to Wrexham, initially on loan, before signing the left-back permanently in the summer of 2017.

“I said to him, like I did to the other players, to let me know if they had a concrete offer from elsewhere.

“It’s part and parcel of football.”

Asked whether Keates was able to present Jennings with a counter offer, the Reds boss conceded: “We weren’t.

“We’ve made a decision as a business and we couldn’t put anything on the table. There has been a little more clarity on things going forward, but we are still waiting on when we might start next season and to finalise plans one we know the timeframe we are working to.

“It’s unfortunate.”

With no formal contract offers for the 2020/21 season made to Carrington, Rutherford, Keillor-Dunn and Dibble, the quartet could follow the lead of Jennings if another club came calling.

Keates is remaining calm, saying: “No decisions have been made other than I would like to speak to them.

“I told the other players that I want to have a discussion with them and they all understand.

“If they have other offers on the table then all I ask is that they are honest with me, like JJ was.”

And while Keates accepts the decision made by Jennings, the Reds boss is sad to see the experienced defender, who made over 100 appearances for the club, depart.

“JJ was a great signing,” said Keates. “Like I said about Manny (Smith) when he had to retire, he was part of a back four or back five that set records at this football club.

“But he has made a decision for him and his family and that’s a decision I understand.

“These things happen in football and it’s now up to me to find a replacement.

“Who knows whether we would have agreed terms had we held discussions for next season.”