SHAUN PEARSON insists departing Wrexham manager Dean Keates can leave the Racecourse “with his head held high”.

Wrexham failed to get the win they needed at Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday to clinch a play-off spot with the 1-1 draw condemning the Reds to a 14th campaign in non-league.

Just 24 hours later and the club, owned by Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, revealed that Keates, out of contract at the end of the season, will not be offered a new deal along with assistant manager Andy Davies and first team coach Carl Darlington who have also left The Racecourse.

Keates returned for a second spell as manager in October 2019 and Wrexham only just avoided relegation last term when the final table was calculated using a Points Per Game method.

The Reds challenged for promotion this season and although they came up short in the end, captain Pearson believes Keates deserves credit for turning things around.

“I have no idea what their criteria was in terms of Dean keeping his job,” said Pearson.

“But one thing the gaffer can do is walk away with his head held high because he has done a good job.

“I know some people automatically think Wrexham are a big club and should be in the top spots, and that was our ambition this season and we came up short.

“But he has turned it around from a team that really struggled last season to being at the top end this season, and with a little bit of fortune we might just have snuck in there.”

Wrexham were also challenging for promotion during Keates’ first spell at the helm but after he left to take charge of hometown club Walsall in March 2018, the Reds missed out on the play-offs.

Despite having three managers the following season, Wrexham clinched a top-seven finish - Bryan Hughes’ side lost 1-0 to Eastleigh in the play-off elimination round - and Pearson insists there are once again solid foundations in place for Keates’ successor.

“The last time Dean left the club he left it in a much better place than what he found it,” said Pearson.

“The foundations were there for Sam Ricketts to come in and move the club forward, and we had a good season following on.

“Any manager that comes in now, the foundations are there to move this team forward.

“We were ever so close to being in the play-offs and if you look our form, it’s not like we started really well and got progressively worse.

“We didn’t start great and we actually got progressively better as the season went on.

“Obviously we had to win at Dagenham but that probably wasn't the game that cost us when you look over the course of the season.”

Pearson expressed his gratitude to Keates who signed the centre-back in the summer of 2017 after leaving Grimsby Town.

“Ultimately Dean was the one that brought me to the football club and I will always be grateful for him giving me that opportunity,” said Pearson.

“It has been good for me, I have loved being at Wrexham and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

“I have had a good working relationship with him over the last four years and it is sad.

“But it is football, it is what happens and the football club will have to move forward.”

Whoever replaces Keates will be expected to have Wrexham challenging for promotion back to the Football League in 2021-22 but Pearson says it won’t get any easier with clubs spending big money in a bid to get out of the fifth tier.

“That is ultimately the aim,” said the 32-year-old.

“Since I have been here, that has been the aim every year regardless of the different budgets we have had each year.

“But every year our aim has to be ending up at the top end of the table.

“What I would say is there is no given right.

“Our budget is obviously going to be at the top end but if Stockport or Chesterfield don’t go up, they have already been chucking big money at it and I imagine those clubs will go again.

“No doubt it will be a tough league again, it seems to get stronger and stronger with more ex- Football League clubs each year, but quite clearly the expectation will be to be bang at the top end.”

Pearson, whose campaign was blighted by injury, hopes to be offered a new contract so that he spends a fifth season at The Racecourse.

“Fingers crossed, that is what I will be hoping for,” said Pearson, one of the many players that are out of contract.

“I have loved representing the club but you just have no idea until these conversations have been had.”