ANDY MORRELL has warned the battle for automatic promotion will be as tough as ever in 2021-22 despite Wrexham having more funds available in a bid to finally clinch a return to the Football League.

The Reds are preparing for a 14th season in non-league after missing out on the National League play-offs this term, with the club deciding not to offer manager a new contract Dean Keates after failing to secure a top-seven finish.

Whoever takes charge with be armed with a bigger-than-normal budget as a result of Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds completing their high-profile takeover at The Racecourse in February.

But Morrell, a former Wrexham striker who also led the club to FA Trophy glory in March 2013 as player-manager and the play-off final six weeks later where Newport County ended the promotion dream, says it won't get any easier just because there is more money to spend with competition for the title as fierce as ever.

"It is getting harder and harder to get out of," said Morrell.

"Those early years when Dean Saunders was in charge, you were looking at maybe a handful of full-time teams and the rest part-time in the National League.

"When you look at it now, there are probably a couple of part-time teams in there and the rest are full-time, and most of them have got really good budgets so every year it gets harder and harder.

"I thought this year was the first year where there has not been a massive, massive budget in there that could blow anybody out of the water; there was no Salford or Fylde - no big hitter that you thought 'we are going to struggle to compete'.

"It was a good opportunity to try and get out of the league but it slipped through the fingers, and you are possibly up against the Stockport's again and it is going to be tough.

"But everybody will be looking at Wrexham with the jealous eyes that we had of Salford's budget, and Wrexham will be the team to take down if the budget comes to the front."

Morrell believes Keates was a "safe pair of hands" to remain in charge after Wrexham went from a relegation scrap in 2019-20 to promotion contenders.

Failing to secure a play-off spot cost him his job and Morrell says the club need to make the right appointment after deciding they wanted a new manager at the helm.

"It is a tough one because Dean has done an okay job but they have got to get it right," added Morrell.

"They have put a bit of pressure on themselves by getting rid of Dean because they had a fairly safe pair of hands; they knew they weren't going to concede a lot of goals with Dean and if they were able to get a couple of strikers in that were going to start scoring goals, then the club was in good hands.

"The club has decided on what they have decided and everybody is expecting a big, big name - are they going to get it?

"They have just got to make sure that they get the right person in, and hope that they hit the ground running and go well because they will certainly be backed by the owners."