BRYAN HUGHES insists the Wrexham youth system is close to his heart and developing more players to play in the first team remains a key part of his long term vision for the club.

The 42-year-old came through the ranks at The Racecourse and after going on to play for Brian Flynn's senior side, earned a £1 million move to Birmingham City after helping Wrexham reach the FA Cup quarter-finals in 1996-97.

Back at the club where it all began having taken over as manager in February, Hughes is spearheading Wrexham's promotion challenge.

And it is clinching a place back in the Football League which will enable the club to run the highly regarded youth department like it did in the past.

"It is massive for us," said Hughes. "I am very passionate about the youth, especially here at this club being an ex-youth player myself.

"Going forward long-term, we want to try and get that back up and running.

"We want to get Category Three status but the only way we can do that now is if we can get back into the Football League.

"Even though I am very passionate about the youth system, it gives me more pressure to try and get the club out of this league and successful into the Football League.

"They sort of marry each other. But first and foremost, to look after the youth and one day get it back to the way it used to be, we need to get the first team back into the Football League.

"That is the harsh reality if it really so from my point of view, that is why I am very passionate about trying to be successful this season and getting us back into the Football League."

The likes of Neil Taylor and Danny Ward have come through the youth system in recent years but the current Reds first team squad is short of home-grown talent.

First year pro Doug Tharme has made three league appearances while midfielder Leo Smith, who made his senior bow in 2016, has not featured this season and been on loan at Llandudno and Caernarfon Town.

There will be no Young Player of the Year award this season but Hughes says Centre of Excellence manager Dan Nolan and his team deserve credit for producing players with the club being out of the league.

"It is a bigger challenge," said Hughes. "The funding element is a big thing as well.

"We are mindful of that but we are still producing players.

"A lot of bigger clubs come and start sniffing around our youth players as well which at this moment we can't really do much about.

"The fact that the likes of Doug and Leo, Matty Sargent and Jack Thorn are coming through, we are still producing these players and that is testament to the guys in the youth department.

"Dan Nolan and his staff are doing a fantastic job."

Hughes added: "What I want to do is try and help them.

"They are working all sorts of hours to get these players a good education football wise and now it is about progressing them.

"That link between the first team and the youth vital is always vital.

"That is what I came through, that is everything I have known as a player and I want to try and integrate that back in the long term."