Thursday, 30 April 2009

Retained List Watch

Under contract:
Kyle Critchell
Carl Tremarco
Darran Kempson
Tom Kearney
Simon Brown
Nat Brown
Silvio Spann
Michael Proctor
Sam Williamson
Steve Abbott
Chris Maxwell
Obi Anoruo
Neil Taylor
Andy Fleming
Marc Williams
Kai Edwards

Out of contract:
Shaun Whalley
Levi Mackin
Aurelien Collin
Ashley Westwood
John Curtis
Wes Baynes
Offered contract:
Mike Williams
Matt Jansen
Mansour Assoumani
Jamie McCluskey

Gavin Ward
Anthony Williams
Simon Spender
Chris Marriott
Christian Gyan
Jeff Louis

Sam Aiston
Patrick Suffo

New Signings

Maxwell's Youth Doomed The Oldie Goalies

Could it be that Chris Maxwell's age is what cost one of our other keepers their jobs?

Gavin Ward and Anthony Williams are two experienced goalies who fit the bill as able back-ups but have shown this season that they're not the men to rely if you want to make a promotion push.

And that's the problem. Chris Maxwell also made a point at the end of the campaign. He showed that he's clearly ready to be trusted and that Dean Saunders need not worry that he'd crack if thrust into first team action. However, it'd be a crazy risk to throw an eighteen-year-old in as first choice for the start of next season, and that's where chronology did for Ward and Williams.

If Maxwell was a couple of years older, with a bit more experience under his belt, Saunders might have been tempted to take the plunge. If so, either Ward or Williams would have fitted the bill as his deputy, but that's not what Saunders is looking for now. Surely he needs a sop-gap keeper to be first choice while Maxwell develops.

One option would be to go for an on-loan solution; I wonder if, while watching us beat Weymouth, Gunnar Neilsen had his ear bent on the subject of a season-long arrangement once his thumb heals? Otherwise, an Andy Dibble-style signing would fit the bill; a keeper nearing the end of his career who is reliable enough to be first choice and could also help Maxwell's development.

Sadly neither Williams nor Ward, affable fellows both, fit that particular bill.

Premature Taxi For Spender

It's hard not to feel sorry for released players, so this time of year is particularly taxing for a soft-hearted soul like me. I've got a particular sympathy for Simon Spender though, whose long time at The Racecourse has been ended.

I can't help feeling that in this case the baby might have been thrown out with the bathwater.

Dean Saunders had to undertake a swift pruning of the squad he inherited, that much is beyond dispute. However, I can't help but think that Spender is a player who has plenty to offer at this level.

He has, after all, spent his whole career in the Football League, is still pretty young, and has had a frustrating career pattern: he tends to struggle to get his break under a manager, finally get his opportunity and take it well, only to be jetisoned once a more alluring right back catches The Gaffer's eye.

As an example, look at his time under Brian Carey. He finally got a run at the end of the 2006-7 season, and performed admirably, scoring at Lincoln and memorably going on that late surge at Shrewsbury which culminated in a perfectly timed pull-back for Michael Procter to hit a crucial winner. Defensively he was sound as the side stopped shipping goals, but Spender's efforts didn't protect him from his usual fate of losing his place at the start of the next season once results stopped going our way.

There is a precedent for those who suspect this is a good move: when Neil Salathiel was released by Brian Flynn it struck me as a mistake to remove a player who, though limited, had served us with admirable energy and robustness in our dark days trawling the lower reaches of Division Four. However, in bringing in Barry Jones Flynn affected a successful upgrade, and Jones' first season ended in promotion.

Ironically,Spender was captain for our first friendly this season, albeit at the behest of Brian Little, who showed trademark decisiveness by sharing the armband around rather than make a decision. Now he's rejected. I just hope we are able to find someone better than him, because I'm struggling to think of a more effective Wrexham right-back since Jones.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Weymouth Podcast

The Supporters Association podcast is now up at featuring Dean Saunders and Kai Edwards.

It's Not A Dead Match After All!

Hold on a second...we thought Weymouth were coming to The Racecourse with nothing to play for, but it turns out they might stay up after all! According to their new chairman Ian Ridley, there's talk that a team which has survived the battle against the drop might want to take a voluntary demotion, meaning the side in fourth bottom will stay up, so a win today and a defeat for Woking would save them.

There's a well-established precedent for this, of course, as Altrincham survived the last three seasons by virtue of the collapse of others sides, and teams do take voluntary demotions in non-league when they outstretch themselves, although it's a surprise to see it happen in the Premier-and an indication of the extent of our fall from grace that we might be in the same league as a team in those circumstances.

I assume-and it is just an assumption as this isn't a rumour I'd come across before-is that there's an 80% shot that it's Grays Athletic, whose chairman/owner/occasional manager/benefactor/dictator Mick Woodward is prone to sudden dramatic decisions. Otherwise, I guess Salisbury might think that way, unless I suspect not as they seem committed to keep going by running themselves within their means and seeing where it takes them.

If it is one of those, I have to point out that it means we've dropped points to a side which doesn't want to play at our level, which is a depressing thought. Mind you, we probably have if it isn't one of those too!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Marc's Loss Was Felt Before His Injury

While I happily go along with the orthodox think that the loss of Marc Williams has the greatest impact on our season collapsing, I feel his injury wasn't the point where everything fell apart.

I'd trace the source of our problems to slightly before he was ruled out for the season. The Valentine's Day game against Grays was a huge turning point as it marked the start of Williams' only dip in form all season.
The next game was the massive match against Burton, which Williams failed to influence, he was rested for the FA Trophy game against Ebbsfleet and then didn't have much of a chance in the replay, and in our next game he was injured.

So the goals actually dried up when a tired Williams stopped leading the line to his usual high standard, his injury merely compounded the problem.
Whether his fatigue contributed to the injury is not something I'm qualified to speculate upon, but if it's a possibility, it shows us that we can't expect Williams to run himself into the ground for the cause again next season. Equally, our plummetting form shows that we must recruit enough quality in the Summer to ensure the loss of one man can't lead to such catastrophe again.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Assume Nothing

I've had an uneasy feeling about Sunday's game for some time. It's set up to cap a grim conclusion to the season in the most depressing manner possible.

The inevitable happened tonight when Weymouth were finally relegated, losing a game they had to win at home to York, who in turn just about stay up despite the fact that under Martin Foyle they've won five games out of twenty-five, their only wins in 2009 before this week coming against Lewes and Weymouth's youth team.

But that's the point. I don't know if people still think Weymouth are still fielding their youngsters, but they're not. I'm not pretending they've put a competitive side together as they plainly haven't-one point fron their last fifteen games tells you that. But they're no longer getting stuffed; in their last four games their worst result was a 2-0 defeat.

This feels like a big let-down just waiting to happen, bearing in mind our dismal form and the assumption that we'll at least wallop this lot, an attitude born on an unseasonably sunny day in late February when Weymouth crashed 9-0 at home to Rushden having lost their first team squad four days after our defeat at Burton, a time of unwarranted optimism.
I fear we could be in for a horribly jolting reality check on Sunday which will illustrate starkly how far we've fallen in the intervening two months.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Enigma of Silvio Spann

So what do you make of Silvio Spann? I'm only asking because I've still got no idea what to think of him!

He's enjoying a rare run in the side, and I'm glad to see it. After all, we're not going to be able to judge his value unless we have a good look at him. The trouble is, having seen him playing week-in week-out I'm still none the wiser!

There are moments when you feel he has a bit more quality than the players around him, but does he really get close to delivering on his promise and potential often enough?
Take the Altrincham game. There are those who were furious he was withdrawn so early, with less than ten minutes of the second half gone, and I can understand that as there were little flashes of promise from him.
However, I can't say I was terribly surprised he got the hook as he was awfully peripheral. He had the odd moment, but it wasn't sustained by any stretch of the imagination, and to miss that glorious chance Anoruo provided for him by dallying and not getting a shot in when he was heart-broken two days earlier over two similar but tougher chances he squandered at Oxford because he hesitated was very disappointing.
I don't know if I want Dean Saunders to keep faith in him or not, and equally I've no idea if Deano's giving him a run to help him bed into a new position or if he's taking a good hard look before deciding whether or not to pay him off.
The thing is, I suspect I still won't have made my mind up about the enigmatic Silvio when he finally leaves us, whenever that might be.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Second String Returns At Last

I must say I'm delighted to see that Dean Saunders wants to resurrect the reserves next season. I thought the decision to abandon the second eleven last Summer was an awful call, and I was quite glad when I looked back at what I blogged at the time to find that what I'd feared has pretty much been borne out. We need to give players a chance to play in competitive matches to get them fit or see what they're made of.

The latter point has been particularly relevant this season as Dean Saunders has tried to run the rule over a plethora of triallists without offering them anything more than a string of friendlies against variable opposition. He pointed out that Mani Assoumani played five trial games and kept five clean sheets, but the only way to workout if he was able to cut it in a more testing environment was to throw him into the first team.

Mind you, we hopefully won't have to run things in quite that way next season. Something which amused me when I looked back at that blog was that we were promiswd a first team squad of eighteen! As we've smashed the record for most players used in a season this time round, I think it's fair to say that idea went out of the window!

Max Power

So the gamble was taken, and it was a wise move! As I suggested before the Altrincham game, it's time to give Chris Maxwell a shot, and he was the only good point in a depressing afternoon.

He might not be the biggest keeper, but he has a spring in his step and clearly has natural ability. Now we need to see if we can develop him without exposing him too soon! I'm sure he's shown enough to suggest to Dean Saunders that he's ready to be number two next season behind a new first choice goalie.

He's certainly confident enough-the way he dribbled past his man before clearing in the second half showed that, although it was an awfully dangerous thing to do and could have led to the sort of early accident which can wreck a career.

I'd rather focus on the important areas for any goalkeeper though. He was confident and aggressive in the air: he took every cross he came for, and came for every cross he could. That's what sorts the men from the boys in goal. I said in commentary that he'd already come for more crosses than Kevin Dearden did in his entire Wrexham career! Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is he doesn't look like a keeper who's going to hide on his line and let others take responsibility. And let's be honest, that's what we need right now.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Status Anxiety

I've heard plenty of people complain about our collapse in stature this season, from general chat on messageboards about having to play "pub teams" to fans at away games complaining about the stadia we now visit regularly, and although I see the latter point to an extent-it was a bit of a culture shock to go to a proper big stadium again last Saturday-I don't agree. I tend to see it as what we deserve; we've collapsed over the last couple of years for a variety of reasons, so we've no scope for complaint or surprise about our diminished circumstances.

Until now.

What I'm about to say will sound awful, and I apologise in advance. It doesn't represent the rational part of my brain, but I've got to admit I'm really feeling it. I'll be really upset if Eastbourne Borough finish above us this season.

I must quickly say that this is in no way intended as a slur on Eastbourne. They are one of the best-run clubs I've ever encountered, and deserve every credit for their success-I hope it goes on for many years to come. Equally, I've no grudge against them on the pitch-they were rather better behaved than some sides we've come up against and thoroughly deserved to beat us when we went down to Sussex this season.

The thing is, the thought that a small club with a tiny fanbase and a history embedded several levels below The Conference can consistently outperform us to the extent that they get more points than us after forty-six games suggests something has gone seriously awry this season.

I can live with Histon doing it, although they're probably an even smaller club than Eastbourne. After all, they've already established themselves as play-off contenders last season and thrive through their long ball approach, which is a pretty effective way to get the best out of limited resources. No, Eastbourne is worse because they play football the right way, and if they finish above us they'll have shown they can play the way we want to and do it better on a fraction of our resources. And that'll be the greatest humiliation of them all as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Altrincham Podcast

The Supporters Association podcast is now up at featuring Dean Saunders and Chris Maxwell.

Can Maxwell Survive the Goalkeeper's Graveyard?

So will Gunnar Neilsen's unfortunate injury open the door for Chris Maxwell? He was lined up for a shot in the team before Neilsen arrived, only to be folied by a training ground injury, and Connah's Quay will testify to his ability, as they've found things tough since he returned to The Racecourse at the end of his loan.

I'd assumed for a while that, once there was nothing left to play for, Maxwell would get his chance. However, I wonder if the timing is exactly what Saunders would have wanted. Altrincham might not offer anything out of the ordinary, but should Maxwell be forced to deal with Exodis Geohaghan's long throws next Saturday at Kettering?

Caution would be understandable as our recent history is littered with keepers who looked promising but didn't develop as we'd hoped, possibly because they didn't cope with being exposed in the first team before they were ready. Off the top of my head, I can think of Michael Jones, Kristian Rogers, Dave Walsh, Paul Whitfield and Mark Cartwright. I could even go back to Stuart Parker-we're a goalkeeper's graveyard!

Of course there are experienced options available in Gavin Ward and Anthony Williams should Saunders play it conservatively, but I hope he gives Maxwell his chance. After all, Saunders has, I'm sure seen all he needs of his two experienced keepers to have made his mind up about them, and is there any guarantee they'd deal any better with Kettering's aerial assault?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

The Supporters Association podcast is now up at featuring Dean Saunders, Ashley Westwood and Silvio Spann.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Quiz Question

Can you work out a completely non-British eleven who've played for Wrexham this season?
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Monday, 6 April 2009

Planning Permission Granted

The news that the council have granted planning permission for the Kop development is enormously important news for the club. Just what it means is not something everyone agrees on, but it's undoubtedly important!

The WST's opposition is clearly laid out and substantial, yet the majority of people I spoke to on Saturday felt the permission had to be granted for the good of the club.

So who's right? And why does life have to be so complicated?

Louis Sheds Light on Saunders' Plans?

In April's edition of Fourfourtwo Jeff Louis makes an interesting comment on Dean Saunders' ability to attract players to The Racecourse: "Any young Welshman-like Cardiff's (sic) Joe Allen-sees an opportunity to impress a future national team manager."

With BBC Wales eagerly putting the idea around that Saunders is being groomed as John Toshack's successor, and pursuing the line that Saunders might well jump ship in the Summer, it's interesting to hear a similar notion about is being the testing ground for Saunders' managerial ambitions being put forward by a member of the squad.

I've never felt that was the case, certainly not in the short term. However, Saunders' surprising comments about reassessing his position if the rift between Geoff Moss and the WST doesn't heal, if they're taken at face value, might make me think again.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Friday, 3 April 2009

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Wrexham Calendar