Friday, 26 November 2010

The Ballad of Christian Smith

So Christian Smith has gone on loan to Newport County. It's an odd deal, but then that's in keeping with his bizarre career at Wrexham.

Few players have divided Wrexham fans like Smith in recent years, and I'm sure plenty of you have actually vacillated between one camp and the other as his career has waxed and waned.

There's nothing terribly surprising about that, I suppose. After all, players do go through peaks and troughs of form and young ones more than most. Probably due to his size, it's easy to forget that Smith is still a young, inexperienced player. Throw in Facebookgate and you've got one divisive character.

What throws me about him is how the way he's perceived seems to be in pretty much the opposite of how his manager sees him. He didn't show much promise under Brian Little, but seemed to be popular with the hierarchy at the club (if his rather public correspondance with Simon Brown is to be believed, because he was Martin Foyle's blue-eyed boy.)

Dean Saunders, on his arrival, seemed to be smitten by him (he did compare him to Franz Beckenbauer after all!) and seemed to see him as a bit of a project, to many others' bemusement. When he left after his social networking scandal, few people shed a tear. Foyle took him to York, where he couldn't earn a contract. It seemed he'd be a brief footnote in the club's history, and nobody was too disappointed by that thought.

Plenty were upset by his surrepticious return though. Quietly slipped into pre-season games, explained away as a favour to help him gain fitness as he looked for a new club, his eventual permanent return wasn't popular. Saunders gave him a regular place, and at first he seemed a negative cog in a moribund team. That impression was further encouraged by the fact that Saunders tended to encourage him to break forwards while Andy Fleming held, when surely the opposite configuration made more sense.

However, his form picked up, and by the Summer he was starting to look like Saunders might have been right in the first place.

The way he was pinging the ball around from the back in last Summer's friendlies even made Saunders' Beckenbauer claim seem understandable (to an extent!) Once he broke into the side he gave us balance as a defensive midfielder, finally playing in his best position, and hit a surprising seam of goals despite his deep position as well. It looked like he'd finally found his niche and was likely to show us what he could do.

Then suddenly nothing. He hasn't played since mid-September, amid rumours of a falling out with members of the management. Who knows what the reason is; the rumour-mongers are encouraged by the peculiarity of him hitting the best form of his life, then suddenly finding himself totally out in the cold for the first time.

So now he's sent out on loan to Newport. It seems very unusual that we should loan a player to a club which is higher than us in the table; is our desire to trim the wage budget such that we're willing to help our rivals? But why should I be surprised? Everything about Smith's career so far has been contradictory. Don't be surprised to see him voted player of the season by the end of the campaign!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Unleashing The Beast!

As smart moves go, signing Mark Creighton was right up there. Not only because he's a proper lower division centre back, but because he seems to have unleashed Marvin Andrews' inner beast!

It tickled me, when I was talking to Creighton after his debut at York, to hear him say that normally he's the centre back attacking the ball, but for the first thirty minutes of that game he just stood back and watched Andrews do it! It was Andrews' best performance in a Wrexham shirt-heck, it was as good a performance as I've seen any Wrexham defender put in for quite some time! And he was in similar form last Saturday!

There are, I'm sure, many reasons for this. Considering the fact that Andrews barely played in the eighteen months before he came to us, he has beared up remarkably well. You could see the ring-rust, and he'd suddenly make errors out of the blue (a certain penalty at Kettering springs to mind!) Perhaps that has worked itself out of his system now; certainly he's looking impressive.

Don't play down the importance in Andrews' form of his professionalism either. Saunders has often looked to bring in players with a good pedigree who, through age or injury, are drifting down the divisions. It's a high risk strategy that often leads to a Lamine Sakho or a Matt Jansen. It's no coincidence that of these signings, the three who appear to have committed themselves most professionally to their game, Andrews, Frank Sinclair and Gareth Taylor, who have been successful.

However, don't underestimate the importance of Creighton's arrival in Andrews' renaissance. Is it a coincidence that, when we bring in the sort of centre back who attacks the ball, dominates centre forwards and organises well, that his partner finds the best form of the season? That's not at all meant to be a criticism of the defenders Andrews has previously lined up with, but there's no doubt that he and Creighton look like an excellent fit.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Saunders On His Way?

It's scary to think I might have been right for once! If it's true that Dean Saunders is on a shortlist of five for the Wales job, then there's a genuine chance that he might not see the season out with us. Hate to say I told you so!

Of the five who are said to be on the list, two can surely be written off immediately. John Hartson might be hyperactively working the media, but what actual reason is there to assume he could do a good job? And using the opposite argument to Hartson's inexperience, Ian Rush's managerial career surely disqualifies him from landing a serious job.

Of course, you might argue that Saunders' Wrexham career has done a similar thing, but that's not actually true. If you were inclined to, you could argue he's showing that, given time, he can start to put something together, and anyway, his reputation coming to Wrexham was based on a reputation for coaching top level players. Also, the fact he's been working within the Welsh set-up, and was once reported to be Toshack's heir apparent, must count in his favourite.

That leaves us with three candidates. I'd put Saunders in third place behind two experienced candidates, with Flynn the obvious choice. But since when did the Welsh F.A. do the obvious?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

York City FC v Wrexham FC Preview


Wrexham FC v Luton Town FC Tactical Report


Wrexham FC v Luton Town FC Audio Highlights

fwluth10x.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)

Bowing to the Inevitable

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Waiting to see if Marc Williams gets a new contract is a bit like waiting to see if Audley Harrison beats David Haye at the weekend. It ain’t gonna happen (If Harrison wins, expect to see an edited version of this opening paragraph on Sunday morning!)

I’m very sad to have to face up to the fact that Williams’ Wrexham career is over, but frankly I’ve been having to do that for the last few months. When Dean Saunders says he hasn’t made his mind up yet, he’s just delaying the inevitable, and quite rightly as a player should be told about their future face-to-face, not through the media. However, I’m sure Williams has worked out the lay of the land already.

I’m very sad about all this. Williams is a player of potential, who took the Conference by storm when he was last fit, two seasons ago. Let’s not forget that, if he hadn’t picked up that freak injury against Salisbury, he might have ended the season as top scorer in the division and we might have had a shot at going up. Isn’t it incredible how things can turn on such narrow margins and moments of fate?

Williams is still young and has potential. I know managers are paid to make tough decisions, and fully understand that Saunders is in a difficult position. He’s seen how it went when successive Wrexham bosses kept faith in another local boy, Mark Jones, in the hope he’d rediscover his form, and he wants to free some money up to spend on the wages of new players in the January transfer window. Adrian Cieslewicz’s new contract, which the young Pole deserves, means he has to look elsewhere for someone to remove from the wage bill. That means Williams.

However, I’m not totally sure I understand the logic behind keeping Williams, or for that matter Wes Baynes, on in the Summer bearing in mind what has transpired since. Neither have even been on the bench, and Mathias Pogba has overtaken both of them. If they weren’t going to be in contention, maybe that money their release will free up should have been available from the start of the season?

I’ll be very sorry to see Williams go; an articulate footballer with a lot more to give and an excellent attitude to the game is always going to be a loss. I wouldn’t be surprised if he flourishes somewhere else, and I richly hope that he does. Waiting for his inevitable departure’s been like waiting for Jack Duckworth to die though; once we knew it was bound to happen, it’s a relief to get it out of the way. Sadly, I’m sure Marc will reluctantly feel the same.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Beware of the Pog

A good judge, certainly someone whose considered view of football I respect, delivered a damning verdict on Mathias Pogba to me after the Southport game.

It interested me because I tend towards the considered end of the spectrum, reserving judgement until I'm pretty sure of my conclusion (and then changing my mind soon after!) I'm inclined to wait until I've seen Pogba start a few games before delivering any sort of verdict, and I've been fairly encouraged by the fact that he does tend to have some sort of impact after he comes on as a substitute. However, I can't help wondering when I'm going to get that opportunity without driving out of town to watch the reserves.

Admittedly, Pogba's a cheap option. Still, if he was going to be given a chance to start, wasn't the Southport game the best chance we'll get? After all, two of our front three are getting on a bit; what a chance to give them a rest and see what the lad could do!

After the game Saunders said he'd be looking to bring in a new striker. Fair enough, but what an indictment on Pogba and Adrian Cieslewicz (whose ratio of goals to chances stands at 100% this season by the way, although he could hardly have missed the one opportunity he had, of course! I reckon Saunders missed a trick by not giving Cieslewicz a go on Saturday too, by the way. After all, he was absolutely buzzing at Hayes after his goal.)

If neither of them are going to be given a chance to show what they can do, what role do they play for us this season? Permanent impact subs? Pogba certainly did make an impact off the bench at Histon, and afterwards Saunders pointed out the loss through injury of Cieslewicz for that match, implying he saw him as an important part of his lans. But are they trapped in a catch 22 situation; the more they do well off the bench, the more likely they are to stay there?

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