Next in the series is Wrexham, and we ask a Wrexham fan about their prospects this year. How will the men from Wales go on this season?
Tell us a bit about your season last season firstly. Would you say it was a success or failure? Did you achieve anything throughout the season, and were the fans happy with the end result?
It’s fair to say that last season was a little on the disastrous side. After an initial good start which saw us playing good football and remaining unbeaten for the first 6 games and beating Sheffield Wednesday, 4-1. Expectations began to rise but we were brought back down to earth by a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the mighty Accrington Stanley. This was the start of a terrible run which saw us lose 6 out of 7 games. Denis Smith was replaced in January, with Brian Carey making the step up from coach. It was a rough start for him as he had took over a team with no confidence and who were on a complete downward spiral. After tinkering with the squad and bringing in a few loan players he found a settled team and we became hard to beat and finished the season in good form. It was a very poor season but the town and players came together to fight the drop.
Obviously every close season sees players leave. Who left your club and were you happy with the decision to let those players go by your boss?
Surprisingly, only 2 players were released.
Michael Ingham was one, he was a decent goal-keeper but he was short on communication, feared crosses and was prone to an error or two. A very good shot-stopper but every keeper should be really, sadly he didn’t have much more than that and I wasn’t disheartened to read he had been released.
The second player to be released was right-back, Lee Roche. After playing a fair amount of games in the Championship for Burnley, people were expecting a solid defender to arrive. Sadly, we were mistaken and had a player who would give wingers acres of space to play in without much threat of a challenge coming in. Injuries also blighted his time at the Racecourse. I was happy to read he had been released.
So obviously, with players going out, some have got to come in. Who has come in for you, and do you expect them to do well? Tell us a bit about these lads?
Anthony Williams, a goal-keeper who came in on loan near the end of last season. He looked solid for us last season and finally we have a keeper who can take crosses and communicates with his defenders. I think he will be an improvement on what we had.
Richard Hope, a defender signed on a free from Shrewsbury. I think this is a great signing as he is a proven leader, he captained Shrewsbury to the play-off finals last season and I was suprised he was released. Shrewsbury fans don’t seem too happy that he has left either and that can only be good news for Wrexham.
Connal Murtagh, a central midfielder signed on a free from Rhyl. A bit of an unknown in all honesty but the Rhyl fans seem to think he is a quality player. He’s in his final year at University so I’m not sure quite how much impact that will have on his game, he doesn’t seem to see it as a problem so we shall have to wait and see. Many players have made the step-up from the League of Wales, I just hope Murtagh is the next.
Michael Proctor, the ability to play on the right wing or up front, he was on loan with us at the back end of last season and once he regained match fitness after a few games he started to show what he was capable off. A good footballing brain and has quality. I’m not sure what his best position is but wherever he plays he will give 110% each game.
Eifon Williams, as with Proctor he has the ability to play on the wing or up front, he was played a lot on the wing for Hartlepool as they won promotion last season but he has said he sees himself as a striker and I have to agree, he seems to be a natural finisher and with Hartlepool fans sad to see him leave it seems we have another good signing.
Who are going to be your star players this season then? Who`s going to get the goals, and who`s going to stop them?
The star players are un-predictable really! Mark Jones is the obvious choice but he struggled last season after a very productive season prior to that. He has great ability but he has to improve on last season greatly. Matty Done is another to keep an eye out for, won our young player of the season last year, lots of pace and skill, if he can improve on his final delivery then he could do a lot of damage next season.
We don’t really have a particular striker who will bag you 15-20 goals. We do have Juan Ugarte but his fitness is a major cause for concern, he has hardly kicked a ball in the past 2 years. He is back in training though and if he can stay fit then maybe he will be the one to bag the goals. What we do have though are a number of players who can produce around 10 goals or so each. Neil Roberts, Chris Llewellyn, Michael Proctor, Eifion Williams and Mark Jones are all capable of this and we will more be looking for a collective effort on the goal-scoring front rather than focusing on one hit-man.
Stopping the goals will be Anthony Williams in sticks and the central defensive duties will probably go to Richard Hope and Steve Evans, if Evans can control his discipline then we have a very solid central partnership there. Evans missed around 12 games last season due to suspension and that cannot happen again this coming season. Shaun Pejic had a solid season last season though and will be looking to stake his claim.
Season ticket sales help the club at the beginning of the season to stabilise the place and give it a bit of extra income. How many season tickets have your club shifted these season so far, and what do you expect the average attendance to be throughout the season?
The sad fact, is that the club have been very quiet over the sale of season tickets, we set a target of 3000 ADULT sales, if the target was reached then the the tickets would be sold at £70 cheaper than what they were advertised as. This was never going to be achievable sadly and the club have not said how many tickets have been sold. When asking at the ticket office a fan was told just over 1500, whether that is adult only or including children, no-one is sure. It appears that sales are up on last season and given the fact that last season was terrible, it is a great achievement. Average attendance I would expect to be around 4,300. If we hit form and have a good run then obviously it will rise, we are in quite a unique position being in Wales, we have the who North Wales to reach out to and given a run of good results people from outside could be drawn in.
Tell us a bit about your gaffer and his backroom staff. Do the fans like the gaffer, or can you see him being out of a job after a run of bad results?
Brian Carey is the main man. A former centre-half who was on the coaching staff. He was very well respected as a player by the fans. He come in under very difficult circumstances. He inherited a team who were on a complete slide. He’s done all the right things since he has come in from my own perspective, he brought in fitness guy Andy O’Boyle who was coaching at the Manchester United centre of excellence. Results improved near the end of the season as we were visibly more fitter in games, where we were battling for the full 90 minutes rather than fading away after 70 minutes or so. We conceded an awful lot of goals in the latter stages of games due to this but thankfully, Carey saw the fitness problem and made fitness the number one agenda. We don’t have a listed assistant manager but, first team coach is Steve Weaver, he’s basically acting as assistant manager however. He was in control of the youth team prior to Denis Smith leaving, he has made the step up. His impact is hard to gauge really as his work will be a mystery to most of us fans. I have faith in Carey though, and as such, if he feels Steve is up to the job then I back him. His dealings with the press are also a breath of fresh-air to fans as he tells it as it is and let’s us know what’s going on rather than sounding as if he’s reading from a pre-written script.
I think Brian Carey has won a lot of the doubters over, there will always be those who will instantly call for the managers head when it doesn’t all go to plan, but most can see that Carey is doing off the field things very well and he is working long-term to build us into a strong club. The feeling I get is that most fans are seeing that he is taking a modern approach, focusing on building a fit squad that can compete beyond the 90 minute required. We are now working with our local University on monitoring the condition of our players and all 3 people have degrees in sports science.
We only have one coach, Joey Jones, a Wrexham legend, a former assistant manager until he had heart trouble in the past and has now taken a back-seat and is now sticking to coaching and looking after the reserve and youth team.
We also have Roy Evans offering his help at the request of Carey, he’s been helping Brian adjust to management and offering his experience and is generally on the bench to assist. I can only see this as positive and if Carey didn’t think he was contributing then he wouldn’t keep him around.
If we have a bad run of results I expect the majority of fans will stand by our manager. Brian Carey is new to the management game but he seems to be doing all the right things and I can see him doing very well. A young, enthusiastic, intelligent manager. Fingers crossed!
This question is split into two. What do you BELIEVE your club can achieve this season, and what do you HOPE your club can achieve this season?
Given our initial start last season and also the end of season form, there was potential within the squad to do well, we do have our faults though and there are a lot of strong teams around. I believe we will improve vastly on last season and produce a solid mid-table finish. 11th place is my estimate.
My hope is that we can continue our end of season form, in the lower leagues a lot of it is based on form and confidence, just look at Hartlepool last season, they had a very unspectacular start, hit some form and never looked back. There’s always a surprise package and I hope it could be us and as a result, see us sneaking into a play-off spot. It’s not likely but it’s also not a completely far-fetched idea.
Finally, whom do you expect to win the division, who do you think will go up with them and who do you think will be relegated?
The title race isn’t as clear cut as many think I don’t think. Peterborough have splashed a lot of cash but many of those players have come from the conference. Very good conference players, however and I can see them up there. MK Dons are also well fancied but a change of management, the loss of Clive Platt who produced 19 of their goals last season and perhaps the loss of McLeod could disrupt them. They should still do well though.
I will go for Bradford for the title, Peterborough to finish second, Wycombe third and finally Darlington to win the play-offs, after finishing a strong 5th behind MK Dons in 4th.
Relegation wise, I will go for Mansfield and Accrington Stanley.