This month’s members meeting held at the Centenary Club welcomed newly appointed management duo Dean Keates and Andy Davies as guests. Dean and Andy answered questions from Trust Chair Pete Jones as well as from the floor.
Dean described his introduction to the game as a 16-year-old in Walsall when he signed YTS terms with his hometown club turning down offers from West Brom and Wolves. It wasn’t too long before he became a first team regular including in two promotion winning teams. Spells at Hull City, Lincoln and Kidderminster followed before returning to his hometown club captaining Walsall to yet another promotion. Dean recalled his first meeting with Darren Ferguson then manager at Peterborough who quickly sold the club to him and what was supposed to be a short introductory meeting resulted in Dean signing a three-year contract there and then before informing his wife that they were moving house. Ferguson’s promise they “would be in the Championship within two years” came true with successive promotions for the Posh. Dean had “nothing but admiration” for his manager and his coach Kevin “Rooster” Russell. His successful stint with Peterborough ended when Ferguson was replaced by Mark Cooper who relegated Dean to train with the youth team and he was never picked for the first team again which Dean said “was just the way football is”. After a short spell with Wycombe, Dean was approached by Wrexham manager Dean Saunders and needed little persuasion to sign for the Dragons being made captain in his first season. He recalled a good first season reaching the play offs before the disastrous first game against Luton which “left too much to do in the away leg” although having scored early on Dean said that if “we had converted the penalty” it could have ended differently. He lamented the “98 points” season which ordinarily would have seen us promoted only to be pipped by Fleetwood and a certain striker who “was scoring goals for fun and has continued to do so at the highest level”.
Pete then asked Andy about his career which has been spent entirely with his home town club. Andy had “played locally with Broughton Villa” and was first spotted by Cliff Sear and signed as on YTS terms by Brian Flynn. Contemporaries of his included “the likes of Neil Roberts, Neil Wainwright, Steve Roberts and Robin Gibson”. As a 14 year old he was taken to training by Joey Jones “a great man” who he “learned a lot from”. Andy didn’t sign a professional contract but his 20-year career with club began with coaching the under 8s, he was a community officer and when Steve Weaver left he stepped up at the academy. Andy said “there is a lot of affection for Wrexham in the game” from “people who have played or coached here which helps now in identifying players. Recruitment being a big part of our role”. He has led the Centre of Excellence for the last 8 years. Obvious successes included Neil Taylor and Danny Ward “but plenty of others had gone to clubs higher up. Every player has a level and eventually find it- some sooner than others”.
Dean talked about how he went into coaching, his time with the Glyndwr academy and how, having played for 22 years, he wanted further academic qualifications and signed up for a course which he hopes to complete soon. He had still played a bit with Rhyl and Rushall Olympic before jumping at the chance with Andy and Joey to take interim charge of the first team following the departure of Gary Mills. There was” little time to prepare” for the Stamford game but after a good start and early goal Stamford grew in confidence and forced the replay. Dean said “matches aren’t won on statistics but we had 12 corners and 34 attempts on goal” during the replay but their keeper was in inspired form and “credit to them” they achieved the win.
Dean was asked about his choice as assistant manager and said that he had spoken to some people but “as soon as Andy expressed an interest it was an easy choice to make”.
Andy said he thought that Dean was absolutely “the right choice as manager” and he “wouldn’t have taken the assistant role for anyone else”. Andy said he was “the link between the academy and the first team” which hadn’t always been there with previous managers. And his main challenge was “that there aren’t enough hours in the day” to do everything he wants at the club.
Dean said he had been “overwhelmed with calls” from people in the game offering him advice and wanting us to do well. And he had been out watching plenty of games “to identify the players to take us forward”. He hoped to bring in an attacker on loan “in the next 7 to 10 days” and was waiting for his manager to decide. Obviously, Newton and Harvey had left the club and he had told others players agents that they should look for other clubs to get regular games. Bakare was going out on loan today.
Asked about formations, Dean said that for this season he would “probably retain the current system but that was not how he intended to set up next season”. The team “needed more pace and a threat behind”. He had promoted youth players Leo Smith, Olly Marx and Brendan Burrows. Jordan Davies was returning from Bangor but was not eligible to play until January.
Questions from the floor include one about the goalkeepers. Dean said that “Jalal was fully fit and Dunn was about a week away” and that Coddington had done well in his two games and “had hardly had to make a save at Torquay”.
Asked about Jordan White, Dean said he was “close to playing” but was “ring rusty” and had “come a long way in a short space of time” after his illness.
Asked about his vision for the future Dean said “the club should not be in this division” and he was “planning to be challenging next season”. “We were out looking for players and watching games as much as we can” and he recognised “we need a threat upfront”. For this season, Dean said he “expected effort, for players to honour the badge and work to high standards” and although there had been a “reaction” it would be a “long process”.
The meeting thanked Dean and Andy for their attendance.
The second half of the meeting consisted of a question and answer session with Trust Board members Peter Jones, Gavin Jones, John Mills, Mark Williams, Dave Jones, Richard Ulrich, Mike Lewis, Stuart Roberts and Paul Smith present. Apologise were received from Spencer Harris, Sarah Smith Howard, Anita Robinson and Brian Philips. Peter also welcomed new board member Colin Williams who had recently been co-opted.
Andy Jones asked about sponsorship of the stadium. Peter said that talks were taking place with a potential sponsor of the MRS which hopefully would come to fruition.
Gilbert Roberts asked about scouting systems and the issue of player recruitment. The Board acknowledged issues with the previous manager’s recruitment methods and although there was no formal scouting system in place they were in the process of setting up an electronic system to capture data on players. Dean and Andy were working hard on recruitment.
Dave Palmer asked about the current financial situation. Mark Williams said that we “are behind with gate receipts” which formed a very important part of our income. “We were ahead up to the Sutton game but, so far, the Dover match was the highest with the Chester game far behind budget”. He said “we will manage our way through this but the nature of our ownership means we have to achieve our budgets”. Things had not been good on the pitch this season but it was essential that fans keep supporting us.
Mervyn Jones asked about a new Chief Executive. Peter said that that moment we were not looking for one. Other board members were sharing duties and although Don had made a great contribution his role had not involved being at the club on a day to day basis.
Gavin Jones updated members about plans for concerts at the Racecourse in the close season which hopefully would be important fundraisers. The UB40 feat. Ali Campbell and friends concert had been announced and others were in the pipeline. Tickets would be available at the club and he asked that members buy through the club if possible and we would be setting up a concert ticket hotline.
Mick Jones asked about how the concerts would be organised. Gavin said some venues charged a flat fee which “may not be very much”. To avoid us taking risks we will take a percentage of ticket sales and most of the income from secondary spend at the ground. In future, there would be a 24 hour “lock down” on tickets for Trust members to buy them first. The relaying of the pitch had been factored into the deal.
Shay Brightman asked what the clubs ambition now was. Peter said it was “to finish as high as we can this season, we had not been happy with performances this season but Dean would give his all and the players are behind him”. An example of his attitude was that “he had asked for a badge to be painted in the dressing room with phrases such as “honour the badge” “focus” “passion” on them” for the players to be aware what it means to play for this club.
Elwyn Thomas asked about objectives and the need for the club to be more proactive about explaining them, Peter said "it wasn’t fair” to now set the play offs as a target this season “given where we are” but the expectation was to challenge next season.
Alan Holmes asked about attendances. Mark said that the attendance figures included anyone who had purchased a match ticket including those who didn’t actually turn up. Sometimes that could be 28% of season ticket holders but, financially, the really important thing at this stage were those who paid on the day.
Colin Williams asked about what “they had learned from the Gary Mills experience”. Peter said that “managers were paid to manage”. He felt “let down. Gary believed in his own system”. Mark said the key was last summer “which was going to go one way or the other”. Cheltenham had recruited an entirely new squad which had won them promotion. It was possible. But you “appoint someone to manage” and “Gary was very experienced” but the manager does need to be more “accountable”.
A question was asked about two year contracts. Mark said we can offer two year deals but it “must be the right player, there is a risk for us and the player has to have value built in”. It wasn’t accurate to quote the Connor Jennings situation as he had never signed two year deals before and always waited until the last minute as, unusually, his contract didn’t expire until the July.
John Connah asked about food and drink sales. Mark said that we were “on track” for match days but needed to improve non-match day income. Generally, it was positive as we had little on which to gauge our budget. Gavin said that they had expected the Students Guild to use the Centenary Club more than they have done but that Phil Bennett had done “a good job bridging that gap”.
Mike Lewis summarised recent and future fundraising events. There had been a race night, a soul night and a forthcoming quiz and murder mystery night on 17 December for which tickets were still available. We were trying to build relationships with local businesses. The Christmas shop was now open in town and fans were urged to support this effort. Peter also said that we were working on ways to increase non-match day use of the ground and a brochure would go out soon for everything from “meeting room hire to weddings” (Gareth Owen has recently had his wedding do there).
Dave Jones said that membership stood at 3100 but a number of lapsed members had been identified who we will be contacting to encourage them to re-join. Standing order being much the preferred option.
The Christmas raffle tickets had now been posted out and the Board urged members to sell as many as they can as this was a major fundraiser with the opportunity to attract income from a wider group such as family, friends, work colleagues etc. There were some great prizes.
The meeting ended at 2120.