The latest Members meeting took place on Monday evening in the Centenary Club when club captain Shaun Pearson and midfielder Marcus Kelly were the special guests. As usual, the first half of the evening was taken up with a question and answer session involving the players and, for the second half, the Trust board answered questions from members.
Questioned by host Kingsley Evans from Calon FMs Dragonheart show, Marcus firstly explained his route into football and that at aged 10 he was scouted by Aston Villa where he stayed until he was 16. He then joined his local (and now defunct) club Rushden and Diamonds where he had a “brilliant time” making his first team debut at 18 and playing over 150 games for them. Sadly, the club folded after its main benefactor was no longer able to sustain it. Marcus described the uncertainties of life as a pro footballer especially on one-year deals. After a spell at home town club Kettering and then Tamworth, Marcus eventually moved to Forest Green (unusually he didn’t have an agent at the time) where he picked up various awards in his first season including Supporters Player of the Year, Players Player of the Year and won the club's Goal of the Season award.After a successful period in Gloucestershire, Marcus heard that Wrexham might be interested, initially through his friend Sam Wedgebury, and soon agreed to sign stating that the “history, crowd and atmosphere” were attractive to any professional and after talking to Dean Keates he “liked what I heard”. Marcus noted that a big ground and crowd can motivate the opposition too. The team are becoming “more consistent” the more they played together. Marcus continues to live in the Northampton area staying locally during the week.
Shaun’s introduction to professional football was different. Raised in York until he was 11, Shaun moved to the Norwich area playing on Sundays. He said his attendance at a college with a football academy kick started his journey in adult football and he keeps in touch with the coaches there. He continued to support York City as his playing career progressed via Downham Market, Spalding and Stamford before joining Northern Premier League side Boston United in 2009. under the management of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst. At the end of the season they earned promotion to the Conference North after beating Bradford Park Avenue in the play-off final. He then made the move (following his managers) to Grimsby Town. This was a “a big step up to professional football aged 22” Shaun’s first game was a five-nil defeat at Braintree and he admitted he struggled at first not least with “all the free time” as a full time pro but soon his game improved. Shaun said that what goes on off the field is “massively important” in football. Describing the heartache of play off defeats with Grimsby, Shaun eventually made it to the football league following Grimsby's 3–1 victory over Forest Green Rovers in the 2016 National League Play-off Final at Wembley, after a six-year absence for the Mariners. Marcus was injured and missed that game.
Shaun had “a good year” in the football league working under Paul Hurst for what was the last of their eight years together before Hurst left the club for Shrewsbury. Shaun said that new manager Marcus Bignot “was good for me” making him captain and playing most games but Bignot was sacked before a new deal was signed. Incoming manager Russell Slade continued to pick him but the delay in finalising a new contract meant that Shaun was happy to accept Wexham’s offer and join the Red Dragons. He had “no qualms” about leaving the Mariners saying, “that’s football”.
Shaun spoke passionately and positively about “belief” and about only wanting to join a “proper club” with ambitions to progress. He also needed the security of a 2-year deal to move his family to the area. Shaun said that everyone had to “pull together, the players, fans and board” and “find a way to win” because momentum was like a “snowball effect” and everyone “must believe”. Belief was “growing” in the club and “we had played every team now except Barrow and we can achieve if we all believe it”.
Responding to questions, Shaun said that Leo Smith and Olly Marks were both promising players who just needed game time to fulfill their potential. It was great that there was competition for the keeper’s spot and both brought different qualities with good “clean sheet records”.
The meeting warmly applauded Shaun and Marcus for giving their time and answering questions so openly.
Trust Board members took questions from the floor:
- A member questioned why the kiosks at the ground would not accept old style £10 notes. The board said they would investigate.
- Members raised concerns about the match at Chester and the late arrival of the buses due to being held back by the police at Deeside etc. John Mills replied that the club were collecting information to present to the Safety Advisory Group next month. The board agreed that the arrangements for supporters generally for the match were unsatisfactory with poor communication on the night. The Club will make representations and try to obtain answers.
- In response to a question about being under the auspices of the FA of Wales, the board replied that as a Welsh club we were subject to the FAWs disciplinary structures and the international transfer window. Whilst the former generally mirrored the English system we were the only National league side restricted by the window but that was the way it was.
- Spencer Harris answered a question about contracts. The previous manager preferred one-year deals with a second-year option triggered by the number of appearances. It was not something the Club imposed. But since his appointment last season it was something Dean and the board had to work around. When John Rooney was about to trigger a second year based on appearances his agent declined an offer which the Club thought had been agreed. And so we allowed him to go out on loan thereby saving wages for this seasons budget.
- When asked about finances Spencer said we were slightly ahead of budget generally with “some overs and some unders” Attendances were ahead for example but as ever “lots of things can happen but we should be ahead by the end of the season” Christmas retail is crucial as is the Christmas raffle and fans were urged to support both with the raffle a big opportunity to bring in income from other sources. Everyone had to do their bit and get selling them with all profits going to Build the Budget.
- Asked about the stadium, the board said that although it may have gone quiet in the press it did not mean that work wasn’t going on behind the scenes. The Club’s ambition is to redevelop the stadium. Work is going on with the Council, the University and the Welsh Government and there is “a will to make it happen”. There is nothing tangible to report at the moment.
- Mike Lewis reminded members about the Foodbank collection before the match on Saturday.
- Paul Smith said raffle monies had started to come in. The raffle was crucial with profits going to the build the budget fund. All members were asked to sell their books and as many as they can - additional books are available. The “Mickey and Joey” evening on 1 December was close to selling out with over 200 tickets sold.
- Richard Ulrich said that membership now stood at 3,300 and some 600-cards had been sent out recently.
- When questioned about next year’s concert the board confirmed that over 16,000 tickets had been sold for the Stereophonics concert. The concert was being organised by a live entertainment promotor (Kilimanjaro). Every deal is different, but the company were responsible for selling tickets and organising the event. The Club made a profit from “secondary spend” i.e. food drink and hospitality. There was nothing to announce yet on a possible second concert.
- When asked whether he was concerned about the size of the squad, Spencer replied that he wasn’t, the plan had always been to have a smaller squad of higher quality players and Dean was looking to bring more in although it was difficult “to prise players away outside the window”. There will be movement in January and possibly before. Attendances, the Christmas retail and the raffle were key to providing Dean with additional funds.
The meeting ended at 21:20