Football Manager 24 is retired and The Athletic’s Richard Sutcliffe is attempting to take Wrexham each nan measurement to nan Premier League.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Dry January? It surely feels for illustration that for Wrexham aft a worrying opening period of 2025. This has now seeped into February to inflict further harm connected nan push for back-to-back promotions.
Three defeats successful six League One outings since nan move of nan twelvemonth doesn’t sound excessively bad. Especially arsenic we person won nan different 3 and still beryllium 3rd successful nan table, a constituent down Oxford United and six adrift of leaders Stockport County.
But it’s nan mode of nan performances that is causing nan astir concern. We’ve been hopeless astatine times, conceding 4 goals astatine location to some Peterborough United and Millwall either broadside of losing connected nan roadworthy against a Watford broadside languishing successful nan bottommost half of nan array pursuing past season’s daze relegation.
We’ve besides gone retired of some nan FA Cup, admittedly against an Everton broadside sitting seventh successful nan Premier League, and nan EFL Trophy successful caller weeks.
To travel that by kicking disconnected February pinch nan 4-1 hammering connected location ungraded to mid-table Millwall — it would person been much but for Matt Macey, successful for nan injured Arthur Okonkwo, redeeming a stoppage-time punishment and Billy Mitchell having a ‘goal’ chalked disconnected for a debatable offside — has really sewage nan siren bells ringing.
We didn’t negociate truthful overmuch arsenic 1 effort connected extremity successful nan first half, connected aliases disconnected target. Things improved somewhat aft nan break but we were still good beaten, pinch expected goals (xG) for nan 2 teams opinionated astatine 0.66 and 2.61 respectively.
Our play has undoubtedly reached a crossroads aft what had antecedently been a dream commencement to life backmost successful a 3rd tier Wrexham were past portion of successful 2004-05, including broad victories complete Bristol Rovers, Cambridge United, Bolton Wanderers and Reading during an autumn that saw america cemented arsenic genuine promotion contenders.
Losing to cross-border derby rivals Shrewsbury Town successful mid-December was a low, mind. The fans had surely made clear what was expected up of our first travel to nan New Meadow successful 16 years.
Maybe that pre-match assurance explains why nan supporters who were truthful overjoyed astatine past season’s promotion are now displaying doubts complete my methods. Where earlier nan manager’s standing veered betwixt B and B+, according to a fans’ spokesman, my wide capacity has since been downgraded to C+.
Thankfully, owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds clasp a spot much faith. This overmuch is made clear astatine nan monthly sit-down pinch nan committee that follows nan Millwall defeat.
“We’re still massively over-achieving arsenic a nine and that’s down to you,” says Reynolds, who had stated astatine nan commencement of nan play that challenging for nan play-offs would beryllium a perfectly acceptable performance.
The Deadpool movie prima past adds: “You’re still nan correct man for nan job, and to beryllium that, we’d for illustration to connection you a caller contract.”
I’m momentarily mislaid for words. I was hopeful nan muttering that had started among nan fans successful nan stands hadn’t dispersed to nan boardroom. But you ne'er tin beryllium 100 per cent judge successful football. So, to beryllium offered a caller statement to switch nan 1 that is owed to expire adjacent summertime is brilliant. I gladly accept.
There’s a outpouring successful my measurement erstwhile stepping backmost to nan manager’s office, heavy amid nan warren of corridors that tin beryllium recovered nether nan main stand. And a renewed belief.
We are a bully team. Our results until nan past fewer weeks show that. I besides deliberation our recruitment successful nan model that’s conscionable closed will thief america hugely.
Having signed a 3rd elder goalkeeper, Norwich City’s Archie Mair, connected January 3, we turned to 2 out-of-favour players astatine Championship high-flyers Sheffield United.
Conceding 13 goals successful January pointed towards nan defence needing a refresh, truthful we signed Jack Robinson for £85,000. His agelong throws besides mean a return of nan limb that proved truthful effective erstwhile Ben Tozer was astatine nan club.
Midfield was different area wherever I felt we needed a lift, not slightest because Steve Parkin precocious reported a flimsy diminution successful nan effectiveness of Jordan Davies and Elliot Lee since nan commencement of nan season. With those 2 considered among nan 3 astir influential players astatine nan club, this rumor has to beryllium handled sensibly aliases nan consequence is negativity spreading wrong nan squad.
More pressingly, it meant we needed a small spot much value successful midfield.
We’ve already sewage Sean McGurk connected indebtedness from Leeds United, who has been a large occurrence successful nan No 10 role, playing disconnected a lone striker (usually Paul Mullin). But different action is needed, particularly if immoderate caller look tin play successful either of nan 2 holding roles aliases further up nan pitch.
Step guardant Ismaila Coulibaly, a Mali world we first scouted successful precocious October.
We’d kept a adjacent oculus connected Coulibaly since and been pleased to spot he’s still not featuring astatine Bramall Lane. His supplier made it clear a imperishable move was retired of nan mobility until Wrexham “reached nan Championship astatine least”. But a indebtedness would beryllium of interest.
So, we committed nan last remaining money successful some nan transportation and wages budgets to onshore nan 23-year-old by offering to salary his afloat £8,500-a-week wages and a indebtedness interest of £20,000 per month. The woody was done and Coulibaly soon underlined his value by scoring 3 times successful his first 3 games for us.
With nary money near successful nan pot, we past ended January by recalling Ollie Palmer from his indebtedness astatine Colchester United. His 7 goals successful a twelve League Two appearances propose he mightiness person a domiciled to play arsenic backup to Mullin and Duncan Watmore, nan summertime signing who has proved disappointingly susceptible to injury, pinch 2 lengthy absences already done knee ligaments and past ankle problems.
With Mullin, for illustration Lee and Davies, showing signs of flimsy diminution successful caller months according to my assistant, I can’t spend to beryllium caught short up front.
Palmer made his return via a precocious cameo from nan chair successful a timely 3-2 distant triumph against leaders Stockport that served arsenic nan cleanable consequence to maine signing that caller two-year contract.
Todd Kane, usually our assistance king astatine right-back, sewage nan decider to complete a notable convention double. There was much bully news from nan caller arrivals, arsenic 2 agelong throws from Robinson successful nan first 7 minutes had earlier helped put america successful power via Lee and winger Ateef Konate uncovering nan net.
The triumph moves america level connected points pinch Stockport astatine nan top, pinch a crippled successful hand.
Any hopes we’d cracked it, however, vanished wrong a week.
This came courtesy of back-to-back defeats astatine promotion rivals Oxford and past against Bristol Rovers connected location soil. A reddish paper for Robinson successful nan 2-1 nonaccomplishment caps a miserable Valentine’s Day successful northbound Wales arsenic a 4th conclusion successful six location convention games since nan move of nan twelvemonth sees america driblet to fourth.
I still judge successful this team. But there’s nary denying this is proving nan trickiest play of a fledgling managerial career.
What happens adjacent is apt to determine whether I really americium nan man to lead Wrexham to nan Premier League aliases not.
(Top photo: Richard Sutcliffe/The Athletic)