‘This story isn’t over’ – what’s next for Wrexham after play-off heartbreak?

Paul Mullin celebrates after scoring for Wrexham
Paul Mullin celebrates after scoring for Wrexham in the play-off semi-final against Grimsby

It’s inevitable and predictable that Wrexham’s play-off disappointment won’t be described as the Hollywood ending that fans, and no doubt the owners, have dreamed of.

Wrexham has now failed to advance beyond the play-offs six times in their history and faces a 15th season outside the Football League.

“It just seems like we always end up on the wrong side of where we’re going,” said former player and coach Andy Morrell, who suffered three play-off heartbreaks with the club.

“They have to go away, especially think about the last few games and the season as a whole, and take stock of the monumental steps they’ve taken from there – and then find players who fit the mold.”

For current manager Phil Parkinson, losing to Grimsby “stung” after a season in which they won the title to the last day, only to lose automatic promotion to Stockport County.

“The ultimate goal was promotion,” said Parkinson after the defeat.

“There have been many success stories in terms of the squad we’ve built

“We had to move fast to catch up against a lot of other established teams at this level who have spent a lot of money building structures.

“The club are way ahead of last year and years. I think we did a good job of formulating the squad we made but today it cost us dearly.”

The home semi-final loss to Grimsby came 12 months after Wrexham’s failure to reach the play-offs and resulted in the departure of former manager Dean Keates.

When asked if he was up for the challenge of leading Wrexham next season, Parkinson was unequivocal: “Absolutely, 100%.

“When the time comes, we need to take stock of the situation and be ready to get going again. Decisions about anything should never be made when emotions are running high.

“We’re letting the dust settle and making the right decisions to move the club forward.”

Wrexham had a mixed start to the campaign as a new team was bedded together.

But a busy January transfer window, which included the signing of striker Ollie Palmer for a club-record fee from AFC Wimbledon, kickstarted promotion.

The Dragons went 15 games unbeaten and rose from leaders Stockport by an 11-point lead to briefly replace them at the top the weekend before last.

Paul Mullin and Ollie Palmer
Paul Mullin (left) and Ollie Palmer totaled 41 goals during the season.

Despite a disappointing end to the season which also included an FA Trophy final defeat by Bromley at Wembley, former midfielder Waynne Phillips has been heartened by the club’s progress since Reynolds and Rob McElhenney became owners last year.

“The ultimate goal at the start of each season for this football club is promotion and once again that has not been achieved,” said Phillips, who now follows the club in his role as BBC Radio Cymru reporter.

“I fully accept that’s a disappointment but what we saw off the field was absolutely wonderful.

“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and feel like I have to pinch myself to believe it’s happening,

“I applaud the manager and the squad he’s put together here. He got the opportunity to bring Paul Mullin, Ollie Palmer into the football club

“But it just goes to show they need a little bit more if Wrexham is to achieve the ultimate goal of promotion.”

Morrell believes there are certain areas where Wrexham needs to be strengthened during the close season.

“The system appears to be Phil Parkinson’s system. He’s a 3-5-2 man and Ollie Palmer made a big difference in that system,” Morrell added.

“I think they lack a creative player or a midfielder who likes to have the ball in every situation and dictate a game to the team

“That one player, I don’t know where you’re going and coming [him] because they won’t be cheap, but Wrexham has the means to find it.”

Parkinson was backed by owners in the transfer market throughout the season, with high-profile signings such as Paul Mullin, Ben Tozer, Palmer and Aaron Hayden being relegated to the National League from EFL clubs.

Wrexham have the purchasing power to attract players in the summer but it is questionable whether they can keep their star names for another season in the fifth tier.

“If you’re talking about Mullin and Palmer, I think they’re both going to stay,” Morrell said.

“They are very well paid for any level of football and have fully immersed themselves in the story here.

“This story isn’t finished yet – there are definitely more pages to be written.”

Local talent also shone among the big-name signings during the season.

Jordan Davies contributed 16 goals during the league season while 19-year-old Max Cleworth put in some convincing defensive performances.

“There will be changes and one or two that won’t be here next season,” Phillips said

Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds
Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds were confirmed as owners of Wrexham in February 2021

“I think there will be interest in one or two like Max Cleworth and Jordan Davies. I wonder if there will be interest from higher clubs?”

Hollywood owners Reynolds and McElhenney have experienced the range of emotions that football evokes in their first full season at the helm.

Both were among the other spectators at Racecourse Stadium in the play-off semifinals.

Ahead of the Grimsby game, the club’s chief executive Humphrey Ker had said they were pleased with the club’s progress through the season.

“Staying down doesn’t really change our plans for the summer,” Ker told BBC Radio Wales ahead of the Grimsby game.

“Our recruitment last summer was mostly League One, League Two players and we wanted to build a squad that we thought would be competitive for League Two.

“We have the same goals no matter what division we are in.

“We are so happy with what we have achieved so far. One of our stated goals was to fill this place up, make this place rock and get the people of the city enjoying football again and have something to look forward to.

“That we already have the feeling of being ticked off.”

Leave a Comment