THE futures of a dozen Wrexham players, whose contracts are up at the end of the season, could be decided in the final few weeks of the club's battle against relegation.
Racecourse boss, Denis Smith, yesterday revealed he had opened negotiations with young central defender Steve Roberts about a new contract and will be talking to others in the coming weeks.
Who goes and who stays depends not only on Wrexham's league status next season but also on the club's financial position, with the manager warning supporters not to expect too much.
"We have got to accept what the club is and realise that if we don't have money to spend, then I can't spend it," he said.
"We need to know what division we are going to be playing in, and of the current playing staff, seven have deals that take them beyond the end of the current season, which means that a sizeable portion of the budget is already spoken for."
The under-contract contingent includes Darren Ferguson and Brian Carey, probably the club's two highest-paid players, together with Trinidad trio, Carlos Edwards, Dennis Lawrence and Hector Sam, and Lee Trundle and Shaun Holmes.
Apart from Roberts, the other out-of-contract players are Martyn Chalk, Craig Faulconbridge, Kevin Russell, Paul Barrett, David Walsh, Robin Gibson, Wayne Phillips, Andy Morrell, Dave Warren, Steve Thomas, Michael Blackwood and Kristian Rogers.
Faulconbridge, now 24 and a free agent under the Bosman rule, has already turned down a new Racecourse contract and looks set to leave in the summer, while veteran Russell is likely to step aside from playing to concentrate on his coaching duties as assistant to the manager.
Since his arrival last September, Smith has strengthened the squad by the addition of Jim Whitley, Kevin Sharp, Marius Rovde and Dan Bennett, all of them on short-term or non-contract deals, and it seems probable that the Dragons' boss would like all of them to remain on board.
Without revealing his hand, he said: "I haven't got a lot of room for manoeuvre but I want to try and be fair to everyone. Having said that, I will pay players what the club can afford and no more.
"The squad I have at the moment is relatively young and inexperienced. That needs to be rectified."
Of more immediate concern to Smith is the addition to an already-long injury list of midfielder Steve Thomas, who picked up a thigh strain in training yesterday.
The former Wales under-21 international joins Rovde, Carey and Holmes in the treatment room while Roberts goes into hospital today for knee surgery that will keep him out of action for at least a couple of weeks more.
Young defender Shaun Pejic provided the only light at the end of the tunnel for Wrexham, rejoining his team-mates in preparations for tomorrow's home match against Brentford after recovering from a badly bruised thigh.
Wrexham reserves gained a valuable Avon Insurance Premier League point at Huddersfield Town on Wednesday night. The 1-1 draw lifted the Dragons out of the two relegation places for the first time this season, their goal coming from a penalty by trialist Andy Berks.