JUST three months after being shown the door by Wrexham manager Denis Smith, 19-year-old Gareth Evans is in with a chance of making his Football League debut for the Dragons in their opening match of the season at Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
The young central defender - born and brought up in the town - spent two years as a Racecourse trainee, but thought his chances of becoming a professional footballer had disappeared in May when Smith somewhat reluctantly broke the news that his budget would not stretch to the offer of afull-time contract.
The disappointment, though, was short-lived as Evans explained: "Two weeks later I got a call from the club telling me that following the takeover it had been decided to offer me a 12-month deal.
"I could not believe it. You don't normally hear of someone being released and then winning a reprieve, so it made me more determined than ever to take my opportunity with both hands. Idid alot of work before pre-season training to give myself the best chance of making an impression and, to be honest, things could not have gone better for me so far."
Almost from the start of the club's preparations for the new League Two campaign, the former Yale College student has held his own alongside the likes of Trinidad international Dennis Lawrence, established defender Shaun Pejic and close-season signing Steve Evans, from TNS, and his performances in friendly matches have certainly done his first-team prospects no harm.
"It's been great being involved with the senior squad and I was pleasantly surprised to be included for the trip to Northern Ireland last week," added the teenager.
"I've had plenty of encouragement from everyone in the management team, and I'm pleased with the way it's been going.
"I got a full 90 minutes against Cliftonville last week and hopefully I'll be named in the squad for Saturday's game."
Evans, who has represented school and college sides for Wales, has not yet come to the attention of former Racecourse boss Brian Flynn, who is responsible for the national under-21 set-up, but the ambitious youngster is aiming to change that as quickly as possible.
He said: "I've always dreamed of playing for my country and the closest I came was when I was named as a stand-by player for Wales under-19s. If I can nail down a regular starting spot in the Wrexham side I'd like to think I would come into consideration for the Wales under-21 squad.
"But Idon't want to get too far ahead of myself. I was talking to Joey Jones the other day and he impressed upon me that this is the first step on the ladder and I have still got a long way to go."
With manager Smith still waiting for Pejic to overcome an Achilles injury, Evans' prospects of facing Wycombe on Saturday are improving by the day and the Racecourse boss said yesterday: "Gaz has an excellent chance of being involved on Saturday.
"I've told all the players what I think the starting line-up could be at Wycombe, but equally they all know that there are a few days to go and I might change my thinking.
"I want them to focus on Saturday's match.
"I need to make sure I have the right players in the right places and all of them doing the right things at Wycombe."