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Denis Smith has made many pronouncements on his plans for 2002-3 but one of

Denis Smith has made many pronouncements on his plans for 2002-3 but one of the most interesting concerned the issue of the club captaincy.

In typically forthright fashion, the Reds manager said: "Brian Carey is a natural leader and if he's fit to play he'll captain the side again next season."

Like the majority of Dragons fans, Smith obviously has huge admiration for Carey. As such, the matter of who skippers the side is very rarely debated; it is just assumed that the experienced defender is the best man for the job.

However, for the past couple of seasons - and especially during the last few months of 2001-2 - I have been very interested in the question of the captain's armband, and who should wear it.

The Reds boss says Carey is a "natural leader", and it would be difficult to argue with this. When he plays, he exudes authority at the back and is a popular talisman.

However, the problem is that in recent times, he hasn't played regularly on account of injuries and suspensions - a situation that has caused much chopping and changing at the back and in terms of on-field leadership.

Which begs the question: why keep the tall centre-half as skipper? Last year he started only 16 league games and, whether we like it or not, the Carey regime is now stained by the memory of relegation.

The Irishman as captain also creates problems. He is losing his pace, and many fans now see a Lawrence-Roberts partnership as the ideal one at the back. But if Carey is skipper (and thus almost guaranteed a first-team spot), there is little chance of this new combination being given enough time to establish itself.

I've got huge respect for Carey as a player and a man - but maybe it's time for a change.

What are the alternatives? In my mind, Darren Ferguson is not cut out to be a leader. He complains too much during games, has a poor disciplinary record, and seems to criticise rather than encourage when his teammates are struggling. As the current stand-in skipper, he is also intimately connected with the unsuccessful Carey era.

That leaves two genuine candidates. Jim Whitley was player of the season in 2001-2; he proved himself to be a classy performer at right-back, but also a man with a determined and uncompromising attitude.

For someone who has played at a much higher level, he never gave the impression that he was "too good" for Wrexham. If he signs up for another spell at the Racecourse - his future is uncertain at the moment - I think he would make an excellent skipper, particularly if he was moved into a central midfield position (where he has played for other clubs before).

Caribbean star Lawrence is also an option. He's a big man in more than ways one, organises things well on the pitch, and impressed everyone with his post-Christmas comeback after a disastrous autumn.

Carey? Ferguson? Whitley? Lawrence? Personally, I think Smith should spend the summer pondering the issue.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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