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Flight of the falcon

THE news that Craig Faulconbridge has been placed on the transfer list is both surprising and saddening, writes Pete Davies.

THE news that Craig Faulconbridge has been placed on the transfer list is both surprising and saddening.

Since his arrival in North Wales in the summer of 1999, the tall centre-forward has gained many plaudits. His strike-rate may be fairly average, but he has bagged some crucial goals and his strong work ethic has especially endeared him to the Racecourse faithful.

Even though his last few displays have not been particularly memorable, "The Falcon" is idolised by many on the terraces and is always on the receiving end of stirring post-match ovations. And, without being rude to other squad members, he is one of the few current Wrexham players who can actually head the ball.

Which all makes it very unfortunate that contract negotiations broke down this week - and Denis Smith was forced, much against his personal inclinations, to put the ex-Coventry City man up for sale.

Oldham and Wycombe expressed an interest in Faulconbridge earlier in the season, but both clubs seem to have solved their attacking problems in recent weeks. The player is also injured at present, so there is no realistic prospect of an imminent move.

Even so, the current situation raises a number of interesting issues. First, it is clear that Smith is petrified of the dreaded Bosman scenario, in which Faulconbridge does what is now known colloquially as "a Mark McGregor": fails to commit himself to a new contract, does not show up for pre-season training, and then walks away - without Wrexham receiving a
penny in compensation.

I'm glad the no-nonsense Smith has made his position clear early on. Almost £400,000 in debt, the club cannot afford to lose out, yet again, on a sizeable transfer fee.

In many ways, Faulconbridge should have been flattered that a decent three-year deal was on the table - but that is not accounting for the influence of the player's agent on the contract talks.

Second, I have a strange feeling that Faulconbridge's departure - if it becomes reality - might actually be a blessing in disguise.

In my view, Wrexham will only succeed in their relegation dogfight if they bring in: (a) an experienced keeper to act as competition and cover for Rogers/Walsh; and (b) a box-to-box midfielder who can also act as ball-winner, hard man and unofficial team motivator.

In the short term, such purchases may only be possible with the injection of transfer cash - hence the rationale for dispensing with the Reds no.8 sooner rather than later.

Likewise, there is a growing school of thought which says Faulconbridge and Lee Trundle are too similar as attacking players and, thus, do not form a totally effective strike partnership.

This view has it that, with his hustling, harrying and runs into space on both flanks, Andy Morrell is the ideal foil for star man Trundle. Thus, in a post-Faulconbridge world, Smith could experiment with Trundle-Morrell, Trundle-Sam and Trundle-Russell combinations, while at the same time also strengthening other parts of the squad.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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