TEENAGE defender Simon Spender is merely the first of a new generation of talented footballers coming through the youth development ranks at Wrexham, according to club captain Brian Carey.
The big Irishman, who for the past couple of years has combined his playing duties with coaching the Racecourse youngsters, said 18-year-old Spender had acquitted himself well since being catapulted into first team action because of the club's long injury list.
Having worked with the under-16 and U13s squads, Carey said: "The youth set-up and the School of Excellence here at Wrexham is on a par with academies at clubs across the country.
"And it's important for small clubs like ours to continue producing kids like Simon Spender and Levi Mackin, who has been on the bench in recent weeks. It's a great credit to the the School of Excellence staff that they are coming through."
Carey, who devotes two evenings a week to his coaching duties and accompanies his charges to matches on Sundays, said it was important to devote time and resources - scarce though they may be - to ensure a bright future for the club.
"There are lads playing in my U13 squad who are representing Wales at U15 level and we have to look after them and make sure they continue to develop with us," he added.
"Wrexham have always had a reputation for producing their own players but, while that may have fallen off in recent years, that's due to the way football generally has changed.
"A lot of clubs have been bringing foreign players in and limiting the chances for home-grown talent, but I think that's beginning to change again. You only have to look at Jon Stead, who went from Huddersfield to Blackburn Rovers.
"Maybe the tide is turning back again and more clubs will follow Blackburn's lead in taking a chance on young play-ers from lower league clubs. Wrexham survived in the past by selling good young players and perhaps that's the way forward for us now."
Much as he is enjoying his coaching role, Carey is not yet ready to call time on his playing career. Currently battling a foot ligament injury, he hopes to be back in action before the end of the season, even if his return is delayed until the FAW Premier Cup final against Rhyl on May 12.
"I had x-rays last week and the hospital consultant said the ligament needs rest to settle down, so I'm reluctant to rush things," he said. "But I'd definitely hope to be involved against Rhyl.
"There's the chance of another medal, and another trophy would be great for our supporters. We've beaten TNS and Cardiff to get to the final and if we beat Rhyl, they can say with some justification that we are the best team in Wales."
Beyond that, Carey's future is still up in the air as his contract expires this summer.
"I've not talked to the manager yet about what's going to happen but I feel I can carry on playing and so we'll just have to wait and see," he added.
Arrangements for the FAW Premier Cup final at Rhyl's Belle Vue stadium are being finalised and Wrexham are expecting an allocation of around 800 of the 2,800 tickets expected to go on sale next week.
Racecourse season ticket-holders will be given preference with the remainder going on general sale a couple of days later.