PROPERTY developer Mark Guterman completed his take-over of third division Wrexham yesterday and said his main priority was to see the club return to the second division as soon as possible.
An early morning board meeting at the Racecourse confirmed the new owner as chairman following the deal which brought him the 78 per cent majority shareholding previously held by Pryce Griffiths.
And, at a hastily-arranged press conference, Guterman said: "I think we have a team which is good enough to have a real go of getting out of the third division, either this year or next."
Septuagenarian Griffiths, who leaves the board after being a director of the club for almost 30 years, has accepted the honorary role of Life President and his departure seems likely to foreshadow other personnel changes in the boardroom.
Guterman said: "I will be bringing colleagues on board to work with existing directors and I hope to have other investors coming in. I wanted to get today out of the way and it's a case of taking one step at a time. But I've had expressions of interest and I will be looking to build on those."
One of the first key appointments is likely to be that of Bill Wingrove as commercial director. The pair worked together at Chester City in the late 1990s but Guterman also made it clear that current Racecourse managing director, David Rhodes, would continue to be a key member of his team.
"David Rhodes has been the club's anchor for many years and he will continue to run the club," the new chairman confirmed. "One of the conditions of this deal going through was that he stayed at the club and I have persuaded him to do so."
And Guterman is backing manager Denis Smith and his assistant, Kevin Russell, to deliver the goods on the field of play. Russell deputised for the onholiday Smith at yesterday's press conference and said: "By the commitment he has shown in helping the club over the past few months, Mr Guterman has demonstrated his intent.
"I think the players will be relieved that the uncertainty which was around last season has been resolved and I am sure we will have a good season this time round."
But Guterman warned that the current state of football finances meant there could be no quick fix. "The first objective is to restore stability," he added. "The club has a great set-up and fabulous facilities and we just need to bring together a few more ingredients.
"If you look at football generally at the moment stability is the key word and that's the case even in the Premier League. While it may seem strange to want to become involved in football at this time, I have a feeling for this club and believe it has potential."
Referring to his previous involvement at Chester City, which went into administration towards the end of his ownership, he said: "You learn all the time; there were many things we did right and there were a few we got wrong.
"The main thing I've learned is that we have to work to a strict cash budget and, within that, we will be working to get Wrexham promoted.
"We have made a good start with the signings of Lee Jones and Andy Dibble."
And in a message to Wrexham supporters, many of whom are sceptical, he added: "Judge me on what you see, on the signings we have made and what else will happen in the future."
In a statement issued by Wrexham, the departing Griffiths thanked everyone involved with the club, including fans, for their support over the years and urged them to give similar backing to his successor during what he described as a critical time.