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I'll take league successes first

SUCCESS in the Isle of Man Tournament, which gets under way in Douglas today, counts for very little, Wrexham manager Denis Smith said last night.

SUCCESS in the Isle of Man Tournament, which gets under way in Douglas today, counts for very little, Wrexham manager Denis Smith said last night.

As last year's winners, the Dragons kick off the festival of football against first division Burnley, who were the beaten finalists 12 months ago.

Smith said: "If you look back to last year, I would prefer to have gone on to have the season Burnley had last year.

"I will be quite happy if we manage to win the tournament again but it's not the thing that drives me on, because it's in the third division from August where we have to achieve.

"That's not to say there is anything wrong in winning next week because it keeps everyone, the players and the fans, happy and it won't do any harm either for spirit in the squad, which is very good indeed at the moment."

The 17-strong group includes only one goalkeeper in Andy Dibble and, as revealed in the Daily Post, midfielder Darren Ferguson will be left behind because of his three-match suspension, which comes into effect on the opening day of the season.

Smith conceded it might be tempting fate to take only one goalkeeper but he explained: "It was either that or leave another outfield player behind. I know Dibbs is also going to miss the first two games of the season because of suspension but he will have the opportunity next week to get used to playing with the other lads.

"In any case, Kristian Rogers is still struggling with sore shins and I've been able to see what Paul Whitfield is capable of in the two friendly matches we've already had. With the exception of Darren, I'm able to take all the other senior members of the squad and, in Kevin Russell, we have an 18th player as well."

The early indications are that Wrexham will play a 3-5-2 system when the third division campaign gets under way but Smith is also hoping to experiment with both 4-4-2 and 3-4-3 next week.

"At the moment it looks as though we are a better balanced side playing 3-5-2 because of the players we have available to us," he said.

"We played 3-4-3 during the first half of the game against Porthmadog and that too worked well, although we have to remember they are a Cymru Alliance team. As far as 4-4-2 is concerned, it's the traditional way of playing in this country and most players are familiar with it. What I'm aiming for is that all the players are equally comfortable whatever the system because we will be looking to mix and match them all at different stages of next season in order to make it difficult for opposition teams to know in advance how we will approach things."

After today, Wrexham will have just 24 hours to prepare for their second game of the week against newly-promoted Luton Town on Monday evening but the Dragons' boss said there had been no easing up in training over the past couple of days.

"We've worked the players really hard, which would not be the normal approach 48 hours before a game and I have to say that after two-and-a-half weeks of training, things could not have gone much better for us," he said.

"There is competition for places in every area of the team and that's beginning to show in terms of the way players are behaving. Some of the challenges and the tackling we've seen today suggest that the players realise that they can't expect to play as of right."

Squad: Dibble, Whitley, Holmes, Roberts, Carey, Lawrence, Bennett, Pejic, Thomas, C Edwards, Phillips, Barrett, P Edwards, Jones, Trundle, Morrell, Sam.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
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