THE players who carry Wrexham's hopes into a new second division campaign, which gets under way on Saturday, have been given a pat on the back by manager Brian Flynn.
A summer of upheaval, discord and controversy at the Racecourse culminated in speculation last weekend that the long-serving Dragons boss was set to quit after 12 years in charge, but Flynn will still be at the helm when Oldham Athletic come to town on Saturday.
Yesterday, he paid tribute to the professionalism and commitment shown by his squad in the period since they resumed training.
"It's not been an easy time for anyone but the players have been marvellous," he said.
"Despite everything that's been going on around them, the five weeks have gone better than we had planned.
"We've been fortunate to avoid serious injury. The general level of performance has improved as we've gone along and we are now looking forward to Saturday.
"The players have done everything we could have asked for and the spirit and determination in the squad is second to none. Certainly if the first five weeks of the season are similar to the past five weeks, we will be very well pleased.
"It's always the case that the first 10 games are crucial to every club and if we carry on in the way we've gone through the pre-season, we will have no cause for complaint."
Against Oldham, Wrexham will be without striker Lee Trundle, suspended for four games, and Martyn Chalk, who is serving a one-match ban after collecting two yellow cards in the final reserve team match of last season, but Flynn is optimistic that Craig Faulconbridge will be fit.
The club's leading goalscorer last year, Faulconbridge missed last weekend's friendly against Manchester United because of a bruised foot but he and fellow absentee, Paul Barrett, have resumed training this week.
Barrett could even be back in action tonight as Wrexham open their prestigious four-team under-21 tournament against Aston Villa at the Racecourse (7.30).
Wrexham's limited resources mean the age limit will not be strictly enforced and it's possible that Trundle will be given a place in the starting line-up when the Dragons take on Juventus at the Racecourse on Sunday.
Flynn said: "For a club like Wrexham to have established links with Juventus is a tremendous fillip for everyone, and there were even suggestions earlier this year that we would be taking one of their players on loan this season.
"But the links have not developed that far just yet, though who knows what may happen in the future. All we can say for the moment is that it is an exciting development for the club and one we will do everything we can to encourage."
The tournament provides an opportunity for Wrexham's youngsters to compete at the highest level and the Dragons' boss added: "It will be a great experience for our youngsters and represents another step-up for them in terms of their development."
Included in Wrexham's squad tonight is trialist striker Chris Boulton, a prolific goalscorer last season for Welsh National League outfit, Mold Alexandra, who
impressed the Racecourse management during a friendly match last month.
Admission to the match is £5 (£3) and only the Sainsbury's stand will be open. Manchester City take on the Italians at Rhyl's Belle Vue ground tomorrow evening (7.15).
WREXHAM (from): Walsh, Evans, Pejic, Moody, Dabbs, Watkin, Barrett, Campbell, Williams, Boulton, Arkell, Whitfield, D Jones, O Jones, Hamill, Lacken, P Jones, Foster.