HE came, he postured, he sank without trace might well have been the epitaph on Silvio Spann’s Wrexham career had it not been for some straight talking over the summer from manager Dean Saunders.
Since he was signed in September 2007 by Brian Carey, the Trinidad international has spectacularly under-achieved for the Dragons in making a total of just 13 league starts under three different managers.
But the 27-year-old midfield player seems to have discovered new purpose since being deployed as a stand-in right-back during the build-up to the new Blue Square Premier season in a fortnight’s time.
And no-one is more pleased than Saunders who, after Saturday’s encouraging team performance against a young Manchester City XI, said the player’s natural talent had never been in question.
“He’s had some harsh words from me in the summer and he has come back to fight for his place which is what I want to see everyone doing,” he added.
“Silvio has put five, six games together now and he's done really well. His strength is obviously in going forward, but if he's prepared to take on the defensive side of it, he's good in the air, he's really quick, he's aggressive and he puts his foot in.
”It's just the ‘seeing danger’ bit, and that's why Premier League players are Premier League players. They see danger before it happens and you can't give that to anybody. You either grasp it or you don't and some are better at it than others, so hopefully the more he plays the more he'll learn that side of it.
“But at the minute I’ve got no complaints. He can't be perfect, but he's playing really well and I'm pleased with him.”
Spann certainly appears to be enjoying what in the past had often seemed to be a chore – a delightfully improvised flick-on during the second half was proof of that. And it was his delivery from a 56th-minute corner that brought Wrexham’s winner against City and a second goal of the week for defender Mansour Assoumani, who was a commanding figure throughout the match.
The Dragons had trailed at the interval but half-time substitute Wes Baynes wasted little time in displaying his prodigious shooting power with a 47th-minute free kick that left City keeper Kasper Schmeichel grasping at thin air as the ball ripped into the net.
The two goals were the icing on the cake of a fine second period for the home side who had given their opponents too much space in the opening 45 minutes, but tightened things up considerably after the break to control proceedings for long spells.
City, with no big names on show, were marginally the better side in the opening 45 minutes and came close to a perfect start when Karl Moore met Donal McDermott’s fourth-minute corner only to see his volley cleared off the line by Andy Fleming.
McDermott, at the heart of everything positive from the visitors, made his own chance when he latched onto a half-clearance and was unfortunate to see his chip clear the bar. City might have had a 19th-minute spot kick when James Poole’s overhead kick struck Fleming on the hand. But the visitors were awarded a penalty seven minutes later when goalkeeper Chris Maxwell was adjudged to have brought down Robbie Mak and Moore duly converted.
The setback temporarily subdued the Dragons, but they fought their way back with midfield men Mark Jones and Fleming coming into their own during the later stages of the game and Saunders had few if any complaints at the end.
“It was a good result on a pitch that was a bit dry which slowed the passing up compared to last week, but the main thing was that we got through without any fresh injuries,” said the Dragons boss.
“We scored from two set plays, the first a great strike from Wes, and I’ve been waiting for one of those because people have been telling me how well he smacks them. On top of that he played well and the second goal was a great header from Mani from a great delivery into the box.
“We are playing some nice football but we can’t be one of those teams that everyone thinks they can bully, we’ve got to stand up to people. We need more of that in our game because we have some young players and some of the City players probably haven’t played against men either.
“When they (young play ers) come out of the academy and into the league where they are playing against men they have to show a bit more aggression and stand up to challenges. They have to use their bodies to protect the ball a bit better, without going around and kicking people. They have to be determined not to have the ball taken off them. So they stood up today and I was pleased with that.”