Wrexham season preview 2015-16: Mills bring new hope
The sense of optimism at Wrexham ahead of the new National League season is reflected by the increase in season ticket sales at the north Wales club.
New manager Gary Mills will hope to succeed where Brian Little, Dean Saunders, Andy Morrell and Kevin Wilkin have failed by guiding the club back into the Football League.
Wrexham are about to embark on their eighth season in non-league but with Mills' pedigree at this level, Dragons fans hope it will be their last.
Defeat to North Ferriby United in the FA Trophy final sealed the fate of Kevin Wilkin, sacked for his side's failure to mount a serious promotion challenge rather than the Wembley defeat. The Dragons finished the season strongly under caretaker boss Carl Darlington but he opted against the role full-time and Wrexham appointed the experienced Gary Mills.
Mills wasted no time in making changes to the squad with experienced heads and Racecourse favourites such as captain Dean Keates and Neil Ashton among those released at the end of last season.
The former Gateshead manager, assisted by former Tottenham player Darren Caskey, has signed 10 players and a further two on loan during the close season. Despite the wholesale changes, the former Nottingham Forest man has been pleased by the new-look squad's progress during pre-season.
Last season's top-scorer Louis Moult has left for Motherwell and the pressure will be on replacement James Gray to score the goals. The presence of centre half Manny Smith - so impressive in his first season at the club - is also a major boost.
|James Gray (free from Accrington Stanley), Adam Smith (free from Halifax), Kayden Jackson (free from Tamworth), Cameron Belford (free from Swindon), Jamal Fyfield (free from Welling), Adriano Moke (free from Macclesfield), Dominic Vose (free from Welling), Sean Newton (free from Lincoln), Javan Vidal (free from Tamworth), Lee Fowler (free from Fleetwood), Mason Watkins-Clark (loan from Stoke), Joel Logan (loan from Rochdale)||Louis Moult (undisclosed fee to Motherwell), Neil Ashton (released), Dean Keates (released), Jay Harris (released), Kyle Storer (released), Andy Bishop (released), Theo Bailey-Jones (released), Nick Rushton (released), Anthony Stephens (released), Ross Weaver (released), Elliott Durrell (released), Luke Waterfall (released), Joe Clarke (released), Sean Smith (released), Andy Coughlin (released), Nicky Rushton (released), Steve Tomassen (released)|
A big season for...
Many Wrexham supporters were unhappy with the manner of midfielder Lee Fowler's departure to big-spending Fleetwood Town in 2012. But the 32-year-old Welshman has returned to the Racecourse on a one-year contract and Mills has shown his faith in the former Coventry City and Wales Under-21 player by making him captain.
Fowler has a big void to fill following the departure of former skipper and midfield general Keates.
What the bookies think
Title - 10/1
Relegation - 40/1
Manager sacking - not available
Odds supplied by BetVictor
Mills knows how to get teams promoted - he guided York City to a play-off final win in 2012 - and the former European Cup winner brings a no-nonsense approach to the job.
It will be interesting to see how the new-look squad takes shape during the opening weeks of the campaign but Wrexham should be among the front-runners.
National League: 4th FA Cup: Second round.
Gary Mills: "I'm always going to feel the expectation but it doesn't affect how I work. I love expectation because it keeps you on your toes. I don't want to be at a club with no expectation - that's easy, we can all do that."
"All I can promise is that I give everything that I've got. Promotion of course is the goal. Do I want to win the league? Yes of course I do - If I don't then I want to finish in the top five, get to Wembley and win it.
"No matter how we get out of this league we've got to get out."
Former Wrexham midfielder and BBC Wales pundit Mickey Thomas: "Gary Mills plays a brand of football that people will enjoy, likes to play the ball on the floor, but the pressure is a little bit more intense than Gateshead.
"It's all about the brand of football that you play but he will have to win football games."