EARLIER on in the week, I had a little (friendly) debate with a few followers on Twitter over whether or not Wrexham should be looking to the Welsh Premier League to find some talent to add to their ranks.
The discussion came about after I had said: “If a team two leagues above Wrexham decided to sign Scott Quigley (who’s gone from TNS to Blackpool), then why shouldn’t the National League side sign someone from the WPL?”
Some argued that TNS players wouldn’t want to make the move as Wrexham couldn’t offer more money, whilst others agreed that it could make sense to take a chance on a Welsh Prem player as they’d have the desire and determination that some of Wrexham’s current players lack.
It’s no secret that Wrexham have ignored the Welsh Prem when completing the singings of players in recent years, but what if they were to change their ways? Here, I highlight just five players who I think would most certainly do the job if they were ever to pull on that famous red shirt.
Whilst naturally, some players such as Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Dan Nardiello or Ryan Brobbel would be likely to fit right in at the Racecourse, due to their prior experience of playing in the Football League, I’ve decided to look at some slightly less obvious characters here …
Chris Venables (Bala Town)
Upon watching Wrexham’s season opener against Macclesfield two weeks ago (1-0 loss at home), I realised that the one thing they are most certainly lacking is a commanding central midfielder, since the departure of Connor Jennings.
Chris Venables is just that.
The 32-year-old may be getting on a bit now, but you simply can’t deny that he still has all the qualities of a complete midfielder. A former Shrewsbury Town youth player, Venables has played in the WPL since 2003/04 and has racked up 376 appearances for Caersws, Welshpool, Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Bala since then, cementing his place in the league’s history books.
For a midfielder, he’s also a prolific goal scorer, like the Welsh Prem’s version of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard in a way. He’s scooped the Golden Boot on three occasions and won the WPL’s Player of the Year award in both those years too. In total, he’s netted 137 times in Wales’ highest division, which is a very respectable amount.
Nowadays, he’s the captain of Bala Town and recently scored in their 2-1 Europa League loss to Swiss side FC Vaduz, so he’s got that experience under his belt too.
A fantastic all rounder, I believe that Venables could easily play in the National League despite being in his thirties now.
Connor Roberts (Bangor City)
Another position that Wrexham seem to be lacking squad depth in at the moment is between the sticks.
First choice goalkeeper Chris Dunne looked shaky in his side’s campaign opener and let in a timid effort, in what turned out to be the winner in a frustrating game for Wrexham.
Bangor’s Connor Roberts was once on the books of Everton as a youngster and I believe that he was actually born in Wrexham.
In recent years, he has established himself as one of the best shot stoppers in the Welsh Premier League with many fans and pundits alike praising his reflex abilities. He has become a firm fans favourite during his three seasons at Nantporth and heads into his fourth campaign having made 75 appearances to date, cementing down that first choice place.
He actually earned a call-up to the senior Welsh national side in June 2014 but wasn’t chosen during the match. They obviously saw something in him.
I think he’d most certainly slot into that Wrexham starting eleven too and at just 24 years old, you could argue that he is only going to get better and better. He’s a confident goalkeeper and one who I think could go very far.
Will a National League side come calling for him? I think it’s possible in the near future (as much as I’d hate to see him leave!).
Lee Idzi (Carmarthen Town)
Another goalkeeper that Wrexham could turn to in their hour of need is the vastly experienced Lee Idzi.
Much like Venables, 29-year-old Idzi is well-known to fans of Welsh Premier League football and is considered to be something of a legend by many.
He first joined the WPL back in 2007/08 when he signed for Haverfordwest County. A brief stint at Neath followed before he made the move to Farrar Road with Bangor City. During this time, he, much like Roberts is today, established himself as a favourite with the crowd and managed to cement down a place as their number one goalkeeper.
In 2014-15, Idzi moved to Carmarthen Town and in the three seasons since, he has played every single Welsh Premier League game for the Old Gold. To date, he has made 312 Welsh Premier League appearances and I have no doubt that his name (not just for the unusual surname) will be remembered amongst neutral fans for many years to come.
At 29 years old, he’s still got quite a few good years in him, particularly as he’s a goalkeeper. Should Wrexham swoop in and give him a chance before anyone else does?
Greg Draper (The New Saints)
Quite how TNS have managed to hold on to Draper all these years, I’ll never know, as there is no doubting the fact that he really could play at a higher level.
The Somerset-born striker represented New Zealand in the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada. His full senior international debut for the All Whites came in 2008 in a World Cup qualifier against Fiji.
In domestic football down under he played for Canterbury United, Wellington Phoenix in the Hyundai A-League, Melbourne Knights in Australia and Team Wellington. He then spent 2010/11 with Basingstoke where he hit 15 goals from 28 appearances.
He signed for The New Saints in June 2011, where he has remained since and I think his record of 84 goals in 153 appearances for the champions speaks for itself. Incredibly, he has also won the WPL title in every season since arriving at the club and so he knows all about that winning feeling!
The 28-year-old has earned himself a reputation as one of the deadliest strikers currently playing in the Welsh Premier League and his finishing abilities are truly fantastic.
I think money might be an issue in attracting players from TNS to make the switch and join Wrexham, but who knows? They need a striker who can bag them goals on a regular basis and I do believe that Draper would be able to do that.
Anderson Cayola (Bangor City)
He may have only played two Welsh Premier League matches to date, but if I was involved at Wrexham Football Club, I’d be telling my scouts to keep a very close eye on Cayola ove the course of the 2017/18 season.
The 20-year-old Bolivian forward was scouted by City over the summer while on a UK tour with the Learning Soccer Academy from Barcelona. He eventually signed for the Citizens from Spanish club CE Artesa De Segre in July, despite interest from many English football league clubs.
When I watched him on his debut last Friday, it was immediately apparent to me as to why so many clubs were after his signature.
In Bangor’s highly impressive 5-2 routing of champions TNS, Cayola was one of the standout stars, lighting the game up with his movement and control on the ball. Time and time again he created space for his team mates and picked out pass after pass for them too.
If that wasn’t good enough, he then coolly converted a penalty in the 82nd minute, sending experienced goalkeeper Paul Harrison the wrong way in the process.
It’s early days and we probably shouldn’t be hyping him up too much, but I truly believe that Cayola could be a very special player and Bangor will only help improve his game by giving him minutes out on the pitch.
It’s no secret that Wrexham have lacked some attacking flair in recent seasons, so could the Bolivian be the perfect fit for them in the near future?
Of course, there are plenty of players who Wrexham have got rid of over the years who have gone on to do well in the Welsh Premier League.
Alex Darlington and Chris Marriott (both TNS) are examples of that. But what’s not to say they can’t give them a second chance?
And I mean, if all else fails, why not bring the likes of Llandudno FC brothers Marc and Mike Williams, or TNS pair Adrian Cieslewicz and Blaine Hudson back to the Racecourse too eh? …