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FM21 | We came in like a Wrexham ball

With the takeover by Hollywood duos Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, we look to cast Wrexham into the spotlight, turning them from Welsh pretenders to glory-seekers in the Hollywood of football.
Started on 26 November 2020 by spursthecircus
Latest Reply on 17 December 2020 by ScottT
  • POSTS15
  • VIEWS3596
 
Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds is back on the red carpet, this time, in the footballing world. 8 years late. Together with McElhenney, we're looking at two Hollywood beasts managing one of football's sleeping giants (who are we kidding?).



Closer to home, rookie manager, Darren Leong, finally completed his coaching qualifications and is about to mark his first foray into football management at a tender age of 27. Leong and the Hollywood A-listers. Hardly a match made in heaven. Yet, in a strange twist of events, Eddie Howe and Mauricio Pochettino, front-runners for the job at Wrexham, decided to bow out, seemingly fearful of over-exposure to the cameras. It is rumored that Wrexham is Amazon's next target for the big-hitting docu-series All or Nothing. Leong had positive meetings with the new owners, outlining his ambitions to restore the Red Dragons to the top-flight of English football and plausibly, to the public eye. Leong promises to bring glitz and glamor back to the Welsh-based club, in keeping with the celebrity-status of its new owners.

It is exciting times for the club. During an online meeting with the club's supporters in November, Reynolds shared his vision to turn Wrexham into a "global force", a sentiment shared by Leong. From the inside, the news caught Wrexham captain Shaun Pearson by surprise initially, before it gave way to huge anticipation for the growth in the club's stature. "It is potentially a big opportunity for the club. It is probably a little while off in terms of everything going through but you’d be lying if you didn’t think it was exciting. This is something that could move the club forward in quite a big way", Pearson said, in a public interview with the local press.

Reynolds outlined four goals the new owners have for the club: (1) reinforcing Wrexham's values, (2) expanding the club's identity, (3) awarding the fans' loyalty and dedication to the club with a promise of a shot at success (we hear it is premier league glory in a decade), and (4) rebuilding Racecourse Ground, building a new permanent training ground and a promise to "always beat" rivals Chester FC, plying their trade in the National League North.

Yesterday, Leong was unveiled as the new manager of Wrexham. He's got a big task in his hands, while we await the rise of the Red Dragons from the ashes of COVID-19.

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This is a story of a boy, whose childhood dream was to bring a non-league club to champions of the footballing world. Enjoy the narrative and share your comments below. The more you participate in this narrative, the more you'll get to chart the trajectory of this boy's management journey.
Loved the title
Love the title, and was tempted to start as Wrexham myself, might do in the future. Will be keeping an eye on this.
Early Days

Eager to stamp his mark on the club, Leong committed to a complete revamp of the backroom staff, who are all, in truth, not cut out to bring the club to the lofty heights of English football. Mutual terminations ruled the roost, sparking murmurs within the club that the winds of an iron-fisted regime are brewing in Wales’ oldest football club. In keeping with the first order of the day, Leong rang the changes, bringing in a stellar support crew ready to propel the Red Dragons to the upper echelons of football’s Hollywood. It is unlikely that we’ve seen the last of Leong’s dictatorship, whose irrational thirst for control was laid bare for all to see in his first press conference, “I’d want to be involved in this club as much as my life allows me to. I’m ready to work my socks off for Wrexham and I expect everyone part of this club to be on board with me. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. To all Wrexham fans, I’m here for now and I’m here to stay.”



Not content with overhauling the entire backroom staff, Leong wasted no time in delving into a deep analysis of the first team squad. Sources from within the club revealed that if Leong were given his way, almost the entire squad would have been decimated this transfer window. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the stalwarts of the squad, the gods of FM restricted transfers for Leong’s first window in charge, leaving him to feed off scraps within the team.

Nevertheless, Leong has seen enough to decide that he will build his squad around a core spine of players. R Lainton remains the only feasible option in between the sticks, with C Dibble, the only available deputy, unlikely to usurp the former’s place in the team even in a hundred years. The defence picks itself: F Kelleher and T Vassell in central defence (with Pearson the only available back-up), with Hall-Johnson and Reckord in the wing-back positions. In a midfield bereft of creativity, the sole bright spark of J Davies looks like the only player capable of holding his own against Leong’s heavy-handed approach. The only other glimmer of hope is J Horsfield, likely to be the first name in the centre of the park. Further forward, Leong does have a decent array of options available to him. Loanee A Yussuf, forward K Thomas and future prospect J Ponticelli all look capable of providing ‘intense’ competition for the sole forward position, though ‘intense’ is probably a measure of the quantity rather than quality of forwards within the first team.

Rumor has it that Leong has laid into the ageing (and ailing) squad during his first meeting with the team, signalling his intention to banish anyone not up to scratch to the second XI (though more than half the team remain older than the 27-year-old). Yet, club captain, Pearson, spoke to the local press, revealing that the team had a productive first session with Leong. In his words, “Leong was ready to give every member of this team a shot at stardom, labelling us ‘stars in the making’. He is willing to give us all a chance to impress him. We’re excited to have a new man with fresh ideas on board, as we felt that the team had been growing stale for a couple of seasons now.” One wonders if Leong’s ambition to propel the these ‘stars in the making’ to celebrities in the footballing world, belies a deeper agenda to turn himself into the next Sir Alex Ferguson.




With what little he has, Leong has decided to proceed with 2 tactical formations: an attacking 4-2-3-1 and a more conservative 4-3-3. In both formations, the importance of the wing-backs cannot be understated. Leong expects his wing-backs to bomb down the wings to provide the width and creativity for his attackers. With sub-par passing quality in the centre of the park, Leong has decided to go with steel with J Harris, J Horsfield and Luke Young. J Davies is likely to provide the main attacking threat from the wings, cutting inside from the left, while the right winger supplies ammunition for Wrexham’s limp strike force.




As a sign of things to come, Leong recorded 3 victories out of 3 in his first friendlies. 2 easy wins against Wrexham 2nd XI and Carmarthen were followed by a hard-fought victory against St Albans. It is the latter performance which marked an up-turn in attacking performance as Leong gave everyone a first look at his attacking 4-2-3-1 formation. Worrying signs for the defence though. The lack of clean sheets in all 3 games against sub-par oppositions arose due to lapses of concentrations, which promises a pre-season with more experimentation and tinkering, for Leong to find that balance between attack and defence. Ponticelli stakes his claim for the sole striker berth, with well-taken 4 goals in 3 games, with Yussuf not far behind with 3 goals. J Davies performed exceptionally in the game against St Albans and if he can replicate this form throughout the season, Wrexham could be in for a thrilling and exciting season.





Leong’s fingerprints are starting to show themselves in the Red Dragons. As the club battles out the remaining friendlies, it is hoped that a full pre-season of work will allow Leong to lay the right foundations for Wrexham to scale the heights of English football. Celebrity club, we hear?
Good luck mate. Wrexham have been confined to the Conference, now known as the National League, for far too long. The news of the takeover has people excited for the future of the club and rightly so. The squad isn't the worst. There are some capable players which I'm sure will do the job required if not more. Expectations are set high, not only due to the takeover but through the manager's confidence also. Leong doesn't sound like somebody you want to disappoint!
Exciting times on there way at Wrexham it seems with Leong in charge. Ponticelli is someone I used last season who was great for me. Excited to see how he goes with you. Good luck.
If I had the wings of a sparrow, if I had the wings of a crow, I'd fly over Chester tomorrow, and s**t on the b*****ds below!

Had a mate who would sing this at the top of his lungs every time he got pissed (which, being from Wrexham, was about 5 times a week).
Preparations

Leong sat silently in his musky office, enthroned in his black, leather chair, a throne he expects to be a mainstay on for Wrexham’s exciting future. Yet, the sanitised orderliness of his office belies the tumultuous state of Leong’s disarrayed mind as he ponders over the results of Wrexham’s heavy pre-season schedule, in anticipation of the season’s curtain-raiser against Yeovil Town, a formidable opponent expected to finish high in Vanarama National League this season. Anything short of a win is unacceptable, he thinks to himself. A win, a win. One feels that a victory for Leong would mean much more than 3 points - a vindication of Wrexham’s new owners’ decision to appoint a name hitherto unheard of in English football, a stark contrast to their Hollywood status.

Anything less than 3 points against Yeovil would put to waste Wrexham’s largely successful pre-season preparations. 12 wins out of 14 in pre-season is a commendable return, the only blight a defeat against League One outfit Fleetwood Town and a largely satisfactory draw against strong opposition Notts County.



14 friendlies in pre-season allowed Leong the perfect opportunity to dissect the squad at his disposal and experiment with different tactical formations, including 5-3-2 WB and 5-4-1 WB defensive formations against difficult oppositions. The Wrexham Local reports that Leong’s constant chopping and changing in pre-season was reminiscent of Pep Guardiola’s antics, an audacious comparison against a top celebrity manager that would have been laughed off the local streets.

However, there appears to be a semblance of stability in the latter stages of pre-season, as Leong settled on a conservative 4-5-1 DM formation for his final 3 friendlies. “It looks like Leong has settled on his first 11 and preferred formation in Wrexham’s last 3 games, having experimented with a multitude of formations early on. The stability looks to be paying off as Wrexham conceded 0 goals across these games, scoring an average of 2 goals per game,” Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville remarked in a Monday Night Special covering Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s takeover of the Red Dragons.





A common pattern is emerging. A self-professed follower of Jurgen Klopp’s footballing philosophy, Leong raised no eyebrows in specifically instructing his wingbacks to bomb down the wings to provide width and crosses. Hall-Johnson and Reckord are Leong’s Alexander-Arnold and Robertson respectively, though such nascent comparisons are grossly misstated given the former pair’s repeated inability to cross a ball past the first man, much less to deliver quality crosses.

Vassell and Kelleher look to be forming a strong defensive partnership in arguably Wrexham’s strongest position in the field, with Horsfield providing an effective shield in front of the back four as a defensive deep-lying playmaker. Central midfield looks to be where Leong appears to still be in two minds (or even three), given the different personnel that have played in those positions across the 3 games. However, it is expected that J Harris will start as a ball-winning midfielder and D Redmond the advanced playmaker against Yeovil this Saturday.

Further forward, J Davies is the shining light in a modestly stacked attack. On the opposite flank, it is anybody’s guess who will fill that position. Any one of Jeffrey, Durrell and the perpetually injured 33-year old Rutherford could make the spot against Yeovil. Likewise, the striker’s position is as open as it can be. Though Ponticelli played his way into contention in the first friendlies, his form tapered off in the tail-end of pre-season. Yussuf and Thomas are both some way off starting given the niggling injuries that beset them throughout pre-season. It is likely we see Ponticelli take the spot against Yeovil.



“I worry for Leong. No doubt they had a good pre-season but this team does not look ready to play in the free-flowing attacking style he would like to impress on them. Inability to deliver quality crosses consistently, the lack of good headers on the ball when any such quality crosses present itself and boy, you should see how this team string passes together. I’d give them a standing ovation for anything more than 10 consecutive passes because that’s what I don’t see in pre-season. Defenders hoofing the ball up field to a strike force bereft of height and presence further up top is a recipe for disaster. And this explains why Wrexham has not been able to score many goals from set pieces in pre-season. It looks like a long season for Leong and the Red Dragons. Hopes are high but I worry. I worry that they’ll come tumbling down. This may come down as footballing’s biggest embarrassing takeover in history for the Hollywood stars.” G Neville’s aggressive criticisms of this Wrexham team was audible for all to hear and it won’t be music to Leong’s ears at all.

The only way to tune out the noise from some of English football’s worst pundits is to kick-off the campaign with a victory. Leong has his head in his hands. It is 2am in the morning. Leong has had a long day and it promises to be a long season ahead for him and his team. A win, a win. A must win.

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Thanks all for the kind comments. It has been difficult watching this Wrexham team in the friendlies. There are capable players but squad depth is an issue. There isn’t even a U23s team! Digging into the U18s does not give us much hope either. All we can do, is hope.
With this amount of friendlies, the league is gonna feel like holidays
Not a bad pre-season campaign. It's interesting that Wrexham played Notts County given it's a pretty alien concept to play league opposition in pre-season in England. I'm sure Leong will be desperate to silence the doubters!
October 2020: Debut

Taking his seat at the dugouts for the first time, marking his managerial debut, Leong sat upright, ears perked as he soaked in the atmosphere of Racecourse Ground. Soar high, you Red Dragons. Back for the first time after COVID, the fans spared no quarter in giving Leong and his team a standing ovation even before a ball was kicked. Leong, a legend in the making. A rather elaborate black banner punctuated a sea of red at the home of Wrexham Football Club. Beneath the veneer of a cool exterior, Leong’s mind was anything but. He ran the numbers, the plays, the movements and the positions all through his mind once more. He had to be sure. Everything had to go according to plan. Not a single stone left unturned. The referee’s whistle blowed. The ball was kicked. A new era begins, starting with Yeovil Town.




After a whirlwind of a month, Leong’s team sit atop the Vanarama National League with 4 league wins out of 7. His glasses fogged up as he stood in his office that provided no respite from the wintry chills that are beginning to blow outside, eyes fixed on his glass cabinet. Vanarama National League Manager of the Month. Leong gave his reflection a nod of approval. His table-topping team topped the stats charts, even though it has been acknowledged by many that the Red Dragons have not hit top gear.



After a strong performance (that really should have been a victory) against a Yeovil outfit many expected to make the playoffs without any difficulties, Leong’s team followed up with convincing victories against Stockport and Barnet, both expected to finish above the Red Dragons. At to that another barn-storming performance against Solihull Moors who will challenge for the title come the end of the season, Wrexham completed the first 4 games of the season with 4 clean sheets. Their only problem seems to be finishing their chances. Wrexham’s profligacy in front of goal was epitomized in both games against Alfreton and King’s Lynn Town, where they failed to make their dominance count and could only escape with a 4-1 victory against the former lower league opposition by scoring 3 goals in the second half of extra time. Not good enough, Leong thinks to himself.




For all their defensive superiority, Leong’s forward line stands mediocrely with 3 goals apiece, half of top scorer Josh Umerah from Torquay. “This is a team well-stocked with experienced and strong defenders. What Leong needs to do is to transform his attacking options. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but not good enough to compete. Ponticelli, hot prospect but you’d be bonkers to start him in a team challenging for promotion. He’s getting caught offside no less than 5 times every single game he’s started. It’s playing darts with toothpicks, you’re never gonna get anyway near the top.” In his usual candid brutality, Jamie Carragher, Sky pundit, lambasted Wrexham, casting doubts on their potential to finish high in the Vanarama National League notwithstanding the injection of fresh capital from the new Hollywood owners. In truth, these pundits are a tough bunch to satisfy.



Leong remains painfully aware of the shortcomings in his team. Yet, it is curious how he moved quickly to bring in Ryan Stirk on loan from Birmingham, ostensibly to provide more ammunition to his forwards. If not quality, then quantity. Leong’s rawness as a manager is laid bare for all to see in his first foray into the transfer market. No doubt, the Red Dragons lack a playmaker in the centre of the park. But surely, there are more pressing needs in other areas of the field? Leong remains firmly ensconced in his vision for how football should be played. It is this stubbornness that precipitated the move for Stirk. He wants a playmaker capable of spraying passes from deep. “Get him in. We’ll see how his forwards will fail him.” Carragher adds, as though wishing for a setback for the new manager. A hidden agenda maybe?

All things considered, this is unlikely to be Leong’s last move in the on-season transfer market. Rumours from within reveal that Leong is planning some big audacious moves to bolster his wings and forward lines, and better arm his troops for battle in the league. With expectations skyrocketing after a strong start to the season, one can only wait with excitement (or trepidation) for Leong to work his Midas touch in the transfer market. With failure not an option for the fastidious 27-year-old, it remains to be seen how Leong could avert the scathing critiques thrown at him by jealous observers. Regardless, a good start would certainly do him no wrong and if the Red Dragons continue playing Leong’s brand of football, it will not take long for heads to be turned and the spotlight to be cast on this exciting team.
A very impressive start!

Wrexham have been plagued with a lack of fire power for years. I think since Louis Moult departed. Restoring the goals into the strikers will be a challenge and arguably a necessary one to master if Wrexham are to increase their chances of winning promotion at the end of the season.
November 2020: Upgrade

As bit-part player A Jeffrey stroked home his second goal against Grimsby Town, Leong ran down the pitch towards the corner flag to celebrate with his players in a rare display of emotions. They’ve done it again - beating a League Two outfit in the FA Cup with consummate ease - after knocking out Cambridge Town FC on penalties in the First Round. Jogging back to the dugout, Leong readjusted his spectacles, summoned hot prospect centre-back R Austin from the bench, and prepared his team to see out the game. They did so without breaking much sweat.




The victory against Grimsby marked the end of a hugely successful month for Wrexham that left fans pining for more come December. A warm winter beckons, they hope. A 6-game winning streak across all competitions throughout November, conceding just the 2 goals, kept Wrexham in the running for the Vanarama National League title and the FA Cup (though, let’s face it, they’re never going to win it against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur). Still, the dream continues.




Nevertheless, same old floundering issues in attack meant that this Wrexham team could count themselves somewhat lucky to be at the top of the league. Coming up against teams set up to park the bus, Leong’s team struggled. The Red Dragons’ muted attack only managed a goal apiece in games against Sutton and Altrincham, not for the want of trying. Leong’s team peppered the opponents’ goals with shots but failed to regularly breach the stone-wall defences. “I think we’re playing well. Leong’s got us playing with a certain rhythm and an attractive style that fans love. Yet, our end product is very very minimal. We’d better wish upon their lucky stars that wasteful finishing does not come back to haunt us come the end of the season,” Fans spokesperson, Jamie Grey, spoke out in the latest feature of the Amazon docu-series, “Wrexham: All or Nothing”.







Leong remains keenly aware of his team’s deficiencies up top. Following the loan deal of R Stirk, Leong had regular meetings with his scouting team and his Hollywood owners that often stretched till the wee hours of the morning, working out the administrative details of impending transfers. Leong’s set his sights on key players that would improve the quality and depth of his squad, and he will stop at nothing to get his men.

R Glover followed in the footsteps of Stirk and joined Leong’s men on loan from Bournemouth to provide quality and competition down the wings. Preferring to play as a right winger, early signs indicate that Leong’s only willing to mould Glover into a left-sided inside winger/forward, much to the chagrin of Jason Tindall, head coach of Bournemouth.

J Greenidge joins Leong’s troops on a free transfer and looks to be a transfer for the future. At a raw age of 20, Greenidge certainly needs more match experience at this level to fulfill his potential. At the moment, it looks unlikely he will usurp the roles that Ponticelli and Yussuf play in Wrexham’s attack and will most likely play back-up to the two senior attackers. That said, nothing’s stopping Greenidge from shooting for the stars, especially in a weak forward line.

The transfers causing a major stir on Wrexham’s social media are C Gilmour and W Hondermarck. Leong and his scouting team worked through the nights ensuring every details of these transfers were well taken care of. With the addition of free agent Gilmour and loanee Hondermarck, Leong has enhanced creativity in the centre of the park, sparking premature comparisons to the Barcelona triumvirate of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets - a bewildering mixture of steel and guile. Gilmour looks to play chief creator from deep as a DLP while Hondermarck seems well-suited to hurt teams further atop as an AP.

“We’re happy with the signings we made, which puts us in good stead for the rest of the season. We’ll be the team to watch in this division. And we’ll be looking up come the end of the season,” remarked Leong in the press conference revealing Hondermarck as a Red Dragon. Leong has raised the bar following a successful on-season transfer window in November and his confidence does not look like abating in the light of some remarkable results under his belt.

Nevertheless, the arrival of these new recruits spelled the end of an era for many at the club: Luke Young, Paul Rutherford, Mark Carrington etc.. Leong remains unapologetic, “Deadweight has to be moved on. We cannot accommodate for any players that cannot make the cut at this level. They want to play, so they have to find another home. The truth is, they’re better off plying the trades in the lower leagues, where they can shine. I can’t let these deadweight take the shine off this team I’m assembling for glory. That’s football and I won’t apologise for my heavy-handed approach at Wrexham.”

Well, so long as Leong gets results on the pitch, there’s not much many can say against him. A warm winter is coming to Wales.
yeah, you'll take a while to find a true challenge at this rate
Still looking very good. More goals are certainly needed though.

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