National Leagues

Wrexham Boss pleased with season end announcement

Dean Keates is glad to be able to draw a line under a nightmare 2019/20 National League season.

But the Wrexham boss, who successfully led his side away from danger, is unsure what the immediate future holds with plenty of questions still to be answered.

The National League has announced all remaining league matches will be cancelled on Wednesday afternoon, chief executive Michael Tattersall adding: “The cancellation of the remaining normal season matches brings a degree of certainty to our clubs coping with the business implications of the virus.”

That is not the end of the story, however, with the National League confirming “options concerning the sporting outcomes of the 2019-20 season remain under careful and timely consideration” as they look to decide all three divisions.

If the board cannot come to a decision on final standings, it would return to a club vote.

Whether that means the season is declared null and void, or the final table decided using a points-per-game basis for the outstanding fixtures, remains to be seen, but Wrexham have done enough to finish outside of the relegation zone regardless.

“We don’t want the season to end how it has, but there were things way bigger than football to think about,” said Wrexham boss Keates.

“We were confident that we would still have been in the National League if we’d played the remaining nine games of the season though.

“The decision finally underlines everything and it brings the season to an end.”

Not every club is in Wrexham’s position, however. Barrow are top of the table by four points from in-form Harrogate, while the likes of Ebbsfleet United, Maidenhead and Fylde, currently in the relegation zone, would argue that they stood a chance of avoiding the drop.

“It sounds harsh on Barrow, but I don’t see how they can declare them champions, or promote them,” continued Keates. “Harrogate will say that there were 27 points to play for when the season was ended.

“The problem is that they aren’t going to appease everyone whether they choose to null and void the season or decide it on points-per-game.”

Promotion play-offs are under serious consideration – ideally with crowds should coronavirus regulations and timings permit – and only after that plan is considered will the National League look at other ways to determine league standings.

It means that the season remains up in the air for a host of teams, but even for those teams with no promotion or relegation concerns, things haven’t simply returned to ‘normal’.

Keates has six players – Shaun Pearson, Rob Lainton, Luke Young, Dan Jarvis, Devonte Redmond and Jay Harris – under contract for next season.

With no start date in place, it makes life difficult for those players soon to be out of contract – and managers trying to plan for the future.

“Players are out of contract soon and there is uncertainty,” said Keates. “Everything will be done as quickly as we can, but no matter what level you are at – Premier League, EFL or National League – no-one knows what’s happening.

“It’s a waiting game because we don’t know when the new season will start, these are unchartered waters.

“It’s not an ideal situation, that’s for sure, and it’s tough on the players, because we don’t know when we are preparing for. We are all waiting for the wheels to start turning again.”

There was a suggestion late on Wednesday night that there was “no appetite for behind closed doors matches” in the National League, which may mean a January 2021 return date for football at that level.

“The waters are muddy,” added Keates. “There are Chinese whispers all of the time.”

While the world of football waits, even Keates’ phone has stopped ringing quite as regularly as it would at this stage of any other campaign.

“We are getting agents calling and trying to be pro-active,” said Keates. “But it’s not as manic as it would be if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

“It’s just a case of wait and see before things can move forward.”

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