Wrexham’s track record with strikers in the National League makes for horrendous reading. Despite a number of very good forwards passing through the club in recent times, lethal goal scorers have been few and far between. There’s been plenty who have scored goals both before and after leaving Wrexham, yet few have managed to bag consistently while wearing the red shirt. Astonishingly, since relegation in 2008, Jake Speight is the only player to surpass twenty league goals in a single campaign (and he had the luxury of playing in one of the best non-league sides of all time). But even worse than that, it’s been two seasons since a Wrexham player has even mustered double figures. Pathetic.
Had Jordan Ponticelli been at Wrexham for all of last season, he most certainly would have broken that unwelcome trend. Arriving on loan from Coventry City, he managed 2 goals in 5 appearances before the league’s curtailment. It should have been 3 in 5, with his goal against Eastleigh wrongly ruled out for offside. Even though he didn’t get to play much, he looked very promising, perhaps too good for the National League? Most fans assumed the 22-year-old’s brief spell here would just be a springboard back to the Football League. So the news that he’d committed his future to Wrexham for the next two years was a huge boost, a desperately needed early statement of intent from Dean Keates. Unfortunately, Jordan has seen fewer minutes than anyone in pre-season and appears to carry a niggling injury. Given the quality of forwards brought in after his arrival, he may have an uphill battle on his hands to reclaim a starting spot.
On paper, the arrival of Adi Yussuf on loan from Blackpool is the most reassuring of all our signings, simply because he’s the only player we’ve got with any real track record of scoring goals. The Tanzanian international, who lives by the motto “No goals, No sleep”, bagged 21 in all competitions for Solihull in 2018-19. But he had a tough go of things last season. Having struggled to break into a League One side, he bounced around the National League with loan spells back at Solihull and also Boreham Wood. Wrexham fans will be hoping he can replicate the form which nearly fired Solihull to the National League title in 2019.
Both Yussuf and Ponticelli will feel their chances of scoring this season can only be aided by the arrival of Kwame Thomas. A decent 6”3, Thomas will be looking to terrorize National League defenders by winning the aerial duels and creating both chances and space for his strike partner. Although not known primarily as a goal scorer, he’s bagged a bunch in pre-season and will be looking to take that form into Saturday’s curtain raiser with Boreham Wood. We’ve needed a player of this profile for a while, and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t start the opening game.
It feels like a lifetime since a Wrexham academy graduate really burst on to the scene. Leo Smith had the quality to do so, but found opportunities to shine too few and far between. But of all the youngsters who got the chance to play in the Scottish Challenge Cup last season, it was Jake Bickerstaff who made by far the biggest impression. The nineteen year old began pre-season as a distant fourth choice in our depth chart of strikers, but has gradually played his way into Dean Keates’ considerations. It seems inevitable that he will get opportunities to showcase his abilities this season. With Ponticelli possibly injured, they may come sooner than anyone expected.
Overall: Sceptics will point to a lack of combined goals from this foursome over their careers, but that is perhaps a little unfair. Yussuf showed at Solihull he can deliver big numbers. This is a chance for him to prove it wasn’t a one off. Ponticelli can finish, we know that. Kwame Thomas will argue his primary attributes extend beyond putting the ball in the back of the net, while Bickerstaff will be desperate to make the most of any opportunity that comes his way. As always, the way Wrexham set up will be key. If it’s the ‘Keatesball’ of 2017-18, they’ll be lucky to get 30 between them. But there’s more creativity across the entire squad now, and it is imperative that Dean Keates makes the most of what he has at his disposal.