Dean Keates must be sacked. There are several reasons for this but most pertinent is his unwillingness to deviate from his established ideas, which have been laid bare throughout his second spell as Wrexham manager.
He is not, as was suggested a couple of months ago, the antithesis of Sarah Atherton. He is not some symbol of opposition, a left-wing idealogue championing the true political identity of the town.
In reality, it is perhaps fitting that Keates is the manager of Wrexham AFC while its residents endure the policies of an increasingly unpopular Tory MP. His fetishisation of hard work seems more akin to Thatcherism, and none of his principles give any indication that he understands “the DNA of this community”.
Those who live in Wrexham and support the football club have been hit on two fronts over the last year: the austerity and repression of a Tory government and the austerity and repression of watching Dean Keates’ football team.
Both have been joyless, bleak experiences, even for the most optimistic and idealistic of us (and compounded by unrelenting lockdowns). Had it not been for the imminent takeover – which has dramatically changed the outlook of the town and football club – there would be a palpable sense of misery around Wrexham.
Perhaps it is hyperbolic to compare Keates to Thatcher, but there is something so utterly soulless, so grimly nihilistic about his approach to football. If he understands the people of Wrexham, he certainly doesn’t appear to understand what its football fans want to see.
Yes, hard work is a prerequisite. Commitment is necessary, but that is the case for any successful team. There must be more beyond that to avoid endless drudgery.
And drudgery is what fans have been subjected to almost incessantly for the past few weeks. It came to a head on Tuesday night against Halifax, a game bereft of any attacking intent. It was utterly lacklustre and depressing, an inexcusably cautious display of unimaginative dross. That is not what football should be about.
Take, for instance, the words of the great Argentinian coach Cesar Luis Menotti, a cerebral, bohemian, intellectual who saw football as an act of expressionism. “There is a right-wing football and a left-wing football,” he said. “Right-wing football wants us to believe that life is struggle. It demands sacrifices. We have to become steel and win by any methods.”
Menotti, in the 70s and 80s, was embroiled in a great philosophical debate with fellow manager Carlos Bilardo. The latter’s approach was not dissimilar to Keates’: functional, disciplined and with an emphasis on the outcome, not the process. “Football is about winning and nothing else,” said Bilardo.
It is obvious to any Wrexham supporter which category Keates falls under. And there are plenty in the sport who share the same beliefs. The romanticism and idealism of Menotti was often dismissed in favour of the realism of Bilardo.
Bilardo, of course, was actually successful. He led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup, helped by the brilliance of the late Diego Maradona, who was, incidentally, famously leftist and an advocate of Menotti.
The issue for Keates is that results have been inconsistent. And when that is combined with the turgid, dour football on display, fans tend to express their discontent. This is often the pitfall of those who follow the Bilardo school of thought.
Keates’ ideas are certainly not representative of Wrexham. This is a traditionally left-wing town, where football is viewed as an extension of the community. Menotti, a lifelong socialist, would have decried the football currently on display at the Racecourse. His Argentina team of the late 1970s played with expression and vibrancy, in complete contrast to the right-wing military dictatorship in control of the country at the time.
Football should offer hope in times of hardship. It should provide some escapism, some pleasure. Watching Wrexham of late (and far more so than usual) has felt masochistic, hardly a balm for the months of pandemic-induced lockdown and economic difficulty. And this is in spite of the remarkable takeover news, which has somehow been diminished by the sheer dreariness of the football.
It is clear, then, that Keates is not the right man to lead this football club. He has brought a cloud over Wrexham, one that will hopefully soon clear and allow supporters a glimpse of a brighter future.
This was sent in by a lifelong fan who asked for it to be published.