As Dean Keates becomes Walsall manager, we spoke to Wrexham fanzine ‘Fearless in Devotion’ about his coaching style and managerial qualities.
What have Dean’s greatest achievements been as Wrexham manager?
He’s instilled a winning mentality, just as he did as a player, and steadied a very rocky ship when Gary Mills was sacked. He had to manage a very poor team and steered us from danger, then totally revamped the squad and brought in quality players, with the key ones on two year deals to give some much needed stability back to the playing side of matters.
He set the tone high by enticing Shaun Pearson to join after Grimsby failed to offer him a new deal. His players mirror him - a tireless work ethic, a will to win and to set a standard and not dare to fall below it. On the occasions Wrexham didn’t meet those standards Keates demanded a response in the next game and often got it from the players.
He has brought in experienced players who have won promotions and who buy into the history and culture of the club. Everything is now meticulously done. Nothing is left to chance. He is methodical and leaves no stone un-turned in his game preparation.
To have a radical overhaul of a squad and have them in the mix for promotion is a remarkable turnaround, although goals have been an issue this season.
How would his you describe his managerial style?
Effective. He wants to play the game the right way but he knows in our division that you often have to win ugly. He isn’t afraid to mix things up and is honest enough to admit he should have changed things earlier in the game if he didn’t get the desired result.
He is very much a student of the game and is always learning. He knows he is nowhere near the finished article but he has a very good foundation from which to build.
He’s a great man manager and isn’t afraid to make tough decisions. He let our ‘Player of the Season’ go last season and replaced him with even better centre halves.
Tactically, what are his best and worst qualities?
Hmm. Tough one to answer. There is a wider belief that Carl Darlington who is our coach has more of the tactical nous and insight. So how much of it is all Dean’s is hard to call really. There have been a few occasions lately where many would have liked him to use the subs a bit earlier in games but I’m nit-picking.
Scott Boden has been key in our link up play in attack and then he was suddenly dropped from the squad. Nothing has been really said as to why…
Walsall struggle defensively, will Keates be able to plug the gaps?
He has assembled a record breaking defence at Wrexham. Twenty clean sheets this season and counting. His mantra is if you can’t win make sure you don’t lose. So addressing the defence will be top of his to-do list.
Does he favour an attacking style of play?
I’m not sure we have one! He likes to be expansive and use the wide men. We only lump it high and long when absolutely necessary and don’t get many piledrivers from the edge of the box. Set pieces are also key. He has an abundance of height with the centre half pairing and also with Quigley and now Simon Ainge.
Is he capable of lifting dressing room morale?
Undoubtedly. His CV reads ‘been there, seen it, done it, won it’. He will demand his players give their all or the exit door awaits. Mediocrity is not an option. He will get the best out of average players before replacing them with better ones if he doesn’t think he can help them progress.
How does he deal with the media?
Dean doesn’t say much on camera but what he does say makes sense and he doesn’t make excuses. He keeps to the script and wont go off topic unless he feels it’s relevant. He will question ref decisions, but feels decisions seem to even themselves out over the course of a season.
Oh, and he says ‘All being well’ and ‘basically’ an awful lot. Might be worth turning it into a drinking game!
A big thank you to Tim at ‘Fearless in Devotion’ for answering our questions. Best of luck to Wrexham in your promotion push.