Wrexham Transfer DealSheet: Jamie Lindsay latest; Arthur Okonkwo wanted; centre-halves situation

With Welcome to Wrexham fast approaching the series three finale, supporters will soon get the chance to relive the joy that was their club’s second promotion in as many years.

No doubt the producers will bring down the curtain on another remarkable chapter in this Hollywood tale by once again tugging at the heartstrings, in the process transporting fans right back to the day when Wrexham thumped Forest Green Rovers 6-0 to book their League One ticket.

In reality, however, promotion was sealed 52 days ago, while even the final-day victory over champions Stockport County was way back on April 27.

Plenty of time, therefore, to put into place transfer plans designed to ensure Wrexham cope with the step up to a level they last played in 2005. And while there’s been no tangible progress as yet — new peers Rotherham United have already made seven new signings — plenty has been going on behind the scenes.


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What positions are they looking at this summer?

Unlike a year ago, when the belief was a few tweaks would be enough to be EFL-ready, this time around more of an overhaul is needed. Back-to-back promotions, together with the release of six senior players with almost 800 Wrexham appearances between them, means serious reinforcements will be needed.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at the back, where goalkeeper is a priority along with a need to strengthen the pool of central defenders. Wrexham still want Arthur Okonkwo, the Arsenal loanee who did such a sterling job between the posts last season he was named in the Sky Bet League Two team of the year.

But, with plenty of interest from elsewhere, including the Championship, it remains to be seen whether the free agent will return. If he doesn’t, Phil Parkinson will want to move fast to provide competition for Mark Howard, who is expected to accept the offer of a one-year contract extension, and Luke McNicholas.


Arthur Okonkwo is one of Wrexham’s targets (Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

The release of Ben Tozer, Jordan Tunnicliffe and Aaron Hayden means centre-half is an area that needs strengthening, even allowing for the presence of Eoghan O’Connell, Max Cleworth, Tom O’Connor and Will Boyle.

Any of this quartet could happily start in the back three on August 10 but, as last season proved with injuries and suspension, a minimum of six central defenders are likely to be needed.

Providing Parkinson sticks with the 3-5-2 formation that has become his trademark at Wrexham, he seems well served at wing-back, even if Jacob Mendy might not return until the opening weeks following surgery.

A midfield trio of Elliot Lee, George Evans and Andy Cannon, with James Jones ready to step in if required, looks strong. Again, though, a couple of good-quality additions would make a big difference, with Lee, in particular, requiring genuine competition.

Up front, Wrexham seem overloaded with numbers. But, really, a quality striker should be on the shopping list, more than likely to partner Paul Mullin.

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Which players are they looking at?

Rotherham’s Jamie Lindsay (pictured top) was wanted by Wrexham in January but a deal could not be thrashed out with the Championship strugglers. The Scot last month confirmed his departure from the New York Stadium after five years so will be available from July 1 as a free agent.

Wrexham have one eye on Lindsay’s situation, as Parkinson weighs up his options in midfield. Lindsay would certainly slot in well as the holding midfielder, either as competition for Evans or to allow the versatile former Millwall man to shift into the back three.

Marc Leonard, the Brighton midfielder who has spent the past two seasons on loan at Northampton Town, is also on the radar. Contact is understood to have been made with the 22-year-old’s agent but, again, there is serious interest from elsewhere in the Scot, including newly promoted Oxford United.

Conor Hourihane, fresh from captaining Derby County to promotion from League One, has also been linked, though sources in Yorkshire have said for some time that a player-coach role is likely to be his next move.

In terms of reinforcing the back line, Wrexham are understood to be one of several suitors for Jason Kerr, the Wigan Athletic central defender. The 27-year-old is out of contract on June 30 but Wigan have been pushing hard over the weekend to retain him, with the offer of the captaincy at the DW Stadium understood to possibly be on the table.


Marc Leonard has been impressing at Northampton Town (Pete Norton/Getty Images)

What moves have they made already?

As with previous summers, the free agent market has been a major focus in the early weeks of the close season. This area has proved very successful for Wrexham, with Mullin arriving on a free in 2021 and Elliot Lee a year later.

Plenty of approaches have been made to agents, including Okonkwo’s representatives. But this is invariably a time for patience when chasing players also wanted by others, especially as they are not officially due to leave their respective clubs until June 30.

Who will make the key decisions this summer?

Parkinson, backed up by a wealth of experience that includes assistant Steve Parkin and Chris Johnson, a respected scout he first linked up with when manager of Bolton Wanderers.

Then there’s the rest of the coaching staff, plus Les Reed, a former Football Association technical director and now an advisor to the board. Parkinson, though, always has the final say. An insistence on meeting every prospective new signing in person to gauge their character forms a big part of his decision-making.

Once a decision has been made, negotiations are handed over to Shaun Harvey, the former EFL chief executive who joined the board late last year after previously working as an advisor to Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. These talks include both wages and any possible transfer fee, Harvey keeping Parkinson abreast of all developments.

Who will they be looking to sell?

Billy Waters, signed during the National League title run-in, spent the second half of last season on loan at Doncaster Rovers and can leave. Another loan may well be on the cards for someone unlikely to make the 22-man squad.

Jake Bickerstaff is another who could go out on loan, though more this time for valuable experience. With a striker expected to be on Parkinson’s shopping list, a season playing in League Two looks to be the 22-year-old academy graduate’s best plan.

As for the rest still under contract, it will be interesting to see who feels a move away could be best for their careers. Jordan Davies, for instance, featured in 25 league games last season but his total minutes (424) on the pitch were only marginally higher than Ben Foster, who retired in August. Davies, 25, has plenty of talent but maybe a move away for regular first-team football will be in his interests.

Sam Dalby is another whose career stalled somewhat last season after finishing the previous campaign strongly.


Billy Waters is likely to play elsewhere next season (Patrick T Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

Which players’ contracts are expiring?

Club captain Luke Young, Callum McFadzean, Rob Lainton, Tozer, Tunnicliffe and Hayden have all been released, along with youngsters Owen Cushion, Dan Davies and Scott Butler. One-year contracts have been offered to Howard and Steven Fletcher ahead of their existing deals expiring at the end of this month.

What is their PSR position?

Unlike those in the Premier League and Championship, Wrexham are not subject to profit and sustainability (PSR) rules. Instead, Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP) is the snappily titled protocol that Leagues One and Two clubs operate under.

Under these rules, 60 per cent of annual revenue can be spent on wages by clubs in League One (there is an exception for those newly relegated from the Championship, who can spend up to 75 per cent).

This is slightly up on the 55 per cent allowed last season as a League Two club under SCMP. Considering Wrexham’s income is likely to be slightly higher in the coming season than the projected £20million-plus ($26m-plus) banked by the club in 2023-24, abiding by the rules on wages is unlikely to be a problem.

What do they have to do before June 30?

Until subject to the PSR rules that are now seeing clubs in the top two divisions having to push sales through before the end of the financial year to comply, Wrexham have no such concerns. However, a couple of new signings wouldn’t go amiss before the end of this month, as this will mean any additions getting a full pre-season with their new team-mates.

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What sort of budget do they have?

Healthy. Wrexham twice tried to break their club transfer record last season only to be scuppered on both occasions. First, by a failure to register the correct paperwork to sign Harrogate Town striker Luke Armstrong after agreeing a deal in the region of £500,000. Then, in the January window, by Rotherham United rejecting an offer for Lindsay believed to be higher than the current club record £300,000 paid to AFC Wimbledon for Ollie Palmer in January 2022.

That record fee may remain intact but those two unsuccessful bids underlined the ambition of the owners. These have only been bolstered by two promotions in as many years, so expect that to be reflected in the summer window — either via big-money bids or snapping up free agents who had been expected to move higher up the football pyramid, just as they did when signing Mullin and Elliot Lee in back-to-back summers when still a National League club.

What is the manager’s priority?

What will be interesting is whether Parkinson delves into the loan market more than previously as Wrexham manager. Okonkwo aside, he has stuck to permanent signings with one eye on the future, in that by signing players from the level above he was future-proofing the squad for promotion. Such a ploy has worked well.

However, the higher a club goes, the more important good-quality loans become — especially in the Championship where Omari Hutchinson (Chelsea) and Kieffer Moore (Bournemouth) helped Ipswich Town clinch automatic promotion and four of Southampton’s starting XI in last week’s play-offs final triumph over Leeds United belonged to other clubs.

Being in League One increases the chances of top Premier League clubs seeing Wrexham as a viable option for a precocious talent.

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(Top image: Jamie Lindsay of Rotherham United by Catherine Ivill via Getty Images)

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