Former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Dean Saunders has been given the task of rescuing Wrexham from non-league football. Wales' oldest club suffered relegation from the Football League at the end of last season. But their start in the Blue Star Premier League has been disastrous, and one win in six league games cost Brian Little his job as manager last week.
Now Saunders, who has held top coaching jobs at Blackburn and Newcastle, has taken the gamble to start his management career outside of full-time football. Saunders has been working as coach to the senior Wales squad under manager John Toshack, and will be allowed to combine the two roles. His first match in charge, having been officially appointed yesterday, will be at Forest Green tomorrow before he joins up with the Wales squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Germany on 11 and 15 October.
Saunders, who also played for Derby, Swansea, Cardiff and Galatasaray in a glittering 12-club career and has always kept his home in Cheshire just across the border from the Racecourse ground, is Wrexham's fourth manager in 22 months.
Saunders' appointment has come as a surprise. Earlier this week he was invited – along with his former Liverpool boss Roy Evans – to oversee a practice match at Wrexham to help the chairman Geoff Moss evaluate the playing squad. Evans has also acted as an advisor to the north Wales club in recent months. At the time Moss made it clear that Saunders was only offering advice. But now Moss said: "I'm delighted to have secured someone of Dean's standing. Initially I only asked him to give me his advice but after long talks with him I realised that he wanted to get involved. His enthusiasm is infectious and it's something that really excites me and as to what he can bring to us."
Moss had revealed that Wrexham had 18 managerial applications since Little's departure but not one from Saunders. Moss said: "Dean is very keen to take his first managerial role and I'm looking forward to seeing him in charge at the Racecourse."
Moss is a close friend and golfing partner of Saunders, who scored 22 goals in 75 Wales appearances, and he had assisted the Racecourse chief by taking striking clinics for Wrexham's forwards last season. It has been thought that Saunders was being groomed by the FA of Wales to one day replace Toshack, whose contract expires in 2010.
Dean Saunders' career goals tally.