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Football: Four in race to replace Ferguson; Playmaker poser for Smith.


THE race is on for four young players hoping to impress Wrexham boss Den is Smith sufficiently to take over the team's play maker role.

With club captain Darren Ferguson suspended for Saturday's trip to Brighton, the Dragons boss will look for someone else to pull the strings in the midfield.

And the with the Scot missing a further two games due to a three match ban, the successful candidate will have a real chance to impress.

The four candidates Smith has identified for the role are: Summer signing Chris Llewellyn, used predominately as a striker this season.

Former Welsh under-21 international Stephen Thomas, who has impressed after being transfer-listed last season.

Rising star Mark Jones, who has already opened his goals account this season and has looked exciting in cameo roles.

Ex-Southampton midfielder Matt Crowell, who was a revelation in the pre-season Isle of Man tournament,but is having to bide his time.

Smith said: ``Whoever comes in, we'll have to change the system. We'd use the other two midfielders differently to accommodate a more attacking player, such as Chris Llewellyn or Mark Jones.

``But this is something we're used to. It's a myth than Darren stays deep and does just one role. If he's being man-marked, which does happen a lot,he'll move to a new position and the midfield will change accordingly.

``Mark (Jones)has taken a nasty kick on the calf and Steve (Thomas) is still struggling with a hamstring injury,but both will be in my thoughts as I make the decision.''



FORMER YTS trainee who made his debut in 1998. Was then stricken with injuries but in the last season he's managed to steer clear of them.

Transfer-listed last season,Thomas has redoubled his efforts to re-ignite his Dragons career.

STRENGTHS: Great work ethic, dangerous from set-pieces and is probably the most experienced candidate.

WEAKNESSES: Can often drift out of games and doesn't impose himself on the play as much as Ferguson.

SMITH SAID: ``I've been delighted with Steve this season,especially his attitude. Being put on the transfer list has given him the kick up the backside he needed. He wasn't producing last term,but he is this time.''


ANOTHER one to graduate from the Dragons' youth programme,Welsh under- 21 international Jones has been used sparingly this term,despite possessing great natural talent.

STRENGTHS: Has been described as one of the best finishers at the club and has the ability to play team-mates in with a killer pass.

WEAKNESSES: Some have questioned whether his physique can stand up to professional football,but has put on weight and muscle this season.

Inexperienced, but can only gain experience through playing.

SMITH SAID: ``This lad is going to be a fantastic player. His talents lie in the attacking elements of the game,because he doesn't know too much about defensive duties yet.''


WAS one of Wales' brightest young hopes when he left Swansea to go to Southampton as a teenager,but his career never took off on the south coast.

After Crowell impressed on trial,Smith gave him a contract at the start of the season and those behind the scenes say he's one to watch closely.

STRENGTHS: Likes the combative side of the game,but that doesn't distract from the fact that he's a fine footballer. Can pass with either foot.

WEAKNESSES: Smith didn't play him at the start of the season because he was worried about the number of cautions he would pick up.

SMITH SAID: ``He played the Ferguson role against Stockport in the LDV Vans and did it very well. The lad likes to get stuck in but we've been helping him to decide when to tackle and when not to.''


CAME to Wrexham as a striker but his best displays have been in a deeper role. Started at Norwich but injuries blighted his progress. Went on-loan to Bristol Rovers last season and scored twice when they visited the Racecourse.

STRENGTHS: Excellent at switching the play and possesses a vicious shot. His adaptability is also going to be crucial, with the Dragons having a small squad. WEAKNESSES: In Ferguson's role,he may be tempted to bomb forward too much. Sometimes what he attempts simply doesn't come off and he does not shoot as much as he should.

SMITH SAID: ``He can play anywhere. We were even debating whether to use him as a wing-back at one point. He can do the midfield role because the lad is a good footballer. They (goodplayers)can play everywhere.''
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 25, 2003
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