Wrexham AFC midfielder Leo Smith wants to hit the ground running

Reporter:

Richard Williams

LEO SMITH enjoyed a memorable 2016-17 campaign – but the midfielder won’t rest on his laurels and is only looking forward.

Twelve months ago, second year scholar Smith was promoted to train with Wrexham’s first team by then-manager Gary Mills, although he failed to make a competitive appearance.

That all changed when Dean Keates took over as Reds’ boss, Smith coming off the substitutes’ bench for his senior debut in the 2-1 home win against Bromley on October 22.

Smith became a regular under Keates, who was delighted with his progress and the 19-year-old duly signed a first professional contract in February.

His breakthrough season finished by scooping the Young Player of the Year award, but Smith is targeting an even more successful 2017/18 campaign.

“It was a year to remember but hopefully this year can be even better – last season has gone now,” said Smith, who made 20 league appearances and scored his first senior goal in the 3-1 victory at York City in April.

“I have been working hard to get stronger and fitter during the break for when we go back in for pre-season, this league is a big test for young players to play in.

“I just want to make a good impression from the first day of pre-season.

“The aim is to play even more games, improve as a player and hopefully play my part in the club getting success.”

Keates’ new-look Wrexham squad report back for pre-season training tomorrow and Smith is determined to hit the ground running ahead of the Reds’ 10th season in non-league.

“I can’t wait to get back,” said Smith. “The gaffer has brought new players in and I think it is a new test for myself.

“I am looking to improve on last season and I am really looking forward to it.

“I just want to impress more people every day in training and every game that I play.

“Hopefully I can get in the team. I will give it a good go, and help the team try and get that promotion.”

Keates has revamped the squad following Wrexham’s mid-table finish last term and eight new signings have been added to the five players who remain at The Racecourse.

Experienced midfielder Sam Wedgbury is among the new arrivals, fresh from helping Forest Green Rovers win promotion via the National League play-offs.

The likes of Mark Carrington and James Hurst will also be competing for a place in midfield, with Keates set to add more options in the coming weeks.

But Smith has welcomed the competition and says the new arrivals can only help his development.

“I am looking forward to the challenge,” said Smith, who has been joined in the first team by Olly Marx after the centre-back penned his first pro deal. “I will be learning off new players so I can improve my game  watching them.

“There will be quite a bit of competition. I have just got to show what I can do in training and compete with the midfielders coming in.

“Pre-season is a big test for me and Olly, we have just got to make an impression and hopefully play well in the games.

“If we can do that, the gaffer has got a decision to make when it comes to the first game of the season.

“Hopefully I can get in, keep my place in the team and play most games. I am just looking forward to getting back into it.”

But although fully focused on the coming season, Smith finished by thanking supporters for choosing him as Wrexham’s young player of the year.

“A few of the lads were saying that I had a good chance but I never really thought about it,” added Smith.

“I was over the moon when it happened and I am really grateful to the fans for voting for me.”

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