Solihull Moors were once feared. It was not so long ago that Tim Flowers put together a team of neanderthals, with an average height of about 7 foot 2 and an insatiable appetite for heading footballs.
Wrexham, like every other team in the National League, were dwarfed by this group of large and imposing men. When they played at the Racecourse, it felt like the ball was perpetually floating towards the box, towards the head of some hulking, barrel-chested centre-forward.
They were capable of playing football, too, but mostly they chose not to. Instead Solihull’s style of play looked more like a bastardised form of rugby: endless punts forward, midfielders with the kind of physiques that would have made Dean Keates, Jay Harris and Lee Fowler look like very small, vulnerable children.
This is not meant as a criticism. Solihull’s approach was unquestionably effective, so much so that Keates – by now relatively knowledgeable about the division and its most innovative teams – appears to have taken some inspiration from them.
Wrexham, this summer, have signed no fewer than four former Solihull players. Jamie Reckord, Fiacre Kelleher, Kwame Thomas and Adi Yussuf were all at Moors recently, and all of them, inevitably, are well over 6 foot.
In defence and attack, there is now added height. And there is still room for a diminutive creative player. In Wrexham’s case, it will be Elliott Durrell, while Solihull had – and still have – Jamey Osborne.
It’s obvious that Keates has acknowledged the need for brawn in a division where games can effectively be won and lost on set pieces or a simple, speculative ball into the box.
There was something almost tame and submissive about last season’s team. There was no real desire to battle for wins, no thirst to fight for second balls and jump into aerial challenges.
This is basic stuff – hardly ground-breaking tactical analysis – but it counts for a lot in the National League, which remains, for all of its development in recent years, an overtly physical division.
What Solihull did so well was establish a reputation in a relatively short space of time. There was something intangibly terrifying about them. Playing against Flowers’ side was akin to being on the other end of a siege, a relentless and tiring barrage of long balls that seemed to go on and on.
That is not to say that Wrexham will do the same this year. A midfield of Luke Young and Harris – perhaps James Horsfield, too – is not going to be aerially dominant (though there is plenty of aggression there).
The salient point is that Keates looks set to instil elements of Moors’ game into his own team. Having four of their former players will do that anyway, and it might just be to the benefit of the rest of the squad.
How the early part of the season plays out remains to be seen, though the trip to the West Midlands this week will be an interesting barometer of the changes in this Wrexham team. Perhaps they won’t be especially noticeable, or perhaps the Solihullification of Keates’ side will be on full show on Tuesday night.
When Wrexham take to the pitch at Damson Park, there should be more of a presence about them. And, given time, they might eventually become as feared as Tim Flowers’ old team once were.
Callum is a freelance journalist who has written for countless major football platforms across the world. The best place to find more of his excellent coverage is by following him on Twitter – @Callumrc96