Entertainer Andy has all the answers

Wrexham player manager Andy Morrell
Wrexham player manager Andy Morrell
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Andy Morrell used to organise the entertainment on the Blackpool FC bus heading to away games.

Andy Morrell used to organise the entertainment on the Blackpool FC bus heading to away games.

He would stride through the coach handing out specially prepared quiz sheets to his team-mates.

He would add up the scores and give a prize to the winner.

It was a laugh back then, something to pass the time, but perhaps it was a sign of things to come.

Morrell was in charge ... something he’s doing a lot more of these days.

The former Seasiders frontman, whose finest hour in a Blackpool shirt came when he smashed four goals in a 6-3 win at Swansea en route to promotion to the Championship, is manager of Wrexham.

He took over when Dean Saunders departed for Doncaster in September and to say he has done well is something of an understatement.

Seven wins in nine games followed, taking Wrexham to the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier, where they are just about fending off Micky Mellon’s Fleetwood.

Not surprisingly, Morrell was given the job until the end of the season. It was a case of being thrown in at the deep end but the 37-year-old is doing himself proud.

Morrell said: “I remember Simon Grayson saying how hard it is to be mates with the players one minute, then be the boss the next and lay down the law. It is difficult.

“But management was always something I had thought about. When situations have arisen at other clubs I’ve been at, I’ve always thought, ‘How would I deal with that?’

“Normally, though, you go from a player to coach, then manager. There is a ladder you have to climb. But an opportunity arose and I was asked to do it, and I suppose I’ve leapfrogged a couple of rungs.

“I am thoroughly enjoying it. Maybe I have had to become a little more professional and less of a joker – I suppose you can’t be a prankster as a manager.

“But I like the banter and I think it is good for a club, so we will keep that going.

“I’ve had plenty of it aimed in my direction, talking about how I’ll not need many more haircuts and all that sort of stuff. But I don’t mind that while we’re training, as long as we are doing things right at the same time.”

Morrell, an ever-present during the Seasiders ‘Perfect Ten’ run which culminated in promotion at Wembley in 2007, is modest when it comes to his achievements at Wrexham.

Praising Billy Barr, the former Preston and Sheffield Wednesday coach he has brought in as his No.2, Morrell says they are simply continuing what Saunders put in place.

“We have a formula that works for our team and there is no point in me changing any of that because we are doing quite well,” explained Morrell, who began his playing career at Wrexham back.

“My job is to maintain the momentum and keep that ball rolling. The players have been fantastic. They have not batted an eyelid at the change and so far it is all going nicely.”

In truth, things probably haven’t been too different for the players. It is Morrell himself who has had to get used to a new way of life.

Married with children, will he turn into another Sir Alex Ferguson, who famously celebrated his wedding anniversary by taking his wife to watch a reserve game?

“Erm, I’m not sure we’ll go to those lengths. My missus would most likely kill me if I suggested that.

“We played in the FA Cup last Friday night (when Morrell proved he’s got plenty left in the tank by scoring twice in a 2-2 draw at Cambridge), so I suggested going to a game on the Saturday and she wasn’t best pleased with that,” he laughs.

“It is different working hours but she has been brilliant. She has just said, ‘Do what you have to do, just keep me informed of where you are’.

“I think it is important to have your down time and your family time, but it is very difficult because your phone is going non-stop. When you’re trying to look after the kids at the same time it isn’t easy.

“Sometimes you just have to miss phonecalls because your kids are more important than football. I want to keep it as separate as I can.

“But it is a little busier than it was before, when I would just turn up for training and then go home. Now it’s turn up early, and think about what you are going to do in training and who is going to play at the weekend. It is all going through your mind constantly.

“However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it.”

Morrell’s work at the helm is all the more impressive given that Wrexham still have major financial problems, with a fans’ trust attempting to buy the club.

But that is having little impact on performances, with Morrell’s men top of the league on goal difference from Fleetwood.

Morrell added: “I know Fleetwood well from my time at Blackpool and it will be a really good battle between us this season.

“They obviously have a lot of money and have spent it well. They have been on a really good run recently.

“It is going to be a tough against them but it is a really difficult league to get out of full stop, with only one automatic place and one play-off place, so you could get 100 points and still not get promoted.

“We are there to be shot at. The question is: do we have the ability to stay top of the pile?”

No matter how busy he gets this season, Morrell will keep an eye on the fortunes of Blackpool, a club he has fond memories of.

“I loved my time there, so I was gutted when they came down from the Premier League because I know how hard they worked to stay in. They were a breath of fresh air last year and they just didn’t quite have enough to stay in there.

“But they’ve managed to keep hold of the nucleus of the team and I think they will do all right this year. That was a really good win over Leeds the other week and I think they have a great chance of being in and around it again. If they can keep their key players fit, then I think they have every chance.”

From quizmaster to manager, Morrell has come a long way in a few years ... and there’s every chance he’ll go even further.