March to Glory: A Guide to the Cymru Premier – Part 3

Introduction

Welcome to the third and final part of my guide to the Cymru Premier, the top-flight league in Wales. In the previous part, the format of the league was discussed further, as well as what happened in the 2018-19 season. The links for the previous parts to the series can be found above.

Cymru Premier Logo

In this final part of the guide, I will talk about this season’s Cymru Premier, which is the first one under the new name and branding. A brief description of the twelve clubs who are competing within the Welsh top-flight league shall be given to provide further information on the clubs (and potentially allow you to follow a club should you wish to), as well as what has happened during this current (2019-20) season.

 

2019-20 Cymru Premier Clubs

Wales Map 2019-20
The clubs competing in the 2019-20 Cymru Premier, and where they are located within Wales (and England).

The New Saints

  • Stadium: Park Hall, Oswestry
  • Nicknames: The Saints, TNS
  • Colours: Green and white hooped shirts, white shorts & socks
  • 2018-19: Welsh Premier Champions, Welsh Cup Winners
  • Twitter: @tnsfc
  • Website: https://www.tnsfc.co.uk/

The New SaintsThe New Saints are the current and defending champions of the Cymru Premier, and are considered “the team to beat” within the league. The Saints have won the past eight league titles consecutively, and have achieved twelve league championships within the last fifteen seasons. Quite frankly, they have dominated the Welsh league since the turn of the millennium! TNS are also the all-time, record league winners, having won thirteen league championship titles in their history. Their first league title came in the 1999-2000 season, halting Barry Town’s quest of winning five league titles in a row.

The New Saints were created from a merger between two Welsh Premier League sides, Total Network Solutions (who were based in the northern Powys village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, and called Llansantffraid FC originally) and Oswestry Town. As part of the merger, TNS moved from their council-owned ground in Llansantffraid into Oswestry’s old ground at Park Hall, which they could further develop. The new ground was about ten miles away from their old base, but crucially over the Welsh-English border. As a result, the merger had to be ratified by FIFA as it involved clubs based in Wales and England. However it was accepted because of Oswestry Town playing in the Welsh leagues at the time, and also Oswestry Town’s history involved with Welsh football (they were one of the founding members of the FAW, with many players from Oswestry FC making up the first Welsh teams, for example).

TNS (5)
Park Hall, the home of The New Saints

Their unique name was established in 2006, and represents the history of both the originally merged clubs. Llansantffraid’s nickname was originally The Saints (‘Llansantffraid‘ meaning ‘Church of Saint Brigid‘ in English), whilst Oswestry had strong connections to Saint Oswald (the name ‘Oswestry‘ deriving from ‘Oswald’s Tree‘, from which miracles apparently occurred from after the dismembered arm of St. Oswald was placed in it by a raven…as so often happens…). Plus it linked nicely to the club’s previous sponsored name of Total Network Solutions, by having the same initials of TNS.

They were the only fully professional club in the league for a long time, which allowed them to bring in full-time players to strengthen their squad. Because of their continued strength in squad depth, they have managed to qualify for European competition every season since 2000. During those European adventures, they have played some high profile matches against Manchester City, Liverpool, Anderlecht and FC Copenhagen, as well as achieving some impressive results, which has helped improve Wales’ co-efficiency position within the UEFA Association Rankings.

The New Saints also hold the record for having the most consecutive club victories by a top-flight team. They extended their winning run to 27 matches, surpassing the record set by the great Ajax team of the 1970’s, which was 26 victories. The record being broken on the 30th December 2016, when they beat Cefn Druids 2-0.

 

Connah’s Quay Nomads

  • Stadium: Deeside Stadium, Connah’s Quay
  • Nickname: The Nomads
  • Colours: All red kit with white trim
  • 2018-19: Runners-Up, Welsh Cup Finalists, Scottish Challenge Cup Finalists
  • Twitter: @the_nomads
  • Website: https://www.the-nomads.co.uk/

Gap Connah's Quay Logo

Connah’s Quay Nomads are currently the side who is nearest to challenging TNS’ dominance of the league, having finished runners-up to them last season. They are currently managed by former Manchester City captain and cult hero, Andy Morrison, who has done wonders with the Nomads since he took charge in November 2015. Under his management, they have risen from a relegation-threatened side to one of the strongest teams in the league. In addition, a rise of financial income for the club has ensured they have been able to sign players on professional contracts, and thus compete with TNS.

The Flintshire based side are becoming renown for producing cup shocks, having beaten Nordic sides, Stabæk and HJK Helsinki, in recent years in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League. Whilst this season they famously knocked out Scottish Premier League club, Kilmarnock (who finished third in the league behind the ‘Old Firm‘) out of the Europa League 3-2 on aggregate. This was followed by putting in a respectable performance over two legs against FK Partizan of Serbia. An amazing achievement considering that their first ever European adventure only came in the 2016-17 season. The Nomads also made history in the Scottish Challenge Cup, where they became the first non-Scottish club to make it to the final of the competition. Despite a spirited performance, the Nomads lost to Ross County 1-3 in the final (which was a flattering scoreline for the Staggies, as Connah’s Quay were the superior side in the first half).

This season, the Nomads are the most northern-based team in the league, playing in the far north-eastern corner of the country, near to the banks of the River Dee Estuary. They currently play in the Deeside Stadium, an athletics ground which is directly next to Coleg Cambria, a further education college that educates the people of Flintshire, and also uses the stadium for athletic events. There are discussions and proposals for the Nomads to potentially groundshare with local rivals, Flint Town United (of the Cymru North) in the future, as the Deeside Stadium pitch is often prone to waterlogging and cutting up in the winter months. It would see the Nomads travel 3 miles up-river to Flint’s excellent Cae-y-Castell ground, which is located right on the estuary and beside the imposing ruins of Flint Castle.

Connahs Quay vs TNS 16th Jan 2016
The Deeside Stadium, home of Connah’s Quay Nomads

Connah’s Quay’s last major trophy was winning the 2018 Welsh Cup final, beating Aberystwyth Town 4-1 in the historical cup competition. They became only the third club from the football-mad county of Flintshire to win the national cup competition in its entire history, and the first since Flint Town United won the national cup all the way back in 1954.

 

Barry Town United

Barry Town UnitedBarry Town United are the most southern-based team in this season’s Cymru Premier, located right on the southern tip of Wales, within the Vale of Glamorgan. Situated on the banks of the Môr Hafren (English: Bristol Channel), Barry has been and still is a popular and historic seaside resort, as well as being the third biggest town within Wales, and just ten miles south-west of Cardiff. They play at Jenner Park, which was also the ground of Barry Town, before their demise in 2013.

Barry Town United originate from the ashes of the old Barry Town side (as mentioned in Part 1 of the series), after Barry Town’s controversial owner pulled them out of the Welsh Football League, but the team and supporters’ group continued with the side. After some legal wrangling with the FAW, which involved a High Court decision in Cardiff, it was announced that Barry Town United would restart in the fourth tier for the start of the 2013-14 season, starting in the Welsh League Division Three.

It would take BTU just two seasons to return back to the second tier, where Barry Town had originally resigned from, having won back-to-back championships and promotions. After finishing as runners-up to Cardiff Met University in their first season back in Division One, they would gain another promotion, this time back to the Welsh Premier League by winning the 2016-17 Welsh League Division One title. An amazing rise through the leagues for the Linnets, who had climbed from the fourth tier of Welsh football to the top tier in just four seasons! It would also be the first appearance of a Barry side in the top flight since 2004!

Under the management of Gavin Chesterfield, who has been with the club for the majority of its history since its re-foundation, they managed to safely maintain their Welsh Premier League status in their first season by finishing a solid seventh position. However the fairy-tale story of Barry Town United would not end there! Last season, they finished in an impressive third position within the league, which meant they automatically qualified for the Europa League. The phoenix club had made their way back into Europe in just six seasons!! Unbelievable!

Because of their resurgence through the leagues, and the supporters’ drive to reclaim their club in the early days, Barry Town United have naturally produced a strong, loyal and vocal support for the team. They generally have some of the highest attendances in the league, providing an excellent atmosphere at home games, and will often take large cohorts of yellow & blue-clad passionate away fans to games.

 

Caernarfon Town

Caernarfon Town BadgeCaernarfon Town is located in the predominantly Welsh-speaking area of Wales, situated in the far north-west of the country in the historical kingdom (now county) of Gwynedd. Based on the strategic location of the Menai Straits, the town is most famous for its Roman fort (Segontium) and English-built castle, which is one of the largest castles in North Wales. Caernarfon Town are the best supported team in the league, having broken a number of league attendance records last season, and their amazingly passionate supporters are known as “The Cofi Army”. ‘Cofi‘ being a colloquial term for someone from Caernarfon, and the Welsh dialect they speak.

The team originally played in the English football pyramid, and were one of the ‘Irate Eight’ (as mentioned in Part 1) until they returned back to Welsh league football after having to play their ‘home games’ in exile. They first appeared in the League of Wales in the 1995-96 season, and played in the top flight (bar for one season in 2000-01) until the 2008-09 season, when severe financial problems caused the club to suffer two consecutive relegations in as many seasons and find themselves within the third-tier of Welsh football and under threat of folding completely.

Thankfully their passionate fans rallied around the club, and they consolidated their position within the Welsh Alliance for three seasons before returning back to the Cymru Alliance as league champions. The Canaries then spent the next five seasons in the Cymru Alliance as one of the strongest teams within the league, finishing no lower than third position. They did eventually win the league in the 2015-16 season, however due to issues with the WPL licence application, they were denied a WPL licence and thus had to remain in the Cymru Alliance for the following season.

The Oval - Caernarfonshire

Despite this blow, and failing to regain the trophy in the following season, Caernarfon finally reclaimed the Cymru Alliance title in the 2018-19 season. Thankfully on this occasion, they managed to achieve all the required criteria to attain the relative WPL licence, and deservedly earn themselves promotion back to the top flight! Last season, the club surprised the pundits, who had tipped them to potentially struggle, by finishing in fourth position in the Welsh Premier League and producing excellent performances throughout the season. Although they disappointingly missed out on Europe by losing to Cardiff Met in the semi-finals of the play-offs, despite having home advantage. Nevertheless, it was still a fantastic season for the newly-promoted club!

Caernarfon’s biggest rivals are Bangor City, echoing the rivalry between the two locations in Arfon, as well as enjoying a healthy rivalry with fellow Arfon side, Porthmadog. In addition, a friendly rivalry has also developed between themselves and Holywell Town, which originates from their days in the Welsh Alliance League when they were both aiming for the league title.

 

Newtown AFC

Newtown AFCNewtown AFC are one of the ‘grandees’ of Welsh football having been founding members of the League of Wales, and to have never  been relegated from the top flight since its foundation in 1992. Based in the central Welsh town of Newtown, in Powys, they are one of the oldest clubs in Welsh football. They were founded in 1875 as Newtown White Stars, and were also one of the founding members of the FAW. In addition, they were part of the trailblazing Welsh teams in the Welsh Cup, winning the national cup competition in 1879 and 1895, as well as finishing as finalists a further four times in the late 19th century. Sadly for the Robins, they have not added a third Welsh Cup since their second in 1895, although they did end up becoming Welsh Cup finalists in 2015 (their first final appearance in 118 years!).

Their ground, Latham Park, is considered as the best ground in the league, having a capacity of 5,000 and seating available for 1,300 supporters. As a result, and its central location, the ground has often been used for national cup finals. The ground is named in honour of George Latham, a local lad who played ten times for the Wales national side between 1905 and 1913.

Another one of the teams who initially played in the English football pyramid, they initially were one of the better sides in the league, and had finished as runners-up on two separate occasions prior to the turn of the millennium. However since the millennium, they have mostly been a top half to middling team, with their highest league position being fifth place since 2001. There were a few occasions where they almost got relegated from the top flight, especially in the 2011-12 season when they finished bottom of the league. However the lack of anyone getting promoted from South Wales, and the demotion of third-placed Neath for failing to achieve a top flight license, ensured Newtown’s tenure in the top flight has remained unbroken.

They have been managed by Chris Hughes since 2013, and he has become a highly-regarded manager within Welsh football for doing wonders with Newtown, despite losing key players season after season. They managed to beat Valletta in the 2015-16 Europa League, before putting up a courageous and defiant performance against FC Copenhagen in the next round. Whilst last season, the Robins finished in an impressive fifth position, missing out on fourth by a single goal. However they could not continue their league form into the play-offs as they lost to Bala Town at Latham Park in the semi-final match.

Newtown enjoys a long rivalry with fellow ‘grandee’ and mid-Wales side, Aberystwyth Town.

 

Bala Town

  • Stadium: Maes Tegid, Bala
  • Nickname: The Lakesiders
  • Colours: White shirts with black trim, black shorts, black socks with white tops.
  • 2018-19: Sixth, Playoff Finalists
  • Twitter: @BalaTownFC
  • Website: http://www.balatownfc.co.uk/

Bala TownBala Town is one of the stronger teams within the Cymru Premier having finished in the top half of the league for the past five seasons, and regularly qualifying for the Europa League. They are based in the north Wales tourist town of Bala, famous for its beautiful surrounding landscape and its large naturally-made freshwater lake, Llyn Tegid (English: Bala Lake). Positioned on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, Bala’s ground, Maes Tegid, is certainly one of the most scenic locations for watching football within this season’s Cymru Premier.

Traditionally a club who competed within the lower echelons of the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area), the club’s rise up the Welsh pyramid coincided with the appointment of Colin Caton as manager in the 2003-04 season (he is still managing Bala Town at the time of writing!). In his debut season as manager, he managed to get the Lakesiders promoted to the Cymru Alliance for the first time in the club’s history as league champions. There they competed in the Cymru Alliance for five seasons, consistently being one of the more competitive sides in the league and challenging for promotion, until their aim of promotion was achieved in the 2008-09 season by finally claiming the Cymru Alliance title.

Maes Tegid - Merionethshire

Bala Town have been in the top-flight for eleven seasons now, with the first two years of their tenure being especially difficult. They avoided relegation in their first two seasons due to clubs from the second-tier not getting the required WPL licences to gain promotion. However since that rocky start, they have dramatically improved their performances in the league and have become one of the successful teams in the Cymru Premier. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, they managed to finish as runners-up in the league behind champions, The New Saints, whilst competing in the Championship Conference for the past five seasons. Last season was their worst position placement since the 2013-14 season, yet they still managed to reach the European playoff final, although eventually being overcome by Cardiff Met on penalties.

Bala’s last piece of silverware was winning their very first Welsh Cup in 2017. Having come from behind to beat Caernarfon Town in the semi-finals, the Lakesiders managed another late cup comeback to create history for the club. Greg Draper scored for TNS early in the second half, but goals from Jordan Evans and Kieran Smith within the concluding quarter of an hour of the final (held at Nantporth, Bangor) ensured the historical trophy would be heading to the banks of Llyn Tegid for the very first time!

The Lakesiders’ captain is midfielder Chris Venables, a three-time golden boot winner in the Welsh Premier League when he played for Aberystwyth Town, winning the three seasons between 2013-14 and 2015-16. Also the only golden boot winner who wasn’t considered a forward or striker. He is currently sixth in the all-time Cymru Premier goal scoring charts with 168 goals (at the time of writing).

 

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Cardiff MetAs the name suggests, this is the university team of Cardiff Metropolitan University, made up from either current students at the campus or former students of the university. Because this is a student team, they are an amateur squad with the players actually paying the club to pay for them through society subs. Cardiff Met are based on the university’s sporting campus at Cyncoed, located to the north of the capital, and thus they are the only Cardiff-based team playing in the Cymru Premier this season.

The club was formed in 2000 when former League of Wales runners-up, Inter Cardiff, merged with the football club of University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (the former name of Cardiff Met University) to create UWIC Inter Cardiff. Sadly for the club, the merger failed to save Inter Cardiff from being relegated to the Welsh League Division 1 after finishing bottom of the 2000-01 League of Wales table. The club would drop down to Division 3 of the Welsh League, but the appointment of former Welsh international defender, Dr. Christian Edwards, would be the catalyst for the rise of UWIC. Under his leadership, and having changed their name to their current name, they won Divisions 3 and 2 in consecutive seasons, before a third-placed finish in Division 1 was followed by the Archers winning the title in the 2015-16 season, and promotion back to the top flight. An amazing rise through the leagues!

The Archers have spent three seasons in the top flight, and have finished no lower than seventh position. They achieved two top sixth-placed finishes in their first two seasons in the WPL, and also reached the final of the European playoffs each season. Sadly for the student team, they would agonisingly fall at the final hurdle of the playoffs each time, losing to Bangor City in 2017, and Cefn Druids in 2018 by the scoreline of 0-1. Last season, they finished top of the Playoff Conference (thus finishing seventh), but managed to make it to the playoff final once again. This time, it was “third time lucky” for the Archers as they famously managed to qualify for the Europa League for the very first time after beating Bala Town on penalties following a 1-1 draw.

Last season, Cardiff Met earned their first piece of major silverware when they defeated second-tier side Cambrian & Clydach Vale in the final of the Welsh League Cup. A brace from striker Adam Roscrow (now at AFC Wimbledon) ensured the Archers won the all-South Wales final by the scoreline of 2-0, at the neutral venue of Barry’s Jenner Park, to give the university side their first trophy as a Welsh Premier League side.

 

Aberystwyth Town

  • Stadium: Park Avenue, Aberystwyth
  • Nickname: The Seasiders, Black and Greens, Aber
  • Colours: Green shirts with black trim, white shorts and green socks
  • 2018-19: Eighth
  • Twitter: @AberystwythTown
  • Website: https://www.atfc.org.uk/

aberystwyth-town-badgeAberystwyth Town are another one of the ‘grandees’ of Welsh football, having been a founding member of the league, and another club never to have been relegated from the top flight since its foundation in 1992. They are only top-flight team from Ceredigion, and are based in the West Wales coastal town of Aberystwyth, which is an important cultural and linguistic centre for Wales. A large part of that is a result of its illustrious university within the town, with which the club has had a strong partnership with for many years. As a result, the Seasiders often have large crowds of students from the local university coming to watch home games.

Aberystwyth are one of the oldest clubs within the Welsh football system, having been founded in 1884, although there are records of football being played in Aberystwyth from the 1870’s. Nonetheless, they became one of the strongest teams within Wales around the turn of the 20th century. They won their first (and sadly only, so far) Welsh Cup in 1900, beating Druids 3-0 and becoming the first team from mid-Wales to win the historical trophy. On that day, their goalkeeper was Leigh Richmond Roose, who was training to become a doctor at the university. He would later become a Welsh international (winning 24 caps, with the first being at Aber) and is regarded as one of the finest and most influential goalkeepers of his generation, if not of all-time.

aberystwyth-vs-holywell-3rd-dec-2016-11
The famous Dias Stand, at Aberystwyth’s Park Avenue ground

Throughout their time in the top-flight, their best ever league finish of third place was achieved in the very first season of the League of Wales. Since then they have achieved a number of fourth placed finishes throughout the years, most recently in the 2014-15 season. However for the majority of their time within the league, they have finished either in mid-table, or (more recently) within the lower half of the league. These past few seasons has seen the Seasiders battle with relegation, although they have picked up enough results and form in Phase 2 of the season to maintain their tenure within the league, and continue their record of not being relegated.

Aberystwyth’s biggest rivals are with fellow mid-Wales ‘grandee’ Newtown, in the ‘Mid Wales Derby’, and with Carmarthen Town in the ‘West Wales Derby’. They also enjoy healthy rivalries with Bangor City (no doubt fuelled by the rivalry between the two universities), their town-rivals Aberystwyth University FC, and a friendly local rivalry with nearby Penrhyncoch, who play in the Cymru North.

 

Carmarthen Town

Carmarthen TownCarmarthen Town are another club who have never been relegated from the top flight, although they are not a founding member of the league like Aberystwyth Town and Newtown. They first gained promotion to the League of Wales in 1996, after winning the 1995-96 Welsh League Division 1 title.

The Old Gold are based in the west Welsh town of Carmarthen / Caerfyrddin, which claims to be the oldest town in Wales, and is a town with a high percentage of Welsh speakers. It is also a cultural centre for Dyfed, and has become the new headquarters of S4C, the Welsh language channel. However in terms of the league, Carmarthen is a little bit isolated from the remainder of the teams, being located in the south-west of the country. As a result, their nearest rival is Aberystwyth Town, who is located 45 miles to the north of the town.

Traditionally, Carmarthen have always been one of the stronger teams within the league, having finished in the top half more often than not. The Old Gold achieving their highest league finishes of third place in both 2000-01 and 2013-14. The Old Gold are also known for producing good cup performances, having won the Cymru Premier Cup on three occasions and winning it twice in a row in 2013 and 2014. They have also won their first ever Welsh Cup in recent times, beating Afan Lido 3-2 in the 2007 final, held at the neutral venue of Stebonheath Park, Llanelli.

Sadly for the West Walians, they have struggled in these past couple of seasons, and have experienced relegation battles. They should have been relegated in the 2017-18 season when they finished in 11th position and thus in the relegation zone, but were reprieved from relegation due to Bangor City failing to obtain a WPL license for the following season. Last season they finished in an improved ninth place, but were battling against relegation at one point during the season. However, a strong finish to the season in the second phase ensured that they survived for another year in the Cymru Premier.

 

Cefn Druids

  • Stadium: The Rock, Cefn-Mawr
  • Nicknames: Druids, The Ancients
  • Colours: Black and white striped shirts with red trim, black shorts and socks
  • 2018-19: Tenth
  • Twitter: @CefnDruids
  • Website: https://www.cefndruidsafc.com/

Cefn Druids AFCCefn Druids are the only team from the Wrexham Country Borough playing in the Cymru Premier this season. They are based in the large village of Cefn Mawr, situated seven miles south-east of Wrexham, and are the most successful team within the village. Cefn Albion, who groundshare with the Druids, play in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division, whilst Cefn Mawr Rangers, who play at the nearby Muga (near Cefn Druids’ old ground) compete in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division 1.

The origins of the club can be traced back to 1872, and the famous Druids FC side, who was founded by Llewelyn Kenrick (who would later be the driving force for creating the Football Association of Wales). This side was one of the early powerhouses of Welsh league football, winning the Welsh Cup eight times, and being finalists five times between 1878 and 1904. The current side can trace its creation to 1992, when Druids United and Cefn Albion (the previous version) merged together to pool their resources and create one big club to successfully represent Cefn Mawr. They would successfully reach the top flight for the first time in 1999, when they won the Cymru Alliance title.

The Rock - Wrexham

Due to various sponsorships, the club has been known as several names, such as Flexsys Cefn Druids, NEWI Cefn Druids and Elements Cefn Druids, although today they are just known as Cefn Druids. For the majority of their time within the top flight, they have finished in the bottom half of the table and sometimes battled with relegation. However they surprised everyone in the 2017-18 season when a superb campaign earlier in the season ensured they finished in fifth position (their highest ever league position), and would subsequently qualify for the Europa League by winning the European playoff against Cardiff Met 1-0. It would be their second foray into Europe, as they qualified as a second-tier club, when they were finalists in the 2012 Welsh Cup final (their first final appearance since 1904). On that occasion, they successfully managed to draw 0-0 with Finnish club MYPA, but would lose the second leg 0-5.

The Rock - Cliff Face
The sheer cliff face at The Rock.

Cefn Druids have one of the finest and scenic grounds within the Welsh football system, playing in The Rock. Built in 2010 to replace their old ground of Plaskynaston Road, the ground was built within a disused quarry, and therefore one of the sides of the ground features a sheer rock wall. It also provides superb acoustics to create a great atmosphere when games are played. Due to its rock wall side, some supporters have cheekily nicknamed the ground, “The Welsh Braga”, in homage to the Portuguese ground which was also built within a disused quarry.

In addition, this season’s Druids away shirt has seen a lot of positive attention within the Welsh football community as it has been designed to look like the iconic Welsh shirt of the 1970’s that was produced by Admiral. As a result, the club has seen a large amount of orders for the splendid looking shirt!

 

Airbus UK Broughton

  • Stadium: The Airfield, Broughton
  • Nickname: The Wingmakers
  • Colours: Blue shirts with white sleeves, blue shorts and blue socks
  • 2018-19: Cymru Alliance Champions (Promoted)
  • Twitter: @airbusukfc
  • Website: https://airbusfc.com/

Airbus UKAirbus UK Broughton are one of the two sides who have been promoted into this season’s Cymru Premier after having won the final Cymru Alliance (now Cymru North) championship to gain promotion to the top flight. They are also the second Flintshire-based side in the league, alongside Connah’s Quay Nomads, who they have shared a local rivalry with over the past decade or so. Airbus UK are located further east in the county than Connah’s Quay, and situated very near to the Welsh-English border. In fact the large village of Broughton, it just a couple of miles outside of the historical English city of Chester, making the club the nearest side to the border in this season’s league.

As you might have gathered from their name, the side originates from the Airbus Broughton factory side, having had a myriad of names throughout the decades, as various companies took over the factory, such as Vickers-Armstrong, de Havillands and British Aerospace. Initially connected to the company directly, they are more separated from their parent company nowadays with very few (if any) Airbus workers playing for the club. Despite that, they still play their home games just outside the entrance to the large Airbus Broughton complex, at The Airfield (called the official sponsored name of the “Hollingsworth Group Stadium”). They also gain their nickname, The Wingmakers, from the Broughton site, which is the main location for the manufacture of the wings for the majority of the Airbus civil aircraft fleet.

The Airfield - Flintshire

Earlier in the decade and Airbus UK were one of the nearest rivals to TNS’ championship. They finished as runners-up to the Oswestry-based side in 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, and third placed in 2014-15, under the management of former Stockport County, Blackpool and Bury legend, Andy Preece. They also played in the Europa League for three consecutive seasons, producing superb results against Norway’s Haugesund and NK Lokomotiva from Croatia. During this period, Airbus also reached their first Welsh Cup final in 2016, but disappointingly lost 0-2 to The New Saints.

Shockingly they would suffer a surprising collapse after Preece left the club in 2016, by finishing bottom of the table in the 2016-17 season and getting relegated back to the second tier. After having a few seasons competing in the Cymru Alliance, this season will be the return back to the top flight for the Wingmakers under the management of the experienced coach Steve O’Shaughnessy.

 

Pen-y-Bont

  • Stadium: Kymco Stadium, Bridgend
  • Nickname: The Bont
  • Colours: Blue shirts with white & yellow trim, white shorts and socks
  • 2018-19: Welsh Football League Division One Champions (Promoted)
  • Twitter: @Penybont_FC
  • Website: https://penybontfc.co.uk/

Pen-Y-BontPen-y-Bont was formed as recently as 2013 following the merger of local sides Bridgend Town and Bryntirion Athletic. Bridgend Town were historically one of the strongest teams outside of the top flight, and in South Wales, having played in the English Southern League for a period of time during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. They also made it to the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup as recently as the 2008-09 tournament, before losing 1-2 to eventual winners. Bangor City. However with Bridgend suffering financial issues, they merged with fellow Welsh League Division 1 side, Bryntirion Athletic, moved into Bryntirion’s ground, and renamed themselves Pen-y-Bont (the Welsh name for Bridgend).

For the majority of its short career, Pen-y-Bont have competed within the Welsh League Division 1, and have been one of the stronger teams within the South Welsh second-tier league. They finished runners-up in the 2016-17 season, and third the following season. However last season, they finally achieved their long-term goal of earning a promotion to the top-flight when they won the Welsh League Division 1, and also achieving an unbeaten league campaign. A superb achievement considering the competitive of the league and the strength of the teams!

This season is the first time the club (or any of the previous two clubs) has ever reached the top flight of Welsh football. They are currently managed by Rhys Griffiths, a Welsh Premier League goalscoring legend, who finished the league’s top goalscorer for seven consecutive seasons between 2006 and 2012. He also won the WPL with Llanelli in 2007-08, scoring an incredible 40 goals in that season, to ensure the Reds won their first (and only) league title. He is second in the all-time Cymru Premier goal scoring charts, having scored an amazing 269 league goals in his top-flight career.

 

 

2019-20 Season

Cymru Premier

[All information is correct as of the 20th November 2019]

Cymru Premier Table - 20th Nov 19
The Cymru Premier table, as of the 20th November 2019. [IMAGE: Official Cymru Premier Website]

After between 13 to 15 league games played so far this season, Connah’s Quay Nomads are the early pacesetters in the Cymru Premier. They have played 15 league games and have yet to lose a game, thus collecting a total of 33 points so far this season. They have earned themselves a four point margin over the defending champions, The New Saints and also Bala Town, who are both on 29 points each. Not far behind them are Barry Town United and Caernarfon Town, who have accumulated 27 and 24 points respectively. TNS are currently the highest scorers in the league with 36 goals scored, although the Nomads have the meanest defence, only conceding 11 goals. It’s worth noting though that Bala are second in the goalscoring and defensive charts…very impressive start from the Lakesiders this season!

At this point of the season, it looks as if the top five teams will break away from the rest of the league, having opened up a six point margin already in the season. That means the race for sixth place come the time of the league split will become a fierce battle as the split gets nearer. At the moment there are three teams all on 18 points, Cefn Druids, Cardiff Met and Newtown. Currently the Druids occupy that sort-after sixth position having scored more goals than the Archers as both teams on 0 goal difference. Newtown however have a worse goal difference, coming in with a -6 goal difference, and the Robins also they have played two games more than the two teams above them.

It’s very tight amongst the bottom four teams currently, with the expected teams of Aberystwyth Town, Airbus UK Broughton, Pen-y-Bont and Carmarthen Town down in the wrong half of the table. Currently Aberystwyth and Airbus occupy the spots outside of the drop zone, with the Seasiders having a 3 point gap over the Wingmakers. However both teams have suffered heavy defeats this season, with Airbus losing 2-6 away at TNS, whilst Aberystwyth endured a humiliating 1-10 defeat by TNS at Park Avenue. Naturally Aber have the worst defence in the league currently.

Newly promoted Pen-y-Bont are just a single point behind Airbus in eleventh position, but have two games in hand over their fellow promoted side. A further two points behind them are Carmarthen, who have had a miserable start to the season, winning just one of their fourteen game league campaign. The Old Gold are yet to win at Richmond Park this season, with their sole victory coming surprisingly away at Cardiff Met, winning 3-0 at the Cyncoed Campus. Their first league victory coming as late as mid-November! They also have played a game fewer than Airbus in tenth place.

The leading goalscorer in Cymru Premier is currently the three-time golden boot winner, Bala Town’s attacking midfielder, Chris Venables. The Bala captain currently has chalked up 13 goals this season for the Lakesiders. Last season’s WPL golden boot winner, Greg Draper, is second in the charts with 10 goals for TNS, whilst October’s  Cymru Premier Player of Month, Jamie Insall of Connah’s Quay, is third in the charts with 9 goals. Barry Town United’s lethal forward, Kayne McLaggon, and Bala’s Louis Robles have both achieved 8 goals each for their respective league campaigns so far!

 

European Competitions

For the 2019-20 season, Wales was situated 50th out of 55 European countries in the UEFA Association Rankings. This put the Cymru Premier in between Northern Irish NIFL Premiership and the Faroe Islands’ Premier Division, giving them one birth in the Champions League and three spots in the Europa League. The New Saints qualified for the Champions League first qualifying round as 2018-19 league champions, whilst Connah’s Quay Nomads qualified for the first qualifying round of the Europa League as being runners-up. Barry Town United finished third in the table, and thus got a Europa League preliminary round spot, alongside playoff winner Cardiff Met University, who beat Bala Town on penalties to qualify for Europe for the very first time.

Progrès NiederkornThere would be disappointments for the Welsh clubs who entered the Europa League at the Preliminary Round stage of the tournament. Cardiff Met, competing in their first ever European campaign, took on Progrès Niederkorn of Luxembourg (who finished fourth in the Luxembourg National Division, and famously knocked-out Glasgow Rangers in the 2017-18 Europa League). Despite a tricky away first leg, they came away from Luxembourg with just a 0-1 loss. Certainly an encouraging result despite failing to register an away goal. In the second leg, they were the superior side and were leading 2-0 at one point in the match, and looking like they would advance to the next round. However a goal from Progrès in the 73rd minute meant they got the crucial away goal and the advantage in the tie. Sadly for the Archers, they were unable to score a third goal to send them through to the next round. Despite winning the second leg 2-1, they were eliminated on away goals – a heartbreaking way to end a campaign.

CliftonvilleBarry Town United’s first European adventure started off very encouragingly. They managed a goalless draw against Northern Irish side, Cliftonville, at their ‘home’ of the Cardiff International Sports Stadium, giving them a slight advantage going into the second leg. Sadly the return journey at the Solitude stadium did not go to plan for the Linnets, as two first half goals from the home side gave them a 2-0 lead. They would score another double in the final ten minutes of the game (counter-attacking as Barry looked for goals) to give them a flattering 4-0 win over Barry Town United and progress to the next round. Despite the result, the travelling Barry fans enjoyed their trip over the Irish Sea, and even brought a stuffed fox with them to the stadium (see The Groundhopper’s video below to see what I mean there!).

Kilmarnock FCConnah’s Quay Nomads had a very tricky opening European fixture against third-place finishing Scottish side Kilmarnock, who were making their first appearance in Europe since 2001. Kilmarnock were the strong favourites for the tie, especially after the first leg in Rhyl. Despite the Nomads taking the lead through a Greg Taylor own goal, an 82nd minute penalty from Eamonn Brophy and an injury time goal from Stuart Findlay swung the tie in the Scottish club’s strong favour and gave Killie a 2-1 away win. Kilmarnock were expected to win the second leg and advance to the next round, but they underestimated their opponents, who had finished as finalists in the Scottish Challenge Cup the previous season. Two second half goals from Ryan Wignall and an 80th minute own goal sent the shell-shocked Scottish club crashing out of the competition, and the Nomads deservedly through.

FK PartizanConnah’s Quay would face Serbian giants, Partizan Belgrade, in the second qualifying round. A battling 0-1 loss at home gave the Nomads hope of another turn-around, but three second half goals from the Crno-beli, ended Connah’s Quay’s journey once again. However the Nomads could hold their head up high having played well against a team who would subsequently qualify for the group stage of the Europa League.

FeronikeliWelsh champions, The New Saints, started their Champions League campaign against Kosovan champions Feronikeli, who had progressed through the Preliminary Round to qualify for the first qualifying round. The New Saints managed to get themselves into a 2-0 lead in the first leg at Oswestry through Greg Draper and Aeron Edwards, but  sloppily conceded very late away goals to the Kosovans to hand the advantage to their opponents in a 2-2 draw. The away leg in Pristina was nervy and tough for the Saints, but a Dean Ebbe goal on the 67th minute was just enough to send them through to the second qualifying round of the Champions League.

FC KøbenhavnThere they faced the Danish Superliga champions, FC Copenhagen. Despite putting in credible and strong performances against FCK in the home first leg, and then the away second leg, they still exited the Champions League losing 0-3 on aggregate. The 0-1 away  defeat at Copenhagen giving TNS’ plenty of confidence of potentially progressing further in the Europa League…

PFC Ludogorets RazgradThe Saints would transfer to the third round of the Europa League, where they would take on Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad. Sadly, it would prove to be a step too far for the Oswestry-based club as the Eagles tore them apart in both legs of the tie. A 0-5 first leg demolition at the Ludogorets Arena ended any hopes of progression, whilst another 0-4 defeat at the Racecourse Ground concluded TNS’ and the Cymru Premier’s interest with Europe for another season.

The New Saints

  • CL1QR: KF Feronikeli [KVX] 3 – 2
  • CL2QR: FC Copenhagen [DEN] 0 – 3
  • EL3QR: Ludogorets Razgrad [BUL] 0 – 9

Connah’s Quay Nomads

  • EL1QR: Kilmarnock [SCO] 3 – 2
  • EL2QR: FK Partizan [SER] 0 – 4

Cardiff Met University

  • ELPreR: Progrès Niederkorn [LUX] 2 – 2 (lost on away goals)

Barry Town United

  • ELPreR: Cliftonville [NIR] 0 – 4

 

Scottish Challenge Cup

TunnocksCWC

The New Saints and Connah’s Quay Nomads were elected as the Cymru Premier’s representatives in this season’s Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup as a result of them finishing in first and second placed in the 2018-19 Welsh Premier League table.

Stenhousemuir FCUnlike the previous two seasons, when Cymru Premier clubs had reached the semi-finals and final of the Scottish competition, it was a slightly disappointing performance from both Welsh clubs in the end. For the second season in a row, The New Saints were eliminated on penalties to exit the competition at the third round stage. An 86th minute equaliser from Ryan Brobbel ensured the TNS levelled the game up at Stenhousemuir. However, when it came to the inevitable penalty shootout, they missed three of their four spot-kicks to allow the Warriors to progress to the next round.

Partick ThistleLast season’s historic finalists, Connah’s Quay Nomads, started their quest for the trophy at home against newly-promoted SPFL side, Cove Rangers. It was a tough encounter at the Deeside Stadium, but a 75th minute winner from Michael Bakare was enough to progress to the round four. There they faced Scottish Championship side, Partick Thistle, who were struggling at the bottom of the Scottish second-tier. The Nomads were confident that they could spring another cup victory, however goals from Raffaele De Vita and Jamie Penrice gave the Jags an important 2-0 win at their home of the Firhill Stadium.

For the first time since Welsh clubs were invited into the Scottish Challenge Cup, there would be no Cymru Premier clubs in the quarter-finals of the competition for this season.

The New Saints

  • R3: Stenhousemuir (a) 1 – 1 (1 – 3 pens.)

Connah’s Quay Nomads

  • R3: Cove Rangers (h) 1 – 0
  • R4: Partick Thistle (a) 0 – 2

 

Sources for Further Information

Should you wish to learn more about the Cymru Premier and the Cymru Leagues yourself, the following sources of information would be superb to expand your understanding and learning about Wales’ top-flight league and beyond.

It is worth keeping an eye out on the Sgorio social media links as they often show live Cymru League, Welsh Cup or Cymru League Cup games on their platforms.

In addition, I would highly recommend the book “Red Dragons: The Story of Welsh Football” by Phil Stead. It is an excellent book which details the history of Welsh football from its origins to the modern day, and provides further information on the creation of the League of Wales. It can be found on Amazon HERE.

 

That concludes the third and final part of this guide to the Cymru Premier. I hope the three parts of this series has helped you understand the history and layout of the Cymru Premier and its teams a lot more, and will encourage you to follow it further. If there is enough demand, I may even do a similar version for the Cymru North and South leagues in the near future.

If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions on the guide so far, or even follow a Cymru Leagues team, let me know either below in the comments box, tweet me @The94thMin or email me at the94thminute@gmail.com!

Diolch!

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