The 2020-21 season of the Cymru Premier / Uwch Gynghrair Cymru was the 29th edition of the highest step within the Welsh football pyramid after its establishment in the 1992-93 season, and the second season under its current moniker, the JD Cymru Premier.
As with many other football leagues throughout the world, it had felt the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with the start of the season being delayed to the 12th of September, a month later than its usual planned start of early August. The league could only commence after the Welsh Government confirmed the Cymru Premier (as well as the Women’s Welsh Premier League) having “elite status” in sporting terms and thus allowed to play games providing all provisions were kept to ensure players and officials were kept safe and the risk of transmission was kept to a minimum in keeping with Government guidelines. In addition, supporters were not allowed to attend any matches throughout the whole of the season, in keeping with the decision made in other leagues around Europe to reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID.
The league would suffer a further suspension to the season in mid-December when the COVID transmission rates within Wales had rapidly increased during the ‘winter spike’. This resulted in further lockdown measures being applied by the Welsh Government which temporarily revoked the ‘elite’ status of the league to stop teams from travelling around the country and potentially spreading the virus. The Cymru Premier would be suspended for two and a half months before the ‘elite’ status was reapplied to the league by the Welsh Government and play could restart. Newtown beat Penybont 2-0 in the first game back on the 2nd of March before the remainder of the league restarted their campaigns a few days later on the 6th.
Sadly, a major casualty of the ongoing pandemic was the remainder of the newly reorganised Welsh football league pyramid who were unable to start their season after failing to earn ‘elite’ status. The Tier 2 feeder leagues of the Cymru North and Cymru South had failed to start in September after initially failing to obtain ‘elite’ status for their leagues but were later awarded the status to open-up the pyramid somewhat, with the initial schedule to start in late February with a reduced campaign of just 15 league games. Alas after the halt to the Welsh season in December, that initial plan for the second tiers was shelved with the start further delayed until April, before finally being scrapped resulting in the Cymru North & South campaigns failing to take place. As a result, it meant that no team would be relegated from the Cymru Premier this season and that no domestic cups would take place either resulting in the European spot (which was reserved for the Welsh Cup winners) being automatically transferred to the third-placed team in the league.
Ultimately, the Cymru Premier would be the only league that would play any games within the male Welsh football pyramid throughout the 2020-21 season.
2019-20 Cymru Premier Season
As with many other football leagues around Europe, the Welsh football league was suddenly halted in March 2020 due to the global pandemic and then declared completed in May with the Points-Per-Game (PPG) ratio being used to determine the final league placements.
Connah’s Quay Nomads were declared champions of the Cymru Premier for the first time in their history after finishing top of the table after 26 league games with 56 points and achieving a PPG ratio of 2.15. This also stopped The New Saints’ run of eight consecutive league championships after the Oswestry-based side had suffered a dip in form following the league split which subsequently resulted in their runners-up placement. With the Welsh Cup also being suspended at the quarter-final stage, it meant that the European berth was awarded to the third-placed team, meaning Bala Town returned to European competition after failing in the European playoff the previous season. Finally, the European playoffs were unable to take place resulting in the final European spot being awarded to the fourth-placed side in the league, which happened to be Barry Town United, who finished ahead of Caernarfon Town and Newtown.
At the bottom of the table, despite the shortening of the league campaign, two teams were still relegated from the Cymru Premier. Airbus UK Broughton returned back to the second tier after a brief season’s appearance in the top flight having been promoted as the final Cymru Alliance champions in 2018-19. The Wingmakers finished the season bottom of the table with a PPG of 0.65. Following them down into the second tier would be Carmarthen Town whose long tenure in the WPL/Cymru Premier was finally at an end after 23 seasons competing in the top flight. The Old Gold suffered a worse PPG (0.72) than newly promoted Penybont (0.84), who managed a late surge in the league campaign to successfully secure their position within the Cymru Premier for the following season.
The two teams who were promoted in the 2020-21 Cymru Premier and replacing the departed Airbus UK Broughton and Carmarthen Town were the former WPL sides Flint Town United and Haverfordwest County. However, they were both teams who did not win their respective regional leagues and subsequently finished as runners-up.
In the Cymru North, it was the former WPL side and 2013 Welsh Cup winners Prestatyn Town who won the league on the PPG system having led the league as early as gameweek 2. However, the Seasiders were unable to obtain a Cymru Premier license and thus denied promotion due to their TV gantry not being up to required FAW standards after the Denbighshire council had failed to grant planning permission for a new gantry within the required deadline due to delays resulting from the ongoing pandemic. As Flint had obtained a Tier 1 license and had finished within the top two spots of the league, they were ultimately granted promotion instead of Prestatyn ensuring their first appearance in the top flight since 1998 and ending their 22-season stay in the second tier. It would also see the return of their manager Niall McGuinness to the top flight after having been relegated with Rhyl in the 2016-17 season. This decision also confirmed that my home county of Flintshire would again be represented by two teams in the league after Airbus’ relegation.
In the Cymru South, it would be a tighter contest than in the north with a number of teams vying for the top spot. After a fierce contest, it was Swansea University who claimed the title by finishing a point ahead of Haverfordwest County and having a slightly better PPG ratio – 2.24 compared to the Bluebirds’ 2.20. It would cap a monumental rise for the University side who had climbed from tier 8 of the Welsh football pyramid to the top of tier 2 in eight seasons. Alas, as with the case with Prestatyn Town, Swansea Uni were unable to obtain a Tier 1 license for the following season. After their appeal against the decision was rejected by the FAW, it meant that Haverfordwest was given the promotion spot. It would be the Pembrokeshire-side’s first appearance in the top flight since their brief one season appearance in the 2015-16 season and had spent the last four seasons in the second tier, finishing as runners-up on two occasions, and being one of the strongest sides within the southern Welsh system under the management of Wayne Jones.
Despite the late start of the Cymru Premier season, and a lack of competitive games prior to the European competitions starting, Welsh clubs did perform remarkably admirably in comparison with other seasons with Cymru Premier sides progressing and achieving victories – something which has not happened much in previous seasons and contributed to Wales’ low coefficient rank.
The campaign did not start brilliantly for Welsh teams when Barry Town United were heavily defeated in the Faroe Islands against NSÍ Runavík. Against a side who were already in the middle of their 2020 league campaign, and in awful foggy conditions which would have probably seen the game postponed in a normal season, it would prove to be a nightmare trip for the Linnets. NSÍ scored five unanswered goals in the second half against a tiring Barry side with Kayne McLaggon scoring a consolation in the 88th minute to finish the game 5-1 to the home side. A hugely disappointing result for Welsh football, especially against a league that was regarded as being on a seemingly similar level of standard. However, the result would have a far-reaching impact on Welsh football, as it meant the Cymru Premier would drop in their position within the UEFA coefficient ranking table to 51st. As a result of becoming one of the five bottom leagues in the coefficient rankings, it means that Wales will lose a European spot for the 2022-23 season, with only two clubs going into the new UEFA Conference League rather than the usual three.
Despite that huge disappointment, which could well have an impact on Welsh football in the future, the remaining Welsh clubs did well in the first qualifying round of the Europa League. Both TNS and Bala Town managed to win their opening games, with the Lakesiders beating Valletta 1-0 on Malta through a Chris Venables 38th minute goal, whilst the Saints achieved an impressive 3-1 victory over Slovak side MŠK Žilina after extra time, who had finished as runners-up in Slovakia the previous season. Unfortunately, both sides would exit the competition in the second qualifying round with Bala losing 2-0 away to Belgian giants Standard Liège – a very creditable result against an illustrious opponent, whilst TNS lost on penalties to another Faroese side, B36 Tórshavn. It looked as if they’d progress after extra time when Dean Ebbe scored in the 112th minute, but a 122nd-minute equalising penalty ensured the game progressed to a shootout, with the home side progressing after TNS missed their last two penalties. Having had the victory in their hands on two occasions and letting it slip on both occasions, it was a hugely disappointing defeat for TNS, with the result not helping the coefficient as the Faroe Islands progressed further ahead from Wales.
The Nomads performed exceptionally well in their two European encounters considering the strength of the opposition. In their debut appearance in the Champions League, they were incredibly unlucky to lose to the Bosnian champions Sarajevo 2-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium. Two goals from Bosnian international Benjamin Tatar was enough to end Connah’s Quay’s campaign in the UCL, but they played exceptionally well with the scoreline flattering their opponents somewhat. Dropping down into the second qualifying round of the Europa League, Andy Morrison‘s men were again given a tough tie, this time against the famous Georgian side, Dinamo Tbilisi. This time playing at the historic venue of the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, they almost took the 1981 Cup Winners’ Cup winners to extra time. However, a 97th-minute penalty was converted by Giorgi Gabedava to ensure the Georgians progressed to the next round and ended Connah’s Quay’s European adventure for the season. Yet again the Nomads’ had performed impressively against more illustrious opposition but luck was not on their side again, and sadly their performances could not improve Wales’ damaged coefficient ranking.
[All ties were one-legged matches]
Connah’s Quay Nomads
- UCL 1QR: FK Sarajevo (BIH) 0-2
- UEL 2QR: Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 0-1
The New Saints
- UEL 1QR: MŠK Žilina (SVK) 3-1 (aet)
- UEL 2QR: B36 Tórshavn (FRO) 2-2 [4-5 pens]
- UEL 1QR: FC Valletta (MLT) 1-0
- UEL 2QR: Standard Liège (BEL) 0-2
Barry Town United
- UEL PreLimR: NSÍ Runavík (FRO) 1-5
As it was mentioned previously, the start of the league campaign was delayed by a month until the middle of September, when the first games were played on the 12th of September. Despite the later start to the season, there would be no changes in the structure or format to the league season with the first phase resulting in all teams playing each other home and away before splitting into the top six (Championship Conference) and bottom six (Playoff Conference) after 22 league games. The teams would then play an extra ten league games in the second phase of the season by playing their fellow group teams home and away to end the campaign with 32 league games.
Both the Nomads and TNS would start the season in impressive form with both sides winning their first five league games of the season, with TNS’ 10-0 demolition of Flint Town United being the highlight of that early phase of the season. TNS would also win the first “classico” of the season by beating Connah’s Quay 1-0 at Park Hall, with Louis Robles’ 41st-minute strike being the sole divider between the sides. The Saints would stay undefeated for their first thirteen league games by winning eleven of them and drawing away to both Aberystwyth and Bala, before suffering their first defeat of the season against the Nomads in mid-December. The defending champions restored parity in the table with a 2-0 win at the Deeside Stadium, with former TNS stalwart Aeron Edwards scoring the opener on the 58th minute before an own goal by captain Paul Harrison six minutes later ensured Connah’s Quay claimed three points. Also starting well in the season was Bala Town, who had suffered a defeat to promoted Haverfordwest early in the campaign but had stayed undefeated henceforth, drawing with both Connah’s Quay and TNS. This meant by the middle of December, they had just lost one game like the two title challengers and were just six points behind.
The season was halted in the middle of December due to the rapid rise in Coronavirus rates within Wales, and the Welsh Government stopping all sporting events to avoid spreading the virus around the country. At that point, TNS were leading the table by three points (but having played a game more than Connah’s Quay and Bala) whilst the bottom four clubs, Flint Town United, Cefn Druids, Newtown, and Aberystwyth Town were all just separated by two points. The top flight mainstays of Newtown and Aberystwyth started the season notably slowly, with both sides having achieved just two wins each nearly halfway through the season, and putting pressure on their respective managers to turn their fortunes around.
Phase 1 – The Return
The biggest news of the period following the restart of the Welsh league season was the change in management at The New Saints. After their first game back was a goalless draw with Bala Town, it was announced that management duo and TNS legends Scott Ruscoe and Steve Evans would leave the club with immediate effect ending Ruscoe’s near four-year tenure in charge of the club after having won two titles as manager and nine as a player. A surprise in regards to timing and also the fact that they were still top of the league when the change was decided. Ruscoe was eventually replaced by the former Woking manager, the Australian coach Anthony Limbrick who would be assisted by the previous caretaker manager Christian Sergeant. He would start his tenure as Saints’ manager with a 4-1 victory over Caernarfon in their final game of Phase 1.
Going into the second phase of the season, Connah’s Quay had wrestled back control in the table by having a slender lead of three points from the now Limbrick-managed TNS. Bala were a further twelve points behind in third and starting to stretch away from the remainder of the pack. Barry Town United were six points behind the Lakesiders in fourth place, with surprise side Penybont earning themselves a top-six position as they were in fifth. Finally Caernarfon took the final Championship Conference spot ahead of nearest rivals Haverfordwest, when the Bluebirds failed to beat Penybont after the Cofis had lost to TNS in gameweek 22. Finally it would still be tight for the remainder of the league with eight points separating Aberystwyth in eighth position from Cefn Druids in the twelfth and final position.
Phase 2 – Championship Conference
It looked as if Connah’s Quay had put themselves in a strong position to regain their league title when they ended Anthony Limbrick’s winning start as TNS’ manager by smashing their title rivals 4-1 at Park Hall to open up a three-point gap. A first half hat-trick from veteran striker Michael Wilde (who had scored over 200 goals in the Welsh top flight during the season becoming only the fifth player to break the milestone and finished as the runner-up in the golden boot contest with 18 goals), and a second half strike from Jamie Insall, gave the Nomads the win with Ryan Brobbel scored a consolation goal for the home side. When TNS drew to nine-men Caernarfon a few days later, the Nomads could have increased their lead to five points with the TNS rematch scheduled for the following game, but they ultimately lose to Bala 2-1 to ensure the title race continued. A goalless draw at Deeside Stadium between the two rivals maintained the two-point gap with three games remaining. TNS subsequently beat both Penybont and Barry by a 3-0 scoreline, whilst the Nomads came back from a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 against Barry (which included a controversial penalty for CQN) and beat Caernarfon 4-0 in a scoreline which flattered the defending champions. Three of their goals came after the Cofis‘ goalkeeper Lewis Brass (who had played for the Nomads earlier in the season) was controversially dismissed with the scoreline still at 1-0.
As a result, the title race went into the final game of the season with both games being shown live on Sgorio at the same time. TNS needed to win their home game against Bala Town (who had already claimed third place in the league), to be within a chance of winning the title, with any thing less than a win in their final game confirming Nomads’ title victory. The Saints achieved all they could when they won their respective fixture 2-0. Ben Clark gave them a lead after just 10 minutes, and although they played with ten men for the majority of the game when Ryan Harrington was dismissed after 20 minutes, Adrian Cieslewicz confirmed the victory when he scored nine minutes into the second half.
With TNS winning their game, it meant the Nomads had to beat Penybont (who had already claimed fourth position) in their away match. A draw would not be enough as TNS’ would claim the title due to their superior goal difference (+65 compared with Nomads’ +48). Connah’s Quay eliminated any early nerves when scored within six minutes when captain George Horan headed them into the lead, scoring his seventh goal of the season from defence. The remainder of the game would be a nervy affair, especially in the second half as the Nomads tried to hold onto their lead. Relief came with 15 minutes remaining in the match when former TNS stalwart, Aeron Edwards fired in Nomads’ second of the early afternoon to finally confirm the victory and the championship. Man of the Match Edwards, who had also crossed the ball for Horan’s opener, would become the first player in Welsh football history to win 10 Welsh league titles having won a vast amount of titles at TNS previously. There would be huge celebrations at the end of the game with the club finally able to celebrating winning a title having been unable to do so last season.
With three league games remaining, Bala Town claimed third place and confirmed their appearance in the 2021-22 Europa Conference League first qualifying round alongside TNS, finishing 17 points behind TNS and 14 points ahead of Penybont in fourth spot. The Lakesiders‘ captain, Chris Venables, would again claim the league’s golden boot award for the fifth time (and twice in a row) by scoring 24 goals during the league campaign, whilst the Bridgend-based side, themselves managed by a league top goalscorer and WPL goalscoring legend Rhys Griffiths, had been the surprise package of the season having just maintained their Cymru Premier by three points in the previous season. The Bont finished ahead of both Barry Town United and Caernarfon Town to obtain a home advantage in the playoffs, whilst the Linnets would have home advantage in their tie against the Cofis. Curiously, Barry played Caernarfon in the final game of the season with the Jenner Park-outfit winning the game 3-2 in the ‘dress rehearsal’ for the following week’s playoff semi-final.
Phase 2 – Playoff Conference
Newtown finished top of the Playoff Conference and qualified for the playoff stage and an away fixture to Penybont by confirming their spot with a game remaining of the season. An decent finish to the season from Chris Hughes‘ men saw them win seven games and draw one in the Playoff Conference and lift them to the top of the group, finishing two points ahead of Cardiff Met, who were the only side not to lose to Newtown during Phase 2. Both Jordan Evans and the impressive Tyrone Ofori getting into double figures for Newtown’s goals during the season. Cardiff Met were slightly unlucky not to catch Newtown for that seventh place having finished as the best performing side in the Playoff Conference by acquiring 23 points from a possible 30 available and winning their last five games. In addition, the university side had two of the top six goalscorers in the league with Eliot Evans and Ollie Hulbert (on-loan from Bristol Rovers) scoring 13 goals each. Sadly the damage was done in the first phase that ultimately hindered the Archers‘ drive for a Europa Conference League playoff berth. Their eighth place finish would be Dr Christian Edwards‘ side’s lowest finish in the top flight since they joined in the 2016-17 season, and the first time they have missed out on the playoffs.
Newly-promoted Haverfordwest County finished in an impressive ninth position for their first season back in the top flight, although they faded monumentally throughout Phase 2. Having just missed out on a Top 6 place at the time of the split by three points, the Bluebirds only picked up a further 8 points from their ten remaining games to perhaps be kicking themselves on missing out on a potential playoff position. Whilst Aberystwyth Town ended their difficult season by just leapfrogging Flint Town United on the final day of the season to claim tenth position after beating a heavily rotated Newtown squad 4-0, whereas Flint ended up losing 2-1 to Cardiff Met. After having initially struggled in the early part of the season, the Silkmen ended their campaign in fine form during Phase 2 with former Prestatyn manager, Neil Gibson (having taken over from Niall McGuinness in early December) transforming the team into a competitive outfit and looked comfortable in the Cymru Premier having earned 17 points from their final ten games. No doubt they’ll be a side to watch out for next season.
Alas, it would be Cefn Druids who finished rock bottom of the table after suffering a hugely disappointing and alarming slump in form during Phase 2 of the season. The Ancients sacked their Portuguese head coach Bruno Lopes in early March with the club bottom of the table after only winning three games throughout the season. Their Head of Coaching Jayson Starkey took temporary charge until the end of the season but sadly he was unable to halt the slide of the Druids, who seemed to suffer a slump in their form once relegation had been announced would not take place. Cefn Druids suffered nine straight defeats at the end of the season to finish with just 16 points and 16 points adrift from the 11th-placed team Flint. Cefn conceded 41 goals during those nine games and scored just two to leave the Druids with a goal difference of -70 at the end of the season. The misery of the 2020-21 season was compounded for the side when they were fined £5k by the Welsh FA post-season for breaching the strict COVID rules during a friendly match against Airbus UK Broughton in February. With former Flint Town United manager Niall McGuinness having been appointed as the Ancients new manager for the 2021-22 season, it will require a monumental effort and squad rebuilding job from the experienced coach if the Druids are to maintain their tenure in the top flight at the end of next season.
Europa Conference League Playoffs
In the first of the semi-finals, it saw fifth-placed side Barry Town United take on sixth-placed side Caernarfon Town at Jenner Park in a carbon copy of the fixture that happened on the final day of the regular league season, which the Linnets won 3-2. Just as with the game a week previous, Caernarfon took the lead with Mike Hayes scoring in the 41st minute, slotting the ball into the back of the net after Darren Thomas’ shot was initially deflected by Barry’s keeper Mike Lewis. Alas, the lead would last less than two minutes when Barry equalised just before half-time through an Evan Press deflected header to leave the fixture tightly poised at 1-1 at the break. It would be the visitors who took the initiative in the second half when Hayes scored his brace four minutes into the half, superbly chipping the onrushing Lewis to restore the Cofis’ lead. Despite some intense pressure by Barry Town Utd throughout the second half, they were unable to test the Caernarfon goal and ultimately were left vulnerable for the counter-attack, something which was ultimately their downfall. Deep into injury time, Caernarfon broke on the counter-attack, and utilising the advantage in attacking personnel, scored the decisive third goal through Jake Bickerstaff low strike to confirm the 3-1 result and Caernarfon’s progression to the playoff final.
24 hours later, and it was the turn of the fourth-placed side Penybont, who would be hosting the seventh-placed side Newtown in the second playoff semi-final. At a very damp Bryntirion Park, it would be another nervy and close affair with the game looking as if it would end goalless after 90 minutes despite the home side hitting the woodwork in the first half. However, with four minutes remaining in the match, substitute striker and former Caernarfon player Jamie Breese (who had only been on the pitch for six minutes) finally managed to break the deadlock in the second semi-final and produce the impact Chris Hughes wanted. His first effort was successfully blocked but he managed to retain possession of the ball, shimmy to create some space, before firing the ball past Ashley Morris in the home goal much to the dejection of the Penybont players and fans who had congregated and watched the game outside of the ground. Newtown claimed a 1-0 victory, producing the second away victory of the weekend and setting up an intriguing final against Caernarfon.
- Barry Town United 1 – 3 Caernarfon Town
- Penybont 0 – 1 Newtown
Despite repeated calls to the Welsh Government to allow this game to have supporters within the ground, it would be declared as yet another ‘empty’ stadium for the final game of the Welsh season held on the last Saturday of May, despite Swansea City supporters being allowed to travel down to Wembley on the same day for the English Championship playoff final. Played at The Oval due to Caernarfon’s higher league finish over Newtown, there were plenty of supporters of the Cofi Army congregating outside of the ground to watch the game by looking over the fences or standing on stepladders, or crammed into the town’s pubs to watch it live on Sgorio, showing the absolute ludicrous and plain stupid decision from the Senedd. Nonetheless, those watching the match would be treated to a topsy-turvy, action-packed, and throughly exciting match!!
It was the home side who took first blood after just a quarter of an hour played when Jack Kenny latched onto a long ball from Louis Malandjou to chip the ball over the onrushing Newtown goalkeeper Dave Jones to break the deadlock. The Robins would have a fine conclusion to the first half when they turned the game around with a quickfire double before the interval. Firstly Nick Rushton tucked away a penalty after the talented left-winger Lifumpa Mwandwe was brought down by Cofis‘ keeper Lewis Brass. The two Newtown players were involved in the second goal when Brass initially palmed away Rushton’s cross-shot but the rebound fell to Mwandwe who fired the ball into the net from a tight angle to give Newtown a 2-1 lead at half-time.
In the second half, Caernarfon fought back and it was the “Cofi Messi” who inspired the comeback. Around the hour mark in the game, Darren Thomas capitalised on a poor defensive clearance to thunder a low drive past Jones to level the teams once more. He would then benefit from a rapid counter-attack in the 73rd minute, when Jake Bickerstaff won possession just outside of the penalty box and drove forward before playing in Thomas to grab his brace and give the Cofis a 3-2 lead with roughly a quarter of an hour to play, much to the enjoyment of the supporters watching from beyond the ground’s boundaries. However the momentum of the match turned when Newtown introduced a number of substitutes who would subsequently turn the tide of the game. Just a couple of minutes after Caernarfon had taken the lead and the scores were level once more. A free kick from Craig Williams found the unmarked substitute James Davies, who nodded the ball past the helpless Brass for the equaliser just a minute after coming onto the pitch – the ultimate impact!
Davies would complete his brace just three minutes after being introduced and grab Newtown’s fourth of the afternoon, in an almost carbon-copy counter-attack goal to Caernarfon’s third goal. The talented Mwandwe won possession deep within his own half and sprinted forward before passing to Davies, who then beat his marker and slotted the ball past Brass to give the Robins the advantage with just eight minutes remaining. The game and result was finally confirmed with four minutes left when former Cofi player, and fellow substitute, Jamie Breese produced another late impact when he scored Newtown’s fifth and final goal of the game. Once again Davies was heavily involved in the goal, this time acting as the provider when his acute angled shot was initially blocked by Brass, but the rebound fell to Breese who bundled the ball into an empty net and confirmed Newtown’s spot within the Europa Conference League for next season. It would be the third consecutive away victory within the playoffs and cap off an incredible second half of the season for the Robins, who had found themselves second-from-bottom at the time of December’s halt to the season. One of the greatest recoveries in Welsh football history, and had ensured Newtown’s appearance in Europe for the first time since 2016!! What a game!!!
- Caernarfon Town 3 – 5 Newtown
Considering what has happened throughout the season, it’s a triumph that the 2020-21 Cymru Premier season managed to get completed at all. With a long delay in the middle of the season due to increased COVID infection rates, and the remainder of the season becoming increasingly compressed, it looked doubtful at times whether it would be finished, but the hard work of volunteers in all 12 clubs ensured that the season would not have to be decided on points-per-game for the second season running. It was a season that saw no supporters, no promotion, no relegation, no domestic cups, and at times no common sense (with regards to the Welsh Government and the FAW Appeals Review Board), but ultimately resulted in the No-mads ending up as champions once again. Having been robbed of a proper title celebration last year, it was great to see them finally celebrate winning the league again and finally answer any of the critics or doubters who had questioned their league victory last season (most probably those based in Shropshire).
It will be very interesting to see how the season will develop next season with hopes that the Welsh football system will return to normality and the full pyramid can play football. Hopefully, Connah’s Quay will perform admirably in the UEFA Champions League, and that the three clubs in the new Europa Conference League (TNS, Bala Town, and Newtown) will progress and potentially get a group stage spot. Ideally, a big season is needed from Welsh clubs in Europe to help improve our coefficient ranking and regain that fourth European place which was lost this season. Having a reduction of European spots available for clubs will surely be a detriment to the league in the short and long term.
On the domestic front, will this second consecutive championship trigger the start of a period of domination for the Nomads, as we have seen in previous times with Barry Town and TNS, or will TNS come firing back to the top under the leadership of Anthony Limbrick? Likewise, will the astute Colin Caton and his Bala side manage to narrow the gap between themselves and the top two, or will another club join them in that chase? Can Penybont, and Caernarfon continue to improve, or will Barry Town bounce back after an average season? Will Newtown manage to start the season successfully or will they need another second half of the season boost in form? Plus with relegation & promotion (hopefully) returning next season, how will Niall McGuinness’ Cefn Druids react after an awful season – will they perform a Lazarus-style resurgence or are they destined to be doomed for relegation? Which one of the teams will be involved in a relegation dogfight, and could Aberystwyth finally be unable to avoid the drop for the first time? There are a lot of questions for next season, and it’ll be very interesting to see how the 2021-22 season develops and ultimately answers the multiple queries.
Personally, I’m just hoping the 2021-22 Welsh season runs without a hitch – some normality would be just the tonic after a couple of difficult seasons, please! Although if a Holywell Town promotion from the Cymru North appeared next season, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge it… 😉
Thanks for all of the support given to the blog throughout the season folks, and I hope you all enjoy the upcoming European Championships, Copa América, and CONCACAF Gold Cup – it’s set to be a feast of football this summer! C’MON CYMRU!!!