FORMER striker Rhys Griffiths has said that he’s enjoying his time as Penybont manager as he looks to lead the club to success.
The Welsh Premier League legend who scored an abundance of goals at the top flight of Welsh football in his career is now in the dugout as the manager of ambitious Welsh League side Penybont.
Griffiths and trusted side-kick Martyn Giles, who played alongside Griffiths in his playing days at Llanelli guided Penybont to a second placed finish last season.
They finished just a few points behind Champions Barry Town United, with Griffiths pretty content with how last season went as he began his first season as a manager.
“I think we (Martyn Giles and I) did a really good job. It took some time to get to know the group, but by the run in we were very strong and playing some excellent football. The transition was quite smooth. The key was to be natural, not to try and be something I’m not.
We enjoyed it but it helps that we have a great group and it really is a lovely club to be involved with.”
With finishing second, there are some areas to improve in if a club wants to go forward and the Penybont manager wants to turn the defeats column from last season into wins, to help consolidate his side in the league table.
The goal is to improve, and so in one respect yes it has to be that. As a club we are trying to grow and so there is a lot more to it than just title success. Last season we lost 7 and drew 3, so if we turn that into three and three I’ll see it as a success.
Fortunately for Penybont and Griffiths, he feels that he can chose from a side that have shown great attitude in their opening three league fixtures, as they remain unbeaten from last season, making it twelve league wins in a row.
On the opening day of the season though, Penybont nearly lost that record as they trailed Monmouth Town by a goal but a rousing effort from the home side earned them three-points and kept that impressive record intact.
“The attitudes have been spot on, both in training and in matches. Against Monmouth we were below par with the football, and fell behind with half an hour left. The reaction was immediate in terms of our intensity and we fought back to win.
I sensed a change in attitude from hopefulness to expectancy. We’ve not actually played to our potential in any game, but we have a game plan and a team ethic that means we can be successful even when below par.”
This Monday though, perhaps will come Penybont’s biggest task as they take on Division Two and League Cup Champions, Llanelli Town.
It will be the KYMCO Stadium which will host the early-season clash with both sides being tipped for relative success this season, despite Llanelli Town’s new boys status.
For Griffiths though, it’s perhaps a small reunion as such as he takes on a side where he enjoyed his career, scoring a number of key goals for the West Wales side.
But since departing Llanelli, the club has dramatically changed and a majority of the faces Griffiths would be familiar with have since departed.
“If it was away, I’d perhaps feel more sentimental, but the team is unrecognisable to when I was there. It’s nice to see some old faces though. My time at Llanelli was special for so many reasons, so nostalgia is welcome. Ultimately though, it’s our team versus most people’s title favourites, so I’m focused on the task.”
One of those tasks will be to deal with former Football League striker Lee Trundle who scored fifty goals for the Reds last season as he helped lead them to the title.
But Griffiths feels that his side has some players that contend with the other added quality that Llanelli Town possess in their ranks.
“We will discuss Lee and what he brings to their side, but if we spend too much time on him the other match winners they have could hurt us.
As a team we will have a plan for their main threats, and hopefully the players can implement that whilst also utilising the quality we have. We have some very talented players.”
With both Griffiths current side Penybont and his former side Llanelli Town seemingly on the up with both sides looking strong with a good squad to choose from, Griffiths is hopeful that Llanelli can reach their former glory days once again, but not at the expense of his current side.
“I really hope so. Welsh football has suffered since the fall of Llanelli, Barry, Neath, etc. Llanelli is a big club in Welsh football and I hope it continues this rise, but not at our expense!”
It’s only early days but as come describe this as a potential title clash, a win this evening would be vital for both sides and if Penybont were to win then it would give Penybont an added boost for the season ahead, says Griffiths.
“I think it would increase our belief and expectancy, as well as maintaining our confidence. We’ve won 12 league games in a row, so every win is part of a great run of success. We know that they too are on a great run, so both teams are fighting for more than three points.”
And this evening, he’ll be able to call upon some of his trusted players who despite being at a young age, have improved during their time at Penybont.
Joe Hopkins and Gethin Jones are a number of players Penybont can call upon, having signed Gethin Jones in the summer. The 36 year-old has helped the younger players in the Penybont side.
Griffiths is also happy to see local talent come through at Penybont, playing them in the right setting and not demanding immediate success.
Joe is a talented player and has improved a lot over the last year. He’s also a key personality in our changing room. We had a several players like joe though; young, talented, and eager to improve.
“Gethin Jones will be thrilled with that! We needed certain types of players as if someone fit the bill and is capable right now, we bring them in regardless of age. Personality is huge for us though. No bad eggs!
‘I do take a lot of satisfaction from giving young local players the opportunity to play and show their worth. Success for them isn’t always instant, but with us they will be allowed to make mistakes without that being the end of their opportunities.
We have some real talent in Bridgend and hopefully they can continue to come into the ranks over time. It’s about balance, but if you look at Ben Woodburn the other night, it is also about trust.
(Featured Image: Lewis Mitchell)