Long-serving Merthyr Saints striker Ian Cleary reflects on Saints career as he joins Ynysddu

AFTER seven years of service at South Wales Alliance League side Merthyr Saints, it’s time to say goodbye for prolific goal-scorer Ian Cleary who has joined Gwent County League side Ynysddu Welfare.

The 29 year-old has swapped the ICI Rifle Field for the Nine Mile Point Welfare Ground as he bids to become a part of an ambitious DDU’s side who were close to promotion last season, but narrowly missed out come the tail end of last season.

Twelve years ago, the former Merthyr Tydfil youth was part of the Martyr’s side that won the South Wales Southern Division, the Welsh League Western and in the FAW Youth Cup.

Even at youth level, the striker had a knack of scoring goals and managed to bag 22 goals in 49 appearances for the Merthyr youth side.

After that he left to join Troedyrhiw before making the all important move to Merthyr Saints, where he scored a total of 251 competitive goals.

Interestingly, the way Cleary started his career with Merthyr Saints was jokingly being promised £2 a goal when signing for Merthyr and as that total finally came to an end, manager Craig James would be out of pocket of £502 but the friendship between the two has let that slip after James was the best man at Cleary’s wedding back in May.

During the time as a Merthyr Saints player, Cleary played in the South Wales Regional team, making five appearances and scoring three goals as he represented the region in the UEFA Regions Cup, a tournament that welcomes players from an amateur level.

And after all those years of service that Cleary gave to the club, he’s given his best wishes and sent his thank you’s to those he has given his service to over the last seven years.

I can’t speak highly enough of the club from the guys behind the scenes Neil Clancy and Ronnie Jones, to the coaches I’ve had Kevin Rogers, Nathan Daly and the manager Craig James. Everyone of them has had an impact on me.

Craig has transformed the club from a club relegated from Welsh league on a downhill spiral to a team capable of challenging for promotion back into Welsh League Division 3.”

Like any player leaving a club after enjoying such a long spell, the front-man recalls the time they were promoted to the Premier Division, where he scored the goal to help secure promotion.

“Winning division 1 of the amateur league needing just a point we drew 1-1 away at Clwb Cymric I scored that goal lobbing the keeper from 30 yards.

I just remember running to the dugout and celebrating with everyone, it was one of my most important goals if not the most important. It settled the team down in such an important game and helped us win the league but even more importantly get promoted.

As well as that, he was part of the Saints side that got to Round Three of the Welsh Cup, only to lose to Premier League side Bala Town, after overcoming higher-league opposition to reach the round.

“Reaching round 3 of the Welsh Cup only to lose to Bala Town after beating Caerleon in the previous round 4-3 I scored the 1st goal and a 93rd minute winner. Caerleon had only conceeded 4 goals all season up until that point think they were Welsh division 2 at that point.

Reaching Round Three created such a buzz around the town, people were wishing us luck everywhere we went teams from our league sent well wishes the team were on a 16 game unbeaten run but it was a step to far for us.

Bala Town brought a full strength team to the ICI and put us to the sword 6-0. The tv cameras were there and the club got the recognition it deserved.

The boys didn’t let that game effect them we went on to win the league which was the most important thing.”

The icing on the cake for Cleary though was grabbing that 250th and then 251st goal against AFC Butetown last season, securing his name in the Merthyr Saints’ record books.

“Obviously reaching 251 goals for the club my 250th and 251st coming at the end of last season against Butetown.”

With so many years of service given to the Merthyr side, Cleary has chosen a five-a-side team from the players he’s played alongside with over the years, with some of those playing alongside Cleary from the start.

GK: Daniel Rees –

We played together at Troedyrhiw & at the Saints, he’s a great shot stopper & integral in the club being promoted from Division 1.

DF: Rhys Edwards – He’s strong, great passer and tackler and chips in a few goals.

MF: Craig James the heartbeat of the team, makes everything tick played in the same team as me since we were 11 years old.
MF:  Richard Harris fast, full of tricks, a goal scorer and always puts it on a plate for you.

ST: – Ian Cleary – I’ll have to put myself there’s no offside in five-a-side and I know where the goals are!

Already Cleary has got on the score sheet for his side Ynysddu Welfare, scoring from the spot in their crucial clash with Wattsville, where they lost 2-1.

The move came about when Ynysddu manager Ben Murphy who played at Merthyr with Cleary, approached him to help boost their promotion chances.

“Ben Murphy is a former Saints player and after he left we remained good friends after he returned to Ynysddu so naturally I always looked for their result.

We spoke on the phone a few times where he convinced me that the club are a good outfit, looking to gain promotion and that my experience and goals could contribute towards helping them achieve their target of promotion.

The lads have welcomed me in to the club and I’m looking forward to an exciting promotion chase in the gwent count league.”

Cleary will have the chance to continue his goal scoring form next on Saturday as Ynsyddu Welfare travel to Pill.

 

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