Cambrian & Clydach Vale BGC entertain Briton Ferry Llansawel this weekend in Welsh Football League Division One. Both sides have endured difficult starts to the 2017/18 season and currently sit 13th and 12th in the table respectively.
Managers Craig Hughes (Cambrian) and Carl Shaw (Briton Ferry) spoke to YClwbPeldroed.org ahead of the clash.
“Cambrian have been an established club in Division One for many years (WFL champions in 2011/12), but it has been a troubling start to the season with just one win from the first five league games and four defeats. Craig Hughes said they were “unhappy” with their “very poor start”, especially as Hughes has previously expressed he was “disappointed” with the club’s 11th place finish last season.
If there is some mitigation it is that Cambrian have a very young squad this season, Hughes stating they had seven players under the age of 19 (including a 16 year old from the academy) and just two players over 30. With a balance so heavily weighted towards young players there will always be an experience gap and the traditional inconsistencies that are often part of the package with younger players.
Not that Hughes is using that as an excuse, putting the poor results so far down to his side’s “own errors” and making it clear if Cambrian are to improve they need to start “cutting out basic footballing mistakes”.
Hughes is evidently a very ambitious manager and that is to be expected from someone with a successful playing background in the Welsh league and a former English Premier League trainee. The Cambrian boss said he is keen to build to success again at St. George V New Field and certainly a part of that will be improving the club’s home form.
Last season Cambrian managed just one home win in the league, something Hughes described as “shocking” and promised to improve this. In the last home game Cambrian thrashed Goytre (who finished 3rd last season) 5-2, demonstrating the talent Hughes has at his disposal in Clydach Vale and Hughes wants to see his charges build on that “good win and display”.
While the talent is there at Cambrian, for Hughes his young squad needs to focus on the priority of playing “with energy, heart and desire…things I feel get lost in player development and disregarded,” rather than being preoccupied with playing in a certain way or with a particular style.
“Once we show these [attributes] and earn the right to play” the Cambrian manager expressed, “only then can we implement a playing style that gives freedom to players and a smile to their faces”.
While Cambrian are looking to improve after several seasons of inconsistency, their visitors on Saturday are in the position of trying to establish themselves in Division One. Under long-serving manager Carl Shaw, Briton Ferry Llansawel secured promotion to the Division One last season, finishing second behind Llanelli Town’s invincibles.
There is always a challenge for any newly promoted adapting to the higher level and while 4 points from the first 5 league wins isn’t a terrible return, Shaw admits his side have found it tough going.
“It’s been a difficult start,” Shaw said, “we started well [against] Cwmamman and was happy with our performance there, but since then we have found it tough.”
There have been a couple of heavy defeats this season for Briton Ferry, but last weekend they secured their first league win of the season in a thrilling 4-3 home success over bottom club Caerau (Ely): a game that saw Briton Ferry play more than half the game with ten men and manager Shaw in goal as an emergency replacement goalkeeper (first choice gloveman Luke Probert was sent off before half time and there was no sub keeper named), concede three equalisers, before picking up the ‘W’ with a 92nd minute winner amidst a torrential downpour.
Shaw described the win as “massive” and hopes it will boost the confidence of his players: “the boys needed to show they are able to win in Division One,” he said, “hopefully we can kick on and start picking up some points now.”
Despite a tough start and probably being among the pre-season relegation contenders, Shaw hopes to finish as high up the league as possible this season, but recognises survival is a more realistic aim, the priority being “to make sure we are still in Division One next season”.
Nevertheless, Briton Ferry are a club striving for more than a yo-yo existence, Shaw outlined The Reds are “working extremely hard off the pitch to make sure we are ready for tier 2”, while acknowledging his players also need to do their bit and back that up with “performances on the pitch”.
It is a big ask, especially as Shaw has largely gone with the squad that earned promotion last season, explaining he was “more than happy” with the players at his disposal and “wanted to make sure they all had the chance to prove they can play in Division One”. The one acquisition Shaw noted was that of Luke Harris, a seasoned Division One player, who Shaw believes will give Briton Ferry “more options at the back”.
Both managers said they were expecting a tough battle and both sides are keen to get the win to give their respective campaigns some momentum. However, both Hughes and Shaw spoke with great affection of each other’s clubs and despite there being a football match and three points to be won; there are friendships that bridge the divide.
Hughes called out Briton Ferry defender Ian Hillier (“one of my best mates in football”) as someone he was looking forward to catching up with, but warned “I will target him and his receding hairline!”
Shaw, for his part, added “whatever the result, it will be good for me and some of our squad to catch up with good friends after the game.”
(Featured Image: Andrew Evans)