In Division Three of the Welsh Football League there have been a number of surprisingly pace setters early in the season. Trefelin Boys and Girls Club and Tredegar Town – both clubs that struggled last season – sit first and second respectively, with newly promoted Swansea University hot on their heels in third.
Tredegar Town’s rise to promotion contender is all the more staggering considering they were anchored to the foot of Division Three for much of last season. Andrew Yorke took over as manager of the Blaenau Gwent club in November last year and gradually improved Town’s fortunes over the course of the season; including an excellent run of form at the end of the campaign. However, Tredegar still couldn’t avoid finishing in the bottom three and only avoided relegation out of the Welsh Football League due to permutations further up the pyramid.
Yorke’s side has continued where they left off at the end of last season winning six and losing just one of their opening ten league games.
Players were brought in over the summer that Yorke believes improved the overall quality of the squad, but much of the turnaround Yorke traces back to tactical changes implemented last season, a greater sense of cohesion among the players and no shortage of hard work.
“Last season…the coaching staff quickly decided on a certain formation that suited us and a way of playing which was beneficial to use. Also, we gave the players certain roles and responsibilities within the team which helped.”
“We have signed a couple and moved a few players around which we think have improved is and made us more solid as a unit, but in general it’s been a collective effort. The players and staff have been excellent so far this season I just hope for their benefit it continues and we achieve what we deserve. I am a great believer that you only get out what you put in.”
One thing that does stand out with Tredegar Town this season is their defensive record. Last season they struggled at the back and finished with the 4th highest goals conceded total in Division 3 (66 goals in 30 games). This season Yorke’s side boasts the best defence the league, which has been breached just seven times in 10 league matches.
“We are very pleased with our defensive record. That’s down to the team collectively knowing their roles within the team in and out of possession;, just in general organisation, hard work and obviously that little bit of luck which every team needs.”
What is incredible about the improved defensive record is that Tredegar Town has yet to concede a goal away from home in the league and boast a 100% win record on the road in Division 3. However, Yorke does not believe there is any particular reason why away wins have come more freely than at home.
“We approach every game with the same goal: to try and get three points and we will continue to do that throughout the season.”
Despite being established at this level of the Welsh Football League for many years, during this decade Tredegar Town hasn’t been a side known for challenging at the top end of the table. According to Yorke the start to the season has generated a feel-good factor around the club, but he is cautious that nothing has been achieved yet.
“It’s always nice to have a good start, however, it means nothing if around Christmas you let your standards slip. We want to continue with the start we have made, which is important.”
“We need to stay focused and concentrated for every 90 minutes and who knows where that will take us. The club is buzzing at the moment; which is great. We have a squad of 24 and everyone will play some part throughout the season, but we have done nothing yet. However, we are in a better place than this time last season.
As heads of the Valleys club based in a town with a small population, Tredegar Town does not enjoy the same level of player catchment and commercial opportunities that may be open to clubs based in larger urban areas. Yorke agrees this presents a challenge for the club; nevertheless, he believes in the local talent the club draws upon, is proud to give them a platform and represent the area in the Welsh Football League.
“There are some good players with a lot of quality around this area, which is sometimes missed as they don’t get opportunities that they sometimes deserve. We have a young side which will gain experience from playing games as long as they are given game time and as long as they are performing well they will always be given time to us.”
With the Tredegar Town unable to offer financial rewards or incentives, Yorke stresses the importance of fostering an atmosphere at the club that players want to be a part of.
“Obviously we can’t and don’t pay players. We have a group that is motivated and we try to create an atmosphere before, during and after games that the players enjoy; which is important. We also base everything on trust, which is massively important within a football club.”
(Featured Image: Paul Thomas)