“The key words are patience and belief.” 

Ammanford AFC manager Gruff Harrison is calmness personified in the lead up to the club’s first local derby against Garden Village since the 2013/14 season. In his typical confident manner, Harrison not only belies his tender age, after taking over the club as the youngest Welsh League manager in history, but belies his former self. 

In his first season in charge, Harrison was thrust into a challenging position. With off field decisions ruining his preparations for his first full season, Harrison’s young side were relegated to Division Three on a technicality that saw them relegated despite finishing outside of the relegation zone to accommodate other sides. 

With confidence and attacking football at the core of his principles, Harrison guided his young side immediately back up, and has made a name for himself as an impressive young manager in the Welsh League and his belief in himself and his squad is evident.

Despite a little inconsistency this term, he insists their hard work on the training ground will pay off.

 “We are working hard on the training ground and everyone is confident that we will find consistency. As you mentioned we have been playing well and our last three results are a loss, win and a draw. During that mixed bag we have felt we deserved the 9 points.

The key words are patience and belief. We seem to be hitting the levels now that we know we are capable of in relation to performance, as the belief is there. We just need critically to be patient and we are confident the results will come. The whole squad feel we are just around the corner from a good extensive run of results.”

However, a game against local rivals Garden Village is a completely different test. Village have struggled for points this season and sit in 14th place, with recent losses against Dinas Powys and Aberbargoed Buds starting to rock the club with the idea that a second consecutive relegation battle will be on their hands. But, with a derby game comes intensity and Harrison’s side are prepared for this.

“We have prepared for the game like we would any other hoping to get 3 points. Although, we are sensitive to the fact that it’s the first time we have met in the last couple of years and that should provide extra motivation for us and no doubt Garden Village also. Which should result in a very entertaining game. We have prepared the best we feel we can.” 

In general we try and approach games in the same manner, but we may tweak one or two areas to exploit the opposition or nullify their strengths leading up to games. I must add, this doesn’t work all the time as infoformation regarding opposition is limited and football is a random game and anything can happen at any time as no two games / situations are exactly the same.

Where we or Garden Village are in the league or our form is irrelevant. Derby matches are always intense, mentality and discipline will be key. I make no secret of it though, we will set up to attack and try to win at all times!”

The game has an extra spice to it though, with Village’s side consisting of five former Ammanford players. Dayle Selvage, Ashley Richards and Matthew Harding left the club for Village this summer, joining Kurtis Morgan and Mikey Morris who rejoined Village earlier in the 2015/16 season. The Ammanford manager has immense respect for the players and insists after the game they will share a drink, but during the game friendships will be put to one side.

“Garden Village have 5 former players in their ranks and the five that played with us over the last two/three years were successful during that period. Personally I like to think the boys enjoyed their time and gained respect for me as a coach and my club Ammanford AFC as a whole from top to bottom.

During their time they became friends of mine and not just team mates / players I coached and it’s Garden Village’s gain to have people of that calibre within their club again. Ashley Richards, who was my assistant last year, is now back at Village and it will certainly be odd, but he and I both know that come tomorrow we will both have that burning desire to win.

I have massive respect for Ashley and I’m sure we will enjoy a drink after the game. And not just Ashley I think highly of, but all five former players, but come 2pm tomorrow that will all have to be put aside. They know that, and they know me, they know my passion for the game and my team. So as odd and strange as it may be to us, it will be just another game against a local rival, friendships aside.”

However, all friendships aside Harrison knows the importance of the game. After falling to a 1-0 defeat against Croesyceiliog, he knows a win could be the catalyst for the extended run he talks about. 

“We have plenty of home fixtures left and are aiming to better our points tally of last season, that is the minimum aim.”

A win tomorrow would be the best place to start. 

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