Oval Ways: “We are now truly One Club”
With a league cup final tomorrow, Caernarfon fans – or the Cofi Army as they are sometimes known – are gearing up for their final chance to cheer on Iwan Williams’ side this season.
Although Caernarfon’s season could end with silverware, it has been a season of contrasting emotions. A league championship win followed licencing promotion rejection, with a second title bid derailed by Prestatyn’s triumphant return to the Welsh Premier League. More success was found in the Welsh Cup, before the Cofis were knocked out by a late Bala Town comeback.
After the club’s recent ups and downs, Y Clwb Pel Droed spoke with Paul Evans, Caernarfon Town supporter and Oval Ways blogger, to find out about the mood around the club and how its ‘one club’ philosophy is stronger than ever.
Evans is looking forward to the cup final even if there is an extreme sense of deja vu.
“Yes, I’m very much looking forward to the match, and to visiting Conwy’s ground, which is one of the best in the league and we always get a warm welcome there. This will be the third time we’ve faced Flint in the Huws Gray Cup final in four seasons, which is quite an unusual scenario but it shows how strong both sides have been in recent seasons.”
Meeting Flint for the third time along with a number of league fixtures over the years, Evans expects a tight game. Caernarfon finished 2nd whilst Flint suffered an end of season slow down to finish sixth, but he notes this is still a respectable position in a league as tough as the HGA.
“I think it’s going to be a very close match, similar to last seasons’ final and with little to choose between the teams. Flint are a really good side with lots of quality and finishing sixth in such a strong league proves how good they are. Having said that, I also know how strong we are and I’m confident the players Iwan selects for the final will give it their best shot and make the club proud.”
Ahead of their ultimate game, Evans reflects on a highly memorable and historic season.
“It’s been a memorable season for the club as, although we are disappointed at not having retained the league title, no one more so than Iwan and the players, there have been many positives for us, both on and off the field.
“The highlight thus far, of course, was reaching the semi-final of the Welsh Cup for the first time in twenty nine years, but we’ve also done well in the league, and runners-up is still a decent achievement.”
Evans points out that success has gone much further than the first team, with their reserve, academy and ladies teams all flourishing along with the club’s domestic license affairs in full order.
“We have re-introduced the reserve side over the course of the last year, and the Academy has continued to go from strength to strength under Haydn Wyn Jones. We are also very proud of our Ladies side, who have won the North Wales League and been promoted to the Welsh Premier League.
“Off the field, of course, we have finally achieved the FAW’s Domestic Licence and are working hard on various other aspects of the club so, when taking everything into account, I think we should be happy with how the season has gone.”
It may have ended with late heart break, but Evans notes the club’s Welsh Cup run helped put the club, and its passionate fans, back in the public eye.
“To reach the semi-final of the Welsh Cup is a fantastic achievement, especially when considering that we defeated two Welsh Premier League sides on the way, and that it was done with a squad that was down to the bare bones, due to injuries and players being cup-tied.
“I also think that the relief shown on the Bala manager and players’ faces after they beat us in the last four is testament to how close the players pushed them. The run put Caernarfon Town back on the map and I think it proved that we we’re one of the biggest clubs in the country.
“I was particularly pleased that the supporters, the Cofi Army, were given an opportunity to see the side play in the latter stages of the competition and they did the club proud throughout the run. I heard a podcast recently that said the Cofi Army sprinkled some magic on the cup this year and I agree! Hopefully, we won’t have to wait so long for another appearance in the last four and, with Iwan in charge, I’m sure we’ll be there again soon!”
Caernarfon’s resurgence as a major power in North Wales footabll has been driven by Iwan Williams, and Paul says the young and dynamic manager’s has lifted the club to solidify the ‘One Club’ motto that has now become synonymous with the club.
“I am extremely proud of Iwan and what he has done at the club. I was a big supporter of our previous manager, Lee Dixon, but with all due respect to Lee and everyone else who’s been in charge in recent years, Iwan has taken not only the team but the club itself onto another level. I don’t think people realise how much work he does for us, not just with the team but behind the scenes as well.
He is professional in everything he does and, not to put too fine a point on it, but he also ensures that we as a Board carry this through the club.
When Iwan was given the job two years ago I met up with him at the Oval for a photo shoot to announce the news and can remember him saying how nervous he was at taking over such a big club. But, if he hadn’t told me that, I certainly would not have guessed it because from that moment on he has been every bit as good as we had thought and hoped he would be.
He is involved at every level of the club and just ‘gets’ us, and that’s why everyone, the players, the staff, the board and the supporters think the world of him. Iwan is the reason why we are now truly ‘One Club’.”
Despite ex-WPL giants Airbus and Rhyl coming into the Huws Gray Alliance next season, Evans says the title and promotion will remain the club’s main goal.
“The Huws Gray Alliance is already a very strong league, and I’m sure that next season it will be even stronger. Airbus and Rhyl will be desperate to return to the top tier and will be doing their best to get back at the first attempt, whilst Porthmadog, Flint, Guislfield and Holywell will once again be strong.
I’m not a fan of clubs talking about other clubs playing budgets because, as we have shown in the Welsh Cup this season, preparation, heart, determination and the manager’s ability count every bit as much as the budget and I know that we’ll be more than a match for every other team in these departments. It will undoubtedly be tough to win the league but we’ll be doing our best as a board to support Iwan, his staff and the squad as we again target promotion and a return to the top tier.”
(Featured Image from @LlanfairUnited)