Meet the manager who ended a 32 year trophy drought
While there have been many more high profile achievements by clubs in Wales during 2016/17, one North East Wales League club’s cannot be over-shadowed. Led by manager Shaun Antrobus, CPD Sychdyn won a double, clinching their first cup in 32 years and winning the league in a dramatic title race.
Here, Y Clwb Pel Droed speaks to Shaun Antrobus on how he guided his side to a historic season – just three years after the club nearly folded.
For Antrobus, a connection with CPD Sychdyn starts at home, having lived in the village all his life. A junior football player, he first joined the club at 17 before moving to rivals Shotton Steel – until a phone call prompted him to return.
“Around three years ago I received a phone call from the club’s secretary asking me to re-sign for the club and help manage the team as the previous manager had left to take over another club in the WNL. They needed help as most of the players had also left the club and the remaining fixtures in the season needed to be fulfilled. The secretary also mentioned that the club was close to folding.
It was a call I never expected and my only thought at the time was to make sure the club seen out the remaining fixtures of the season and we would discuss the next steps once the season was over. Once the 2014 /15 campaign had finished, I accepted the role as manager of the team but made it clear that we were going to build an entirely new team for the season ahead.”
And Antrobus’ new team hit the ground running, as the new look CPD Sychdyn enjoyed an excellent season finishing second only to a strong Rhostyllen side. Although the club reflected on a season of massive progress, they were dealt a blow by missing the chance to go up into the Welsh National League Division One due to ground criteria.
“After failing to meet the ground criteria and not being promoted last year, it was extremely tough for the lads and myself to take, especially after 8th place Maesgwyn were given the chance to play in the WNL.
“My main message this year to the team was not to focus on the things out of our control but to make sure that this time round we did everything possible to bring silverware back to this club.”
Having come so close yet so far to the North East Wales League championship, the Sychdyn gaffer was eager to challenge again. To do so, he explains the team had to gel on and off the pitch.
“After last season, where we managed to finish the league as Runners up to a very strong Rhostyllen side, I knew that with just a few minor tweaks to the team we would be in a great position to challenge once again this year.
“The team consists of players who in my opinion are easily capable of playing WNL standard football and that was clear when we played FC Penley away in the Welsh Cup and managed to get the win and progress to the next round.
“The main secret to our success is that this team is not your typical lower league football team. Our players don’t just turn up to training in mid week and then head to a game on a Saturday with very little interaction with other members within the squad.
“This has now turned into a team of close friends who socialise with each other almost everyday. I think this approach has been key to what we’ve managed to achieve this year. ”
Antrobus’ technical and social approach to Sychdyn paid its dividends, as the club went onto become part of a intense title race. Despite trailing Mynydd Isa Spartans and Cefn Mawr Rangers at some points of the season, Sychdyn held on to win the title in their penultimate league fixture.
Although it ended in glory, the stress of the league run-in sticks with the manager, who recalls the ins and outs a complex battle for the title.
“Stressful is the only way to describe this years title race. Up until the last four games this season, there was still around six teams in with a chance of winning the league, after studying the fixtures and guesstimating outcomes of potential games, I knew that it would more than likely be between ourselves, Mynydd Isa Spartans and Cefn Mawr Rangers.
“The main message to the team was to just take one game at a time and whatever happens we should be proud that we got ourselves into this position. Having not lost a game since 10th December we as a team knew that it was in our hands. Despite drawing two games in April against Mostyn and Mold Town United we needed to make sure we picked ourselves up and continued to get point on the board. Our last game against Offa Athletic has to be the most nervous I’ve ever felt, especially when we went 1-0 down after five minutes.
“To come back and win 4-3 goes to show the mental strength of the team. When we received the phone call from the manager of Mynydd Isa Spartans congratulating us on winning the league as they had managed to achieve a 1-1 draw against Cefn Mawr, the changing room was bouncing and the celebrations went on until the early hours of Sunday morning.
“The main objective has always been winning the league, as i believe that shows the quality of a team. To go over the course of a season and concede the fewest goals and gain the most points in the table really goes to show just how far we’ve come in a short amount of time.”
Although the club is unable to gain promotion to the National League Division One, Antrobus reveals plans are in place to defend the title, and despite interest from other clubs, the majority of Sychdyn’s squad are expected to stay.
“Despite not being able to gain promotion this season, the plan is that the majority of the squad will be staying together.
“Understandably some of my players have been contacted by other clubs regarding their plans for next season which is something I expected, however I’ve spoken with my players and the challenge of defending the League and Cup next season is something they want to play a part in. We will be looking for a few new additions due to a few of my players deciding to call time on their careers, but only if i feel they can add to the squad.”
On ending his club’s three decade trophy-less run, Antrobus speaks of his pride in an achievement which will remain a high point in the club’s history books for many years.
“To finally see CPD Sychdyn’s name engraved on both the League and Premier Division cup is a great feeling and one the whole team and everyone associated with the club are extremely proud of. Our main target this season was to make a statement in both the North East Wales League and the Cup competitions and i think that has now been achieved.
With their statement made, Sychdyn look a side to be reckoned with in the North East Wales League beyond. Their season may be over, but with a tight knit team and passionate manager in Antrobus, Sychdyn may only be at the beginning of a new era at Wats Dyke Way.
Featured Images: Chris Powell