Richie Ryan aiming to continue unbeaten record against title challengers Swansea University
Trefelin Boys and Girls Club are the only unbeaten side left in the Welsh League. Their unbeaten run currently stands at 19 games if you include both their Division Three and League Cup fixtures.
The Port Talbot-based outfit have led the Division Three table from the start of the season, setting off at a breakneck pace by winning their first seven league games.
Considering last season they finished 12th and are currently in just their second season in the Welsh League, it has been a dramatic turnaround at Ynys Park. The change in fortunes coincides with a change of management with the appointment of Richard Ryan in pre-season – a five-times Welsh League winner as a player. Although to suggest Trefelin’s emergence as Division Three promotion contenders is merely coincidental is to unfairly downplay the work that has been done get this far.
What is the secret behind the sudden success at Ynys Park this season? Ryan is keen to stress that the players deserve much of the credit while adding it is a ‘whole club’ ethos that is driving this season’s success.
“The players have been brilliant since day one. The way they conduct themselves in training, adapt to different conditions and are able to perform in different systems is top drawer.”
“The club itself is something special. From the committee, to the coaching staff, to the chairman and even the women working behind the bar. Everyone is in it together and it’s refreshing for a manager to work in these surroundings.”
Before the season started Ryan told Y Clwb Pel-droed he had high aspirations and wanted to target promotion. At one point it did look like Trefelin BGC would run away with the Division Three title, but several draws, as well as the equally relentless form from the likes of Swansea University and Bridgend Street, means their lead at the top is now a slender one.
Ryan admits his side are far from the perfect article in a very competitive league. What Trefelin have shown is a consistent knack of picking up results, with seven of their league wins secured by a one-goal margin.
“We have had some bad days at the office and haven’t always been on top of our game. It’s important that when you have those bad days, you still get something from the game. After winning our first eight [league and cup] games, we drew two on the bounce and they felt like defeats at the time. But that’s a result of the standards we set ourselves, which I personally see as a good thing.”
“Division Three is a very strong and difficult one, packed with dangerous teams who can all hurt you on their day. I’ve been quite surprised by the standard at this level and it’s been a good learning curve for everyone, including myself.”
Being the last unbeaten side in the whole Welsh League is a tremendous testament to the ongoing project at Trefelin BGC. Ryan says it is not something the club are that focussed on, it is certainly not something that is being taken for granted.
“We don’t really talk about our unbeaten run to be honest. We work under the premise that the next game is the most important one, regardless of who we are playing. You start looking 2 or 3 games ahead and I think that’s disrespectful to your next opponent.”
Does Ryan believe it is becoming harder to maintain that record with every passing week?
“Teams tend to give an extra 20% against us because we’ve been top since the start but I keep reminding the boys that we have to be physically and mentally strong enough to deal with that.”
In addition to the league form, Trefelin have had a fantastic run to the semi-finals of the Welsh League Cup. In every round they have beaten a team from a higher division and the best result of all came in the quarter-final when the won 1-0 at STM Sports, a side challenging for promotion to Division One. Ryan says the club are enjoying the ride, but it’s not a distraction he wants to come at the expense of league form.
“Our cup run has been a nice sub-plot to the season. To beat 3 teams in a higher division shows the quality we have in our ranks. We look forward to the draw and will be ready for the semi’s when the time comes. But the league will remain our priority, as it has been since day one.”
This weekend Trefelin BGC are involved in arguably the biggest game across the Welsh League as they travel to Sketty Stadium to play Swansea University, the second-placed side breathing down their throats. Last week Swansea Uni firmly nailed their credentials to the wall with a 6-1 thrashing of Bridgend Street (who were unbeaten in the league until last weekend).
“We go to Swansea Uni on Saturday in another big game for both teams. They are on the back of a convincing win against Bridgend Street and we also go into the game in decent form.”
In the reverse fixture earlier in the season Trefelin beat Swansea Uni 2-1 at Ynys Park. Ryan doesn’t believe this will have any influence on what happens on Saturday.
“I don’t think us beating them earlier in the season will have any bearing on the outcome to be honest, a lot has happened since then.”
“Many will fancy them as favourites. With outstanding training and playing facilities, A License coaches etc. They are geared up for the Welsh Premier. But we relish games like these, it’s why we play football, and the boys will be ready.”
(Featured Image: Michael James)