Afan Lido boss Wayne Davies on the ‘hard work’ that has seen the club become Welsh League title dark horses
Since the start of 2018 there is no doubt about the form team in Welsh League Division One. Afan Lido have won all six of their league games this year.
Lido are seven in an unbeaten run that totals eight games stretching back to December 1st 2017) – including a 2-1 success away to Llanelli Town – a run that has seen the Aberavon club rocket up the league table to 4th and just a single point behind leaders Haverfordwest County.
Manager Wayne Davies, who joined Lido ‘as a favour’ in the summer to act as a background mentor for then player-manager Liam McCreesh and since taken on the role of first team manager as McCreesh decided to concentrate solely on his playing career, has presided over the form. He says there is ‘no secret formula’ to the club’s recent run, instead championing the work done off the field.
“No secret, its called hard work. Even though we lost a couple of games before Christmas, our form was just as good then but we were not getting rub of green. We’ve won six on the bounce now.
The majority of those we’ve deserved to win, but in a couple of games we’ve had the rub of the green we weren’t getting earlier. There’s no secret formula.”
“When we started we made a number of changes in personnel and trying different players in different positions, so they have been bedding in. Every department of our team is new, so we’re becoming familiar with each other, understanding our roles better, hence the results have come along.”
“Obviously we’ve got good players and they understand us now and what we require of them. It’s just a lot of hard work married with a lot of ability, hence we’ve been getting the results.”
The run has put Afan Lido into the position of being outside bet for the Welsh League title. The teams above them do have games in hand, but Afan Lido are the side with all the momentum at the moment. Davies says the championship is always the goal, but insists Afan Lido cannot think any further than the next game.
“The aspiration is always to win the next game and in turn win more games than the rest of the competition. Your ideal is always to win the championship. But really we’ve seen this as a learning season, a learning curve.
We’ve put ourselves in a great position as far as title concerned, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We work week to week and what becomes of it will become of it. We realise there are a couple of really good teams ahead of us, [as well as] a couple of really good teams just behind us. I think it’s fairly important we continue with our improvement and progression and see where we end up.”
Part of the progression involves building a strong future for the first team and Davies says blooding youth has been a feature of this season’s ‘learning curve’.
“We’ve got a lot of young boys. Every match day you’ll see 4 or 5 youth team players in the squad, they are learning, quietly finding their feet with more and more game time. They are really good footballers, it’s just a case of them gaining some knowledge.”
The development of the club’s youth players has borne fruit recently. Following the loss of top scorer Mark Jones to Welsh Premier League outfit Carmarthen Town last month, Davies has had to call upon a couple of younger players to try and fill those boots.
“Our two youth team strikes in Sean Hanbury and Jack Todd have both come in and had minutes since Jonah’s [Mark Jones] move and both have scored goals.
They are both very good players and we think they have big futures. We may be forced to give them more game time than we anticipated; that’s football.
They’ve gone in and taken their opportunity and they are playing well. Any team would miss Mark Jones’ goals, but since he’s gone we have scored seven goals in two games, so perhaps we have found a way of replacing his goals.
It would have been nice to have [Jones] around, but that won’t be the case so we’ve got to get on with it. I’ve got to say the boys that have come in to replace him have taken the challenge on and scored goals for us. So we are looking forward to seeing how they progress in the last 10 games.”
Turning attention to the rest of the season Davies emphasised his side must maintain their standards as results can ‘change overnight’ in a very competitive league.
“If we take our eye off the ball, drop our effort by 5% we’ll catch a cold. We are mindful of that. There is a lot of good sides, anybody can beat anybody on their day.”
Davies pointed to the recent form of Friday night’s opponents Briton Ferry Llansawel as evidence of why nothing can be taken for granted in the Welsh League.
“If you looked at the league table, their league position, you wouldn’t feel overly threatened by them. But if you look at [Briton Ferry Llansawel’s] recent results, they’ve had fantastic results: beating the two Goytre’s, which is no mean feat; they beat Haverfordwest away and they’ve drawn with Penybont.
So Carl [Shaw] has got them playing really well. There are no easy points to be earned, I assure you they do need to be earned. Up to now the boys have given their all and will have to continue to do so if they want to continue this run.”
Ahead of the local derby with Briton Ferry Llansawel, Davies said while he and his team will enjoy the ‘edge’ these types of games bring, the three points on offer were the most important thing.
“To be frank, it’s just another three points to gather. I do realise the significance of [these games] and I do realise there is a little more of an edge because of the familiarity between the playing staff and the players…we’re in this game because we like competition and those games are competitive so you’ve got to look forward to them.”
(Featured Image: Lewis Mitchell)