Nana Baah says Caerau Ely can survive drop after achieving ‘impossible’ with Young Guns

In recent years no-one has been more synonymous with Caerau (Ely) Football Club than Nana Baah.

A former Welsh League player with the likes of Bryntirion Athletic, Barry Town, Ton Pentre, Cwmbran Celtic and Cardiff Grange Quins, Baah, who holds a UEFA B Coaching Licence, managed the Cardiff West club for more than five years between 2012 and January 2018, overseeing the most successful period in the club’s history.

Baah took over at Cwrt-Yr-Ala in 2012 following Caerau’s relegation from Division One. In his first season he won promotion back to the Welsh League top flight, then led the club to four consecutive top half finishes, with a lowest finish of 7th in 2013-14 and the crowning achievement winning the Welsh League in 2014-15.

This season Caerau have struggled towards the bottom of Division One and are engaged in a fight for survival. Baah left the club in January, but he wasn’t long out of management, announced as joint manager of fellow Division One club Taffs Well, alongside long-serving Taffs Well manager Lee Bridgeman and former Aberbargoed Buds supremo Adrian Needs. 

This weekend Baah returns to Cwrt-Yr-Ala for the first time as an opposition manager. He admits to having “a lot of mixed feelings about going back” to a club “firmly placed in my heart”, but says the focus now is on Taffs Well. Looking back at his time, Baah is naturally proud of what he achieved.

In reflection of my time at Caerau, I’d like to think I achieved the impossible and created an environment around the club which breeds success.”

Ahead of the game Baah is wary of a recent improvement in results for Caerau and has no doubt they have the credentials to retain their status as a Division One club.

They have done exceptionally well [recently] and praise must go to [manager] Craig [Sampson] and the players. The players always worked hard on and off the field and it’s good to see them get the rewards they deserve. I have no doubt that they can avoid relegation. When you have leaders like Huw Corne and Jerome Maynard, you always have a chance.”

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On his current role, Baah accepts it has been a difficult couple of months in charge. Results have seen Taffs Well slip further down the table, although they have probably already acquired enough to points to ensure relegation is no threat.

It hasn’t been easy at all. When you spend so much time at one club, you get used to things which have been implemented over a sustained period of time. Coming to Taffs Well is like starting all over again and although it’s exciting, it’s also a lot of work which I look forward to. Results haven’t gone the way I would like due to injuries, unavailability and players leaving, but the quality of the core players is better than I expected.”

One player that has left is top goalscorer Sam Johnson, who has since joined fellow Division One outfit Goytre United. Baah said it was ‘disappointing’, but saw it as a chance for other players to stake a claim in the first team.

Unfortunately, [S[Sam]idn’t feel he was playing in his natural position and as a result decided to leave. It’s disappointing to see a player leave for that reason, but that has in turn given the opportunity to young players such as James Driscoll to shine.”

Beyond the first-team, Taffs Well last week announced the launch of the Taffs Well Academy. Baah said this had always been in the pipeline when he became manager and believes the club can generate a set-up that could be the equal of any in Welsh domestic football.

When I took the role as manager one of the targets set by the club was to create a youth system which would allow a platform for young players around our community to access football at the highest level possible. As a result, we set up a meeting with Tom Redman and the South Wales GK Centre coaches. Through our meeting, we decided to launch the academy which I believe has the potential to be the best semi-professional set up around.”

Youth football is an element I hold extremely close to my heart and believe it will help our young people to develop their mental, physical and social well-being.”

With these developments off the field and Baah continuing to work alongside Lee Bridgeman and Adrian Needs to embed their collective ideas, it appears the immediate future for Taffs Well is a period of transition. However, the vision for the future is for the club to compete at the highest level possible.

In the short term, our plans is to give the young players we have as much game time as possible in our remaining games this season. From then, our aim is to create a team and club culture where success in ingrained in our DNA.

In the next few years, I’d like to see Taffs Well have an established youth system with a view of educating and unearthing young talent who have the platform to become established Welsh Premier players. I’d like to see us in the Welsh Premier competing with the likes of Barry, Cardiff Met and Carmarthen who have done so well over the last few years.

In all I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this club. The club has great volunteers such as Liam Edwards and Norma Samuel who are working tirelessly behind the scenes and I hope can bring them the success they deserve.”

(Featured Image: Lewis Mitchell)

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