How Coedpoeth United cope with life at the bottom of the league
If you’re scanning through the third tier Welsh National League standings, Coedpoeth are an easy name to miss.
The club sits bottom of the Premier Division with just two points to their name and only 16 games played despite their season starting in August.
But as Y Clwb Pel Droed has found out, there is more to Coedpoeth than their league position.
The club has existed for many years, but its most recent form was established in 1980 with the intention of providing association football to youngsters in the village. They started off with three teams at an U12, 14 and 16 level, but have grown to now operate 11 teams from U7s to a senior mens first team.
Club chairman Mark Hughes explains the club’s aims and hopes for even more teams to form in green and yellow.
“The aim has always been to provide football for local people. We are expecting to form an U6s side and a girls team is being planned to start before the end of this season. By doing this we’re hoping to attain a ‘Silver accreditation’ status from the FAW.”
While their youth sides continue to grow, the Coedpoeth first team finds itself in a difficult period. Having entered the Welsh National League in the 1999/2000 season, the side enjoyed steady league finishings, but that would all change in 2015 when almost all of the senior squad, were lost to other clubs in the league and a Huws Gray outfit.
Such a situation has been the end of many other clubs, but Karl Fenlon, a thirty year servant of Coedpoeth, assembled a young squad to keep the team’s WNL status. He explains how after achieving the club’s all time appearance record, he was thrown into the coaching game as player manager.
“I was thinking of hanging my boots up but I was asked to manage our reserves so I accepted in a bid to give something back and I was enjoying helping the young lads transition into adult football. However, three years ago our whole first team squad decided to leave for other clubs, and our first team manager resigned, so I was kind of thrown into that position.
“We were still in the WNL Premier Division and in latter years in the top half, but with basically no team, we all rallied round and got players and decided there and then to build again and we’d do our best to bring players from our youth to try and create something we’ve never really had.”
“We are relying on loyalty for players to stay here and after being beaten most weeks for the last three seasons not many have left so I have to admire that.
“I think if you make training enjoyable and have time for every individual, they respect that and they can see how passionate I am in training and on match days so it rubs off on them.
And life would not be easy for Coedpoeth’s new young side, who were forced to go against stronger teams and ultimately get beaten week in week out. Fenlon notes his players’ loyalty for staying with the side, and tries to pay it back with handing them his knowledge of 30 years in the game during which time he captained Coedpoeth to a historic league and cup double.
“The hardest thing to do is try and keep everyone’s head up after a heavy loss (and there’s been a few over the 3 seasons) but there are some strong characters at the club that help the young lads.
“Next season we are looking like going down a division, which if I’m being honest, is more our level at the moment. Despite the terrible wet weather and with games being called off regularly of late, we still get nearly 30 in training so we must be doing something right!”
Off the pitch, there is plenty of optimism and plans to move the club forward.
As chairman, Mark Hughes is currently tasked with potentially finding a new home for the club, after the now-confirmed FAW restructure of the second and third tier would render their current Penygelli playing field home unfit for the Welsh National League (Tier 3 level required by 2019/20) Hughes explains the restructure’s implications for Coedpoeth United, and other teams who operate from council owned/run grounds.
“The new criteria means that the club may have to possibly relocate the men’s teams at least temporarily – we have just had work done on the changing room facilities to bring them up to what were considered the standard required but that standard is now due to change again, meaning that the current changing rooms could not take the necessary adjustments to meet this suddenly announced new criteria.
We would also need to put in a covered area and a stand with seating which would need Wrexham Council permission as the ground is currently leased/ owned by them.”
While their home ground status is up in the air, Karl Fenlon believes the club is now moving in the right direction.
“With the help of all our youth coaches, some of whom are exceptional, some very loyal mates and the hardest working chairman in the league we are now getting somewhere. We have a fantastic youth set up and our under 19’s have recently got to a their league cup final.
“The first team are struggling in our league, but we probably have the youngest squad and we don’t pay.”
Despite their league position, Coedpoeth find themselves going against the grain of many other clubs who have been forced to quit first team football. Thanks to the help of a number of limited but passionate volunteers, the club is maintaining a youth set up rarely found so low in the Welsh pyramid.
And with such a committed manager as Fenlon in charge, it may not be long before some of those youth players find themselves in yellow and green for the first team.
Coedpoeth United serve as a reminder that football clubs can not always be judged on their league position alone.