How a voluntary village side are rising through the ranks of Welsh football
Starting up a football club can be a long and arduous process, but for one club from a small village near Wrexham, it’s been a quick fire success.
Cefn Albion were established in 2013/14 in the fifth tier North East Wales League, and stormed to success, winning the title and three out of a possible four cups available to them.
They hit the ground running in the fourth tier Welsh National League Division One, winning back to back titles in 14/15 and the following season.
The club was promoted into the Premier Divsion in 2016/17, but after losing a number of key players, survival was their goal.
This was achieved with a respectable ninth place finish and a league cup win against league stalwarts FC Nomads.
With the club reaching new heights, an ambitious plan was launched by manager Stephen Davies to get a top six finish, mixing in with some of the league’s strongest clubs.
As it stands Cefn Albion are on target, sitting third in the league having gone top of the table in early April after a 2-1 win over title-chasing Brickfield. Davies explains how his youthful side are holding their own against the big boys.
“Looking at the current league table, we remain on course to achieve our goal but we still have three tough games to go so we will take nothing for granted and keep working hard as a club to ensure we hit our targets.
“Yes, we are extremely pleased and proud to be challenging at the top end of the table and the experience that our young lads will gain from this season and some of the performances (both good and bad) will benefit them and the club moving forward, which can only be a good thing.”
The team has obvious talent, but a deeper psychology has aided Cefn Albion’s rapid rise. The club was launched to try and retain young footballers of the village, with many travelling away to play their football.
In 2016, the club’s committee decided to focus on blooding in young players to try and form a strong senior side in years to come.
“Too often we were witnessing talented local players travelling away from the village to play a game of football so two years ago, our committee made a bold decision to change that and together, we focussed hard on encouraging and helping more sixteen year old’s transition from youth into adult’s football by using our reserves as the platform.
“The decision turned out to be a very good one as we had an influx of young keen players through the door, which has massively benefited the club seeing several establish themselves as part of the first team.
“We work hard behind the scenes and pump every penny we raise back into the club to ensure that we operate as professionally as we can and provide for those who want to represent us; all we expect back is good honest attitudes, hard work and commitment when pulling on the shirt. Results will eventually come. Our motto is to concentrate on ourselves and nobody else.”
And that motto has gone a long way for the club, as it is enjoying a solid season with 14 wins, eight losses and three draws – scoring 62 goals in the process.
Cefn Albion really came into their own in the middle of the season, when they went on a run of nine straight wins which has put them right amongst bigger teams with more financial power in the division.
Albion’s run was ended by Rhostyllen, but the team showed their mettle by beating Brickfield two weeks later – a result that saw them reach the peak of the Premier Division for the first time.
“This seasons WNLPD is highly competitive so to go nine games unbeaten is a massive credit to all the players but also to the management, committee and our fantastic supporters who have been there and all played a big part in their own way.
“The ‘midweek curse’ struck and it was Rhostyllen, who were worthy winners on the night to finally end the impressive run. Yes, there was disappointment in the dressing room and even more so as it was followed up with a very poor home performance and loss to an excellent Buckley Town outfit. It didn’t matter to us that the next win come against Brickfield we just wanted to put in a good performance and get back to winning ways, which is what we did.”
Davies reflects on the win against one of the title favourites, and how his players – who give up their own time to play – are managing the test of playing against the league’s leading teams.
“It’s about concentrating on ourselves and taking each game as it comes trying to beat what is in front of us on a weekly basis. There is a strong belief in the changing room that on our day we can go toe to toe with anyone in this very competitive division.
“There is no playing budget at Cefn Albion meaning that players, management and committee are at the football club because they want to be, we believe that this plays a massive part when it is eleven v eleven on a Saturday afternoon.”
The team’s success has no doubt been affected by the standard of its ground – The Rock, Cefn Druids’ JD Welsh Premier League standard home.
In a season that has been marred by long spells of postponement, Cefn have been able to rely on The Rock’s 3G surface to play games and keep up more momentum than their peers.
Davies speaks highly of the facilities and in particular the pitch, which aids the quick passing game that has served them so well this season.
“It helps player development, which is another reason why we really appreciate it. We are seeing the lads really adapt to their new surroundings of late seeing some fantastic free flowing football in return.
“In addition, a huge benefit is witnessing games not being called off due to a waterlogged surface, its only the snow that forced a postponement. We have currently played the most games in the division which as a result hopefully sees us cram in less midweek fixtures as we approach the end of the season.
“The downside is adapting and dealing with visiting teams who tend to considerably raise their game given the surroundings at the Rock. In all fairness though, the lads have coped with this well so far this season.”
Although a handful of recent losses amidst a packed fixture list suggest they won’t upset the odds and win the title, there is every reason to suggest more is to come from Cefn Albion.
They might have to wait a little longer for their next league title, but Davies remains confident the philosophy instilled at the club has built the foundations for further success.
“Regardless of what happens, we are proud of our achievements so far this season especially considering that it is only our second season competing at this level.
“We are a voluntary club that is building for the future so who knows what we may achieve for the remainder of the campaign and the seasons to come. We will continue to work hard and remain focused on winning games.”
With impressive organisation on and off the pitch, it’s fair to say Cefn Albion are a side to watch closely next season and beyond.