From five-a-side team to JD Welsh Cup debutants: Aberystwyth Exiles excited ahead of JD Welsh Cup debut
Just five season ago Aberystwyth Exiles transitioned from a five a side team to a Saturday side. But, tomorrow, they prepare to enter the JD Welsh Cup for the first time in their history.
Each season sees a host of new entrants to one of the world’s oldest cup competitions. Setup in 1877, the JD Welsh Cup continues to throw up new narratives.
The entry of Aberystwyth is just another narrative in the cup’s long history. The Exiles are the second youngest team to enter this year’s tournament, having been formed as an official league side in 2013/14. Blocking their path to the next round of the historic cup competition is Treharris Athletic Western, the oldest Welsh domestic side in all of South Wales.
After two promotions to reach the Premier Division of the Cardiff Combination League, the club has its sights set on progressing even further, and entry into Wales’ primary cup competition was essential for them.
“It’s important for us in our progression as a club to be involved in such a famous competition and it shows how far we have come over the last five years,” said manager and club founder James Naik.
“I have wanted to enter for a few years but part of our plan was to rise through the divisions first and get a foothold in the Premier League before we entered more competitions. We played in the South Wales Senior Cup last year and got through to the fourth round. We couldn’t enter that this year because we decided to enter the Welsh Cup. “
After such a successful start to life as a football club, the Exiles face their toughest test yet.
Treharris Athletic Western are a side steeped in Welsh League history, and will provide a stern test for the side formed by University friends, as they aim to make another historic step in their short history.
“Drawing Treharris was probably the hardest draw any club could get but playing teams of that calibre and history is what the competition is all about. They finished 65 places above us in the pyramid and I believe they are the oldest club in South Wales. The players are really looking forward to testing themselves and we’re happy being the underdogs. I’ve not managed to watch them but I have followed their results and saw they beat a WL1 club recently.”
But, the Exiles have not stood still in terms of preparation for this weekend’s famous match. Naik has been busy recruiting players for the club’s first and second string sides, as the club aims to continue progressing, with the next goal to reach the South Wales Alliance League.
The club have strengthened and are ready for the test ahead and for the 2018/19 season.
“Our squad has definitely improved since last year. The returning Scott Phillips (if his international clearance comes through) and new signing Aled Rees are capable of playing at a higher level and at the back having our ex-captain Will Brown and new signing Dan Prescott are all positives. Keeping the bulk of our squad from last couple seasons including striker Will Eastwood (one of the Combinations top goalscorers of last few seasons) mean we can pose a threat to anyone and I can’t wait to start the season.”