Can this rejuvenated Carmarthen Town pull up some trees?
Last season was one to forget for Carmarthen Town AFC; with the Old Gold finishing 11th and relegated on paper.
However, due to Bangor City’s failure to renew their WPL Licence and thus being relegated instead, Carmarthen lived to fight another day. Despite the disappointing finish, the appointment of Neil Smothers after Mark Aizlewood’s departure back in early February proved inspiring.
Although the results couldn’t keep Carmarthen out of the relegation zone, an immediate improvement could be seen by the fans at Richmond Park. Half of their total points of the season (14 out of the 29 points) came in the nine games once Smothers took charge; primarily due to the drastic change of style.
Smothers brought in a far crisper, possession style of football in contrast to the prior direct footballer under Aizlewood.
Smothers, who was appointed permanent manager following the 2017/18 season, felt “it was important that we made a few tactical changes so that we may increase our chances of picking up points. It’s always difficult to implement a new way of playing but even more difficult when we were in the situation we were.
We also had to consider what were the key things we wanted to change to make sure that it wasn’t too much for the players to take on.
To be fair the players were fantastic and took everything we said on board and worked so hard in both training and games and produced some really good performances.”
With the forty-year-old taking charge of his first full season as gaffer of Carmarthen, preseason provided a chance to see how his squad has adapted.
Overall, the preseason was one of success with three wins and two draws out of six. In addition, it allowed Smothers to recruit astute signings such as Greg Walters and Tyrell Webbe -the latter scoring two in six preseason games.
Smothers said: “They (summer signings) do reflect how we want to play but it was important that we signed the best players available to us to add a freshness to the squad but also add competition which they have certainly done, and needless to say we are pleased with all of the players that we got in.
The style we want to play will have to evolve relatively slowly as we are still conscious that we have to pick up points and win games as we continue this process.”
Following an indifferent start to the season, that included a 6-0 rout at the hands of TNS, Carmarthen finally picked up their first two wins of the season- a 5-0 hammering of Goytre FC in the Nathaniel MG Cup followed by an impressive 2-0 victory against an on form Cardiff Met side.
Smothers himself feels that the first win was always going to be “Essential and to do it against Cardiff Met was pleasing. We have had a tough start to the season and we knew that picking up points would be quite difficult but apart from the TNS game I have also been pleased with the performances and how the new boys have fitted in and started to adapt to the club and how we do things both on and off the field.”
Carmarthen’s home form last year was far from ideal for a team fighting to stay in the top-flight of Welsh football. However, after Smothers took the role as interim manager there was a clear improvement in results at Richmond Park. Now, home form is seen as “Very important. It’s something that we spoke about as a squad before the first home game and making sure that this becomes a place where people don’t really enjoy coming.”
In comparison to contemporaries in the league, Smothers could be seen as one of the least experienced managers in the Welsh Premier League.
On the other hand, the former Cwmbran, Port Talbot and Carmarthen midfielder feels confident in his ability to lead the side.
“I bring some knowledge and understanding of the game and league, having being involved in it for over 20 years, but I would like to think that one of my main strengths is the way that I deal with people, staff, committee and mainly the players, in terms of clearly defining their roles and responsibilities but also being straight with them.”
“In addition, I have worked with a fantastic mentor, however the roles, responsibilities and pressure that come with being the manager are certainly different!
I’d like to think that I Another important factor for me is the players enjoy their football. training and playing, and we provide an environment where they can develop whilst having a say and taking responsibility for themselves and the club.”
Carmarthen welcome Newtown to Richmond Park before travelling to Wrexham for a match Cefn Druids at The Rock in their next fixtures.
(Featured Image: Brian Jones)