Caernarfon Town are finally back in the Welsh Premier League and I think it’s correct to say that a superb season ended in joyous, if somewhat prolonged, style. The past month has seen the players and supporters celebrate promotion on more than one occasion and, before relaying how we’ve been doing this, I think it’s worth looking back at the final match of the campaign, an entertaining 2-2 draw with Gresford at the home of Airbus UK Broughton.
The match itself was of little importance in the grand scheme of things. The Cofis had already won the league with victory at Llandudno Junction nine days earlier and so, for once, the action took something of a backseat for me as I looked forward more to seeing the players getting their hands on the league trophy.
|The Cofi Army arriving at our final match of the season|
However, this is not to say that there was nothing on the line, as the players were intent on preserving their unbeaten run in the league, which stretched back to August. That last, and only, defeat of the campaign had been at the hands of a fired up Holyhead Hotspur at the Oval, and the squad had responded in style with a run of twenty five fixtures without defeat on the way to the title. This also meant there was the not insignificant matter of preserving Sean Eardley’s unbeaten league record as our manager at stake too.
As expected, a large contingent of Caernarfon supporters had made the trip to the Hollingsworth Group Stadium and whenever the Cofis are in town, the pyros are usually nearby! I had arrived early and so was lucky enough to see the Cofi Army heading towards the turnstiles. Their chants and pyros increased the sense of occasion at the ground and set us up for the final ninety minutes of the campaign.
With the title already won, Sean took the opportunity to hand rare starts to Liam Jones, Kevin Lloyd and Shaun Cavanagh and all three responded in style with strong performances that proved what the manager has been saying for months, the players on his bench would start for most, if not all, other sides in the second tier. Caernarfon started strongly and when Nathan Craig put us ahead with a trademark free kick early doors I’m sure neutrals in the crowd may have expected Gresford to buckle under the pressure. (You can see the captain’s goal and post-match interview by following this link to the club’s official youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nXBOMg3IJE Those of us who have seen Steve Halliwell’s side this season would have known better, however, and they showed plenty of application and determination to keep the Cofis from extending their lead before Eyre and Challinor put them ahead with two well-taken goals.
|Danny Brookwell in full flight against Gresford|
Jamie Breese rescued a point for the champions late on with an excellent finish to cement his standing as our top scorer for a third successive season and, as soon as the final whistle blew, the celebrations began!
The Cofi Army had been in great voice throughout but excelled before, during and after the trophy presentation as they ran through their repertoire of songs, which included ‘Breesey’s On Fire’, a somewhat colourful song about the talents of Nathan Craig and a ditty about one of our local rivals. The players were more than ready to join in and, led by Eards, that’s exactly what they did, as can be seen on the club's youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJAn7eRsg5s
It was a great end to a super season for the club and, as soon as the celebrations at the ground finished, they continued in various venues until the early hours as the supporters headed home, and the squad headed to Manchester for the first part of their end of season get-together. I’ll be honest and say that when I heard the league trophy was going with them for the weekend I had my doubts that we’d ever to get to see it at the Oval but, despite being taken around goodness knows how many pubs, clubs, train stations and hotels, it did eventually make its way back to Marcus Street a few days later. What’s even more impressive is that it arrived at the ground totally unscathed and in great condition!
Most of the squad, and management, got together again the following weekend for an open bus top ride around Caernarfon and, despite the very short notice, it was great to see so many supporters waiting to welcome them in the town square, where Sean and the boys joined them for a few beers. One Club is our ethos, and this was just the latest example of why it’s not just a hashtag at Caernarfon, we really are one club and, in fact, one community.
|Jamie Crowther with the league trophy|
I’ve read comments from the usual suspects on social media trying to mock the open bus ride but I would have been surprised if the bitter handful had not piped up. Some people love to criticise clubs other than their own and so the remarks were to be expected although, in my opinion, it proves once more that we must be doing something right if so many people are taking an interest in us.
We didn’t have to wait too long for the next example of the One Club ethos as, on the same day as the bus parade, the first team’s presentation evening was held at the supporters club and what a belter it proved to be! Former Town captain and legend, Emrys Williams, was in attendance to present the trophies and it was great to see him again. I remember Emrys playing for us when we were going toe to toe with Barry Town at the top of the League of Wales over twenty years ago and vividly recall him giving opposing strikers nightmarish afternoons, and more than a few bumps and bruises along the way.
|Four hours into the Presentation evening....|
The recipients of the various awards were Darren Thomas, Danny Brookwell, Clive Williams and Nathan Craig but in reality the club itself was the real winner as we all got together to celebrate not just last season but something that we’ve all been working towards for the past eight years. Promotion to the top tier has finally been achieved and next season will throw plenty of new, and difficult challenges as the team joins the so-called elite but, for now at least, it’s great to enjoy what has been a pretty special campaign.
If you’ve been reading the blog over the course of the season then you’ll already be aware of mostly everything that was happening at the club, on and off the pitch, and so there’s really no need for me to write any kind of end of season review. I would, however, like to introduce the very first Oval Ways awards list, and am pleased to announce the winners for the 2017/18 season:
Bouncebackability Award: Alex Ramsay. Some of us feared ‘Rambo’ may be leaving the club mid-season but he stayed and proved that not only was he the best goalkeeper in the second tier, but also one of the most professional players I’ve seen at the club. Top class throughout the campaign, and a top class number one for the Cofis.
Surprise of the Season: Joe Williams, for finally getting on the scoresheet for us. To be fair to Joe, his first goal in three seasons (scored during our fightback at Denbigh) was an absolute stunner and, having seen him do it once, there should be no excuses next season that he can’t find the onion bag from outside the penalty area.
Best Speech: Darren Thomas. When the Cofi Messi picked up his Player of the Year award at the presentation evening, he took the microphone and raised the roof! Darren is one of the quietest players I’ve known at the club, on match days anyway, and so for me it was a highlight of the night and well worth waiting around for! I’m yet to manage an interview with him but am still hoping he will relent one of these days!
Best Song: Breesey’s on Fire.
The Liam Gallagher Thousand Yard Stare Award: I have to share this one between Kevin Lloyd and Rhys Roberts and, if you've seen how both of them deal with play acting pompadours, you will need no explanation as to why their my picks!
|Presenting Nathan with the Goal of the Season Award|
Goal of the Season: This is a legitimate award that I have sponsored for the past three campaigns and, as in past years, I used social media to ask supporters to vote for their choice. Not surprisingly, the winner was Nathan Craig’s strike against Barry Town in front of the Sgorio cameras in the Welsh Cup. I’m sure most of you will be familiar with the goal and I’d love to provide a link to my own clip of it here but, having already been informed I would be in breach of television rights by sharing it, I’ve had to pull the plug on that one. Suffice to say, the goal was from the top drawer and Nathan fully deserved the award. I was lucky enough to present the award to Nathan and had to laugh when the Cofi Army began singing their special, slightly colourful, song about our captain. Just as we were about to pose for the mandatory photo he told me ’I hope they don’t finish this song in front of everyone!” I won’t go into details here but everyone who goes to our matches will know exactly what he meant! Incidentally, the two goals that won most votes after the winner were Joe’s strike at Denbigh and Jay Gibb’s equaliser at Airbus.
Best Goal Celebration: Rambo’s Aeroplane and crash landing after scoring against Rhyl. Priceless!
The Clive Thomas Worst Refereeing Decision Award: This one goes to Huw Jones, who awarded us a free kick just as Danny Brookwell was lobbing the ball over the Rhyl keeper for a goal that would have clinched victory for at Belle Vue. The decision may not have cost us anything in the grand scheme of things but it certainly cost us two points on the day.
Best Decision: The Board asking Sean Eardley to take on the managers’ job just days after Iwan left. The players, supporters and Board wanted Sean and, thankfully, he was up for it!
Save of the Season: I could probably list two dozen outstanding saves Alex Ramsay has made over the course of the campaign but the one that has stuck in my mind was against Queens Park in February. The side had played just once in four weeks leading up to this match and the home side matched us during a frenzied opening twenty five minutes. It seemed as if Tomas Bunclark had put the hosts ahead when his sweetly struck long range effort seemed destined for the roof of the net until Alex somehow got his fingertips to the ball to push it onto the woodwork. An outstanding save, but nothing less than we’ve come to expect from our number one since he arrived in 2016. A special mention also for the fine point-blank stop by Liam Jones that saved us a point at Holywell when it seemed Phil Lloyd’s late effort would give the Wellmen a rare victory over the Cofis.
And finally, the Most Puzzling Video Interview Moment: Richard Davies calling Caernarfon a village.
As with every close season, the next few weeks will see the usual player and manager merry-go-round at all levels and the likelihood is we may well see a few new faces on the playing staff at the Oval too. I was disappointed to hear that Chris Williams has decided to call it a day after an excellent few seasons with us and Sean will have his work cut out to find a left-back who is as good as Chris. He's been excellent for the Cofis and is also a really nice guy, so will be a big loss in more ways than one.
Behind the scenes the club is carrying out work at the ground itself and there are sure to be a few notable differences at our home before the big kick off in August. With a bit of luck I hope to cover most of what’s going on in the ‘Hâf Gyda’r Cofis’ videos we are putting out on the club’s youtube channel over the next few weeks and if you've yet to see any of these, you'll see the latest instalment by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL0bKofML2c
Away from the Oval, I have found recent local football media coverage very interesting and there are three questions I look forward to seeing getting answered over the coming months (I'm sure you'll notice a common thread):
Will the Sgorio team start covering the Huws Gray Cymru Alliance League next season?
Will the television cameras be present on each occasion a second tier club announces a new manager in the future, or was recent coverage of Mr Harrison’s arrival at Nantporth a strictly unique offering? With both Holywell and Denbigh looking for managers, we’ll soon find out!
Will Owain Tudur Jones pick players from outside the Welsh Premier League for the Wales C squad next season?
And finally, as a Caernarfon Town supporter, I wish to convey my heartfelt thanks to all of these guys for making the dream come true this season and getting us back into the Welsh Premier League:
Sean Eardley, Richard Davies, Mike Innes, Rhys Jones, Alex Ramsay, Joe Williams, Jamie Crowther, Clive Williams, Gareth Edwards, Rhys Roberts, Chris Williams, Nathan Craig, Ryan Williams, Kevin Roberts, Gareth Evans, Jamie Breese, Darren Thomas, Danny Broookwell, Jamie Crowther, Kevin Lloyd, Shaun Cavanagh, Liam Jones, Aaron Davies-Thomas, Caio Morgan, Telor Williams, Jay Gibbs, Iwan Williams.
Diolch yn fawr iawn hogiau! #UnClwb