Twenty years after the formation of The Welsh Premier it’s reassuring to now that the there are more good points than bad in the league
Let’s start with the good.
The New Saints – the team that continues to set the standard.
The table doesn’t lie according to the old cliche – so the fact that they finished 22 points clear says it all really. And the most striking thing is the run they went on from the end of November.
Before the game at Bangor on the 1st of December they were fourth in the table – having just lost 3-0 at home against Carmarthen. That was their fourth defeat of the season – the same amount as the whole of the previous campaign.
But they went top after the 1-0 win at Nantporth – and stayed there until the end. The Saints didn’t lose another game – winning 15 of their final 17 matches. An amazing run which included 11 straight victories at the end of the season as they stormed clear.
New names in Europe
Congratulations Airbus, Prestatyn and Bala. What these three have achieved and the way they have developed should be an inspiration to others.
After finishing second it looks like Airbus will strengthen again next season – and could well challenge for the title.
Lifting the Welsh Cup could also lift Prestatyn to another level.
And the celebrations as Bala clinched their Europa League place will stay with me forever. They will surely be a force next season.
Just hope the continent is ready for them!
The goal per game ratio of 3.5 is higher than any other major league in Europe. There were some crazy games as well – 4-4 draws – clubs scoring 7 one month and conceding 7 the next – all adding up to guarantee some excitement.
I won’t dwell too much on the defensive side of things here – just enjoy the goals!
The Play Offs
Despite the complaints about the split – and the fact that clubs play each other too often – the play offs were a success. The larger than usual crowds showed that the end of season scramble for Europe is popular. Yes, there are issues with the structure – but there’s nothing wrong with these final games.
It’s good to see a gang of young – ambitious managers in the league. 53 year old Mark Aizlewood is the oldest (sorry Aiz!) and the new Aberystwyth manager, Ian Hughes isn’t even 30!
Most are embracing new coaching ideas and let’s hope that this will be reflected in the standard of football over the next few years.
But what about the bad?
Well the same old complaints can still be heard at every ground. The standard of pitches – and officials – the size of the crowds and the structure.
All of these need improving – apart from maybe the structure.
I honestly believe that taking the league down to 12 teams will improve the standard in the long term. The problem with 12 is deciding on a pattern for the season.
Playing twice a season would mean not enough games. Playing four times would mean too many games. The split in the season may not be perfect – but it seems to be the best option for now.
Promotion and relegation
This has to be the biggest problem in the league. The feeder leagues must get stronger to guarantee that there are clubs ready to step up to the top flight every season. This isn’t a huge problem in the North – and it will be great to see Rhyl back.
But it’s chaos in South Wales.
Why on earth is there a difference between the North and South when it comes to facilities?
The actual requirements are beyond tedious – but basically to play in The Cymru Alliance – and in the the North in general – grounds must be of a higher standard than in the South.
The knock on effect is that most clubs in North Wales are ready to step up if they get promoted – most of the clubs in the South don’t come close.
Another ond bites the dust
To add to the woes in the South another club has gone bust. After losing Neath last season – Llanelli followed this time round – with the writing on the wall for months. Another sad tale which underlines the danger of depending on one individual to fund everything.
We also saw the final act in the tragedy which became Barry Town as the owner Stuart Lovering finally pulled the plug – and pulled the club out of the league.
An astonishing – selfish and cruel decision.
The obvious wish is that both clubs can start again and make their way back. Let’s hope that they are being given all the support and advice needed by the Welsh FA during these hard times.
And finally there’s one thing that sums up the good and the bad of following the league.
Sometimes glorious – usually a nightmare – the old road form North to South is a necessary evil. It’s not the only road of course – the little car has also crawled up the A483 – A485 – A55 – A49…All have their good bits – and all have their problems.
I can’t see country long motorway emerging any time soon – but there are a few little things that would make a massive difference.
More toilets – more services – less lorries and a lot lot lot less traffic lights, please. Thanks.
See you in August folks!