Nicky John has been chatting to some familiar faces from the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League. This week, she speaks to the new holder of the all time Welsh Premier appearance record, Wyn Thomas.
Congratulations on recently breaking the WPL appearance record! 529 appearances is quite an achievement! Did you expect to reach such a milestone when you first started out?!
No not at all, my aim was simply to play football at the highest possible level!
Back then I was a little boy playing in a man’s game to be honest. I had to adapt pretty quickly from playing week in week out at local level to fighting for a spot on the team sheet. I was fortunate enough to get that opportunity and to show that I was capable of mixing in with the others – not always playing but still learning from the sidelines about how to conduct myself on and off the pitch.
The 529 appearances have taken 18 seasons to date and I have loved every season; good times and bad – both on and off the pitch. I’ve been lucky with injuries too, my nose the only casualty!
I’ve played with great clubs, great players and also great friends! I’ve always tried to give everything I have, and to be honest with myself and the clubs I’ve played for. I look around the changing room on a match day and want to win not only for myself, but for the other lads too.
How did it feel when you finally broke Colin Reynolds’ record on New Year’s Day against Carmarthen, one of your former clubs at Park Avenue?
It’s been at the back of my mind for a couple of years now, and my mother hasn’t stopped going on about it during that time, love her!
It’s a record that will be hard to beat as the league structure is now, but I’m very happy to have achieved the record as my name will now always be known as Welsh Premier League all time record appearance holder!
What have been some of your highlights over the years?
Well, I can give you just some, as there are probably too many to mention to be fair!
There’s winning all 3 major trophies in Welsh football; and winning my semi-professional cap for Wales was also an honour that I’ll never forget!
I played for 4 great clubs in the Welsh Premier under some top managers and alongside and against the best players in the league.
I’m also proud of having playing for Haverfordwest and winning player of the month, as that was the only occasion I won it during my 18 seasons, which is something I’ve always been a little bit disappointed with!
During several seasons I was named in the team of the year, and to be recognized by other managers has always been nice – even though they probably didn’t like me!
Most memorable game?
Again, there are too many to mention, but I’ll have a go!
Llanelli winning in Europe against Gefle IF whilst playing at the national stadium in Sweden in 2006, and also playing for Wales at semi professional level.
Then there are the 3 Welsh Cup Finals I played in. Also the fact that I managed to score hat trick’s on a couple of occasions!
I always enjoyed the games which involved playing against the top clubs like Rhyl and TNS as they were always televised and were always matches which the players wanted to win. For me, it was also an opportunity to demonstrate why I was the best!
Another memorable occasion is the time we (Llanelli) played Connah’s Quay away during the 2007-2008 season – we won the league that weekend without kicking a ball as TNS had lost to Airbus UK on the Friday night!
Also I’ve got to add to the list some of my special free kicks, which I always watch back on Sgorio! For a centre half I think I’ve scored some great goals – and I say that with a huge smile on my face, of course!
Which game would you most like to forget?!
Any games which I made mistakes in that probably end up costing the team the game. That happened quite a lot, and its something I’d like to apologize for. When I look back I can see how I got myself sent off on too many occasions, and as a result it ended up costing the team victories which they deserved.
Missing a penalty in the Welsh Cup final against Inter Cardiff and also being sent off in the Welsh Cup final at Latham Park which we (Llanelli) ending up losing to Bangor City. I learnt a lot from both games and hope I became a better player and person as a result.
Of all the people you’ve come up against in the league over the years, can you name the best 11?!
GK: Lee Kendall
Back 4: Gary Lloyd George Horan Steve Evans Andrew Yorke
Midfield 3: Richard Jones Mark Connolly John Leah
Front 3: Rhys Griffiths Mark Lloyd Williams Ken McKenna
What about the best 11 you’ve played with?!
GK: Lee Kendall
Back 4: Stuart Jones David Barnhouse Gary Lloyd Lee Rayo Phillips
Midfield 3: Darren Ryan Dean Rossiter Jason Bown
Front 3: Rhys Giffiths Chris Summers Jacob Mingorance
You’re now back at the club where it all started. What are your thoughts on Aberystwyth this season?
Aber are a great club with a tremendous history in the Welsh Premier, and under the guidance of Ian Hughes we relish the prospect of a top 6 finish, and want to set new targets and goals for players and everyone who are involved with the club.
Behind the scenes our board are running a tight ship to enable a strong 1st team squad that can compete with the best in the league. I’m looking forward to our last game before the split – these are exciting times for everyone involved with Aberystwyth.
What is it like working alongside Ian Hughes?
Ian is a great manager. He knows a great deal about football, has great passion and desire to succeed. He’s a young manager with a great future, and I believe his knowledge and growing experience will help him reach his current targets and also set up new ones. He can help individual players become better footballers, which in turn enables the team to become stronger.
Since being appointed as manager, the team have a way of playing, and what you see on a Saturday is what you would also see on a Tuesday night at the training ground. It helps that the players know how to respond in different scenarios.
He also has a great relationship with both board members and players, and I think this goes a long way – we’re all pushing in the same direction.
Ian is also my mentor – I’m trying to achieve my A Licence in coaching at the moment. More importantly perhaps, I regard him as a friend.
During this feature I usually ask people which other player within the league has caught their eye so far this season. 95% reply Chris Venables. You’ve known him for some years now, what do you make of his achievements?
That’s easy. He’s incredible. Or should I say perhaps that it’s no surprise. If you knew him then you’d understand why he has achieved so much. The man is a winner.
His fitness levels are up there with the very best athletes; behind the scenes he puts in the hard work and he’s reaping his rewards. He’s just a class act.
Although I should probably say that he’s up there with the worst when it comes to training on a Tuesday! It’s between him and Stuart Jones, we usually joke about why they bother coming to training at all – it’s something which has been on going for years!
What about opposition players. Who has caught your eye recently?
No player as such, but Bala have finally stepped up to the mark. They have some very good players but previously hadn’t really clicked. This season something is different, they’re a really good team and are certainly ones to watch.
Of course this is great for the league – it raises the bar so other teams have to follow. No one wants to be out of the Welsh Premier. It’s a great family to be involved in.
During all your years, where has been your favourite away trip in the league, and why?
Bangor City was always a great fixture at Farrar Road where the fans were on top of you. They were great – always criticising you on the pitch, but in the local after the game they’d always acknowledge your performance.
Playing there was always hard with The Truck upfront. There were some great battles to be fair. I always went there knowing I needed to perform well. A good team, Bangor City.
I always see your Mam about watching you! Does she ever miss a game?!
Never, not since I was 6 years old, and that’s the truth! She is an inspiration and a great role model, a fantastic woman and even better mother. I love her to bits. It’s down to my mother and father that I have achieved so much in football. They have been fantastic parents, managing me as a little boy even whilst running boys teams in Llandysul. They were always prepared to be my taxi no matter where the ball would take me, and I’ll always be grateful to them. They’re the very best. Diolch Mam a Dad.
Can you ever imagine a weekend that doesn’t involve football?!!
NO! I’m always devastated if a game is called off, and when the summer comes, I miss it all too much – the lads, the travel, the opposition; there’s a lot to miss and not much can make up for that, though it does help being a father to 3 young boys and a step father to a 17 year old man.
What are your hopes for the rest of the season, and what are your goals beyond that?
For this season, I’d like to finish where we deserve to finish! The table doesn’t lie, so with enough hard graft on and off the pitch, I think the next 11 games are all going to be cup finals.
In terms of personal goals, I aim to become a better coach – which at the moment is a long way off, but with Ian’s help I know my hunger for it will help me reach my target. I’d like to help other players become better, not only on the field but off it too. I’m a firm believer that if you’re happy off the pitch, you’re happy on it too.