Sunday marked the beginning of Aberystwyth Town Ladies third campaign in the Welsh Premier League, writes atfc.org.uk’s Matthew Wallace. A very credible one all draw against Cyncoed Ladies FC at Penrhyncoch saw the Ceredigion based girls get their first point on the board for the campaign. Following last season’s narrow survival, it has been an interesting summer for the Seasiders. Manager Morgan Evans announced in May that he was to step down for this year after two years at the helm due to work commitments along with assistant Bryn McGilligan Oliver also moving to take up a position at Shrewsbury Town FC. Following the departures, the managerial reigns have been left in the very capable and experienced hands of Kristian ‘Bones’ Jenkins for the forthcoming campaign. A familiar face to the ATFC ladies in former manager Ray Hughes joins him as Assistant Manager.
“It came as a bit of a shock when Morgan announced his resignation during the Annual Dinner and then there was the head scratching as regards whose going to take over so I pulled the short straw and decided to step into the hot seat. One feature of pre-season is that an old friend of mine and of the Ladies. Ray Hughes has been around to offer me help, guidance and more importantly friendship as it can be a very lonely job and he’s the guy who probably put the Ladies team where they are now to be honest.” Jenkins told atfc.org.uk just hours before the start of the new season.
Despite the pressures that come with management, Jenkins is pleased to be in the position he finds himself: “They are a great bunch of girls and deserve to be playing at this standard and I think it’s vital that there are teams outside of the M4 Corridor competing at this standard.”
This season sees the ladies compete against nine other sides from across Wales in the forms of Abergavenny, Briton Ferry Llansawel, Cardiff City, Cardiff Met, Cyncoed, Llandudno, Port Talbot, Rhyl and Swansea City for the title of Women’s Welsh Premier League Champions.
“It’s a strong league. I think there are 4 teams, Cardiff Met, Cardiff City, Swansea and probably Abergavenny (PILCS last season), who are the top four with the remaining 6 almost on a par with each other. We’re all teams who can on their day beat any of the other 6 in that group. We need to pick points up from games that I have already targeted for points and anything else will be a bonus.”
To do so, Aber will have to do it without a number of players from last season’s CWFA Ladies Senior Cup winning side. Emma Cartwright, Emily Thomas, Niaomi Evans, Gabi Hughes and Chelsea Mailkem have all left during the offseason. But despite the exits, there have been some new arrivals as well. Kelly Thomas is back in the squad after a brief hiatus from the Black and Greens, Helen Evans and Sophie Cook, both from Llanidloes, have signed as well as Becca Williams, Nathalie Rees and Nia Jones from Carmarthen.
This season will see the Ladies return on a more regular basis to their rightful home at Park Avenue once the 3G pitch has been completed. This, along with the increasing coverage of female football in Wales culminating in the Champions League Final being staged in Cardiff for both men and Women for this first time, must act as a driving force to get girls in the Ceredigion area playing football for the club. Jenkins is confident his side can be just that stimulus.
“I think it’s an absolute must to promote Ladies football in the whole of Central Wales to be honest! This is a great opportunity for young ladies to get on in the game. We just need to be able to provide them with a pathway. We can now be practically sure that games go ahead, we can train on it and that’ll be a massive boost for us; especially for the girls who can now be assured that we’ll be able to get used to the new surroundings which in turn will hopefully improve our playing ability.”
As for the season, Jenkins isn’t getting too carried away just yet despite the positive result from the weekend. “I’m not going to be to over the top here but if we secure top flight football again that’ll be immense, retain the CWFA Ladies Senior Cup, that will be the icing! A good run the either the Welsh Cup or League cup would be the dream. We will approach each game as it comes and have no fear. We can’t influence outside circumstances like a wonder goal, an offside goal given, a dodgy penalty or a deflected goal. All we can do is look after our game and deal with that.”
All at the club would like to wish the Ladies the best of luck this season and will be keeping you posted on a regular basis on their fortunes throughout the year.