The growth of the Welsh Premier League in recent years was none more evident yesterday when the managers from the league’s leading two clubs were almost immediately linked with vacant managerial position at Wrexham.
It says something of the growing standard of the Welsh top-flight when the names of TNS’ Craig Harrison and Airbus’ Andy Preece quickly appeared as early frontrunners to take over at Wrexham, a club with clear aspirations of regaining its Football League status.
If either manager (or director of football, given their correct title) was to be appointed at Wrexham, it would add weight to the Welsh Premier League’s position within the British footballing landscape as a competition where young and talented coaches and players can learn and ply their trade, gaining experience playing European football and find a route into the professional game over the border.
Speaking exclusively to Craig Harrison, The New Saints boss told me he was that the speculation linking him and Andy Preece to Wrexham was good for the league, though he confirmed he has not had any contact with the Dragons.
“It is great for the Welsh Premier League to have myself and Andy Preece linked to big clubs.”
“Wrexham are a massive club and it’s always nice to be linked to a club of their history and tradition – it also means that I’m doing a good job at TNS to have been linked to a club like that.
“I’ve not had any contact with Wrexham and really enjoy my job at TNS. I’m working at a great club with a fantastic set of players. I’m also ambitious and a driven individual that wants to be as successful as possible,” he added.
BANGOR & AIRBUS SEEK OVERDUE WINS
Airbus’ Andy Preece declined to comment on speculation linking him to Wrexham ahead of his side’s visit to Bangor City tonight – a match that both sides will be see as an opportunity to end uncharacteristic winless streaks.
Hosts Bangor are winless in four in all competitions but I have no doubt that the number of postponements in City’s fixture schedule have punctuated their ability to pick up momentum and arrest their disappointing run of results which has left them searching for their first win of 2014.
New goalkeeper Jack Cudworth will make his Welsh Premier League debut for Bangor whilst it remains to be seen whether Airbus make changes following Saturday’s hard-fought draw with leaders TNS.
Whilst Airbus can take no shame in holding TNS to a 1-1 draw at the weekend, if they are to be considered as title-contenders, one win in their last six league games tells us that the Wingmakers’ championship challenge is faltering.
The tag of title-challengers is one that Andy Preece is quick to distance his side from, instead preferring to focus on cementing second-place. But Preece is as fiercely competitive as anyone in the league and in private, he will not be satisfied until he has pushed TNS all the way.
HOPE FOR LIDO?
Two visits to the Marstons Stadium last week brought with it two very different performances from basement side Afan Lido.
A despairing performance against Aberystwyth which saw them thrashed 6-0 a week ago, left me considering whether Lido were even competitive enough to win another game all season – but there were certainly positives for Paul Evans to take from their 2-0 defeat to Prestatyn Town on the weekend.
An eventful opening 27-minutes saw Afan Lido trail to Michael Parker’s opener before goalkeeper Gareth Couch hobbled off injured leaving midfielder Kieran Howard to don the gloves, with Howard himself unable to deny Lee Hunt from the penalty-spot as Prestatyn doubled their lead.
When Hunt nestled the ball into the opposite corner, sending Howard the wrong way, I feared it would be the latest in a series of unforgiving lessons that Afan Lido’s modestly assembled squad of Welsh League and youth players are enduring. But it was refreshing to see an unexpected response from Lido, as they began to assert themselves onto the game.
Though the lack of a focal-point up-front proved to undermine the high work-rate and momentum that Afan Lido’s midfield built, manager Paul Evans can be encouraged to see his side control periods of the match against a team as competitive as Prestatyn.
Talk of avoiding relegation may still be some way off but under Paul Evans, Afan Lido are a side that are building the right way, whether that be in the Welsh Premier or in the Welsh League.