Lots to celebrate in Flintshire (Photos: Nik Mesney)
The only two unbeaten sides in the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League after four matches are the League’s two Flintshire clubs, which begs the question; Has Flintshire Football ever been so good?
Airbus UK Broughton are currently in pole position, with four straight wins from the opening quartet of matches. This of course follows on from their inaugural European football experience in the summer and Andy Preece’s men are genuine Title contenders this term. Despite a highest ever second place finish last term, Preece hasn’t rested on his laurels and strengthened further. Northern Ireland International Steve Jones has the potential to be one of the League’s top players this season and his two goals against Newtown last weekend showed his star quality. Welshmen Michael Pearson and James Owen are also two new players to the League and they should both prove to be influential Wingmakers term.
Just five miles up the B5129 are the League’s other unbeaten side, gap Connah’s Quay. A goal-less home draw against Afan Lido perhaps wasn’t the start that Mark McGregor wanted, but returning from Port Talbot Town with a point was welcomed. They have since knocked Prestatyn Town out of the Word Cup and claimed successive League wins against Bala Town and away at Prestatyn in front of the live TV cameras. The Nomads star with both goals in that excellent win was Ryan Edwards who has come through the club’s Academy. It must be rewarding for McGregor and especially his assistant Jay Catton, who doubles up as the Head of Youth to see Edwards grow into a key player at the Deeside Stadium. Losing Rob Jones and Jamie Petrie to Bangor over the summer was a blow for the club, but Edwards was offered a new contract and he has risen to the challenge of becoming a vital cog in the Nomads machine.
Nomads' Ryan Edwards (Photos: Nik Mesney)
Catton and his youth team coaches have ensured that the Nomads have one of the best Academies in Wales. In the same youth team as Edwards was Cardiff City’s Rhys Healey and it’s inevitable that he will follow Mark Delaney as a player who has gone from Welsh Premier League to the English equivalent. The Nomads investment in youth is clearly paying off.
Not to be outdone, Airbus can also boast one of Wales’ best academies. Under Head of Youth Lee Starkey, the club are perennial visitors to the FAW Academy Finals day. In their victorious under 16 team of 2012, Zy Edwards is now a first team player and the youngster even turned down a move to Swansea City in the summer.
Also flying the flag for academy football in Flintshire are Flint Town Utd. Now in their third season, Head of Youth Tim Williams was recognised this week for his work by the Welsh Football Trust at its Awards ceremony in Cardiff. They also saw their first graduate sign for a Premier League side in the summer, with Ryan Hedges making the move from Flintshire to Swansea City.
So academy football is certainly another factor why Flintshire football is so strong at the moment.
Success on the field is symbiotic with success off the field. As reflected in their club names, the commercial arms of Flintshire’s Welsh Premier duo are both very strong and that’s naturally a catalyst for success. Airbus is a multi-national, multi-million pound aircraft manufacturer and the site in Broughton employs over 5,000 people. GAP Personnel, whose head office is in Wrexham is the eighth largest industrial labour provider in the UK. Having these two brands associated with football in Flintshire and Wales is clearly an asset to all. Their association with the respective football clubs has certainly put Flintshire Football back on the map.
So these are the reasons why it’s pertinent to ask right now, Has Flintshire Football ever been so good?