Welsh Football Round-Up: Bala Town scale new heights after rout of Aberystwyth

ANALYSING the state of the Welsh Premier League is often an exercise in unbridled cynicism. From regular complaints of meagre attendances to persistent grumblings about the lack of competitiveness of representative sides in European competitions, those of us who comment on Welsh club football can appear to be a rather miserable lot on occasions, locked in a perpetual state of existential angst. Thank heavens for Bala Town then, whose successes this season have given me the opportunity to reverse this trend somewhat, and for once indulge in a story of hope and optimism in the league!

Bala-Town-logoSituated in the heart of Snowdonia on the shores of Llyn Tegid, the largest natural lake in Wales, the sleepy town of Bala has long been a tourist hotspot for those wishing to sample the natural beauty of Wales, but over the past few weeks it is the town’s local football club, rather than its picturesque scenery, that has commanded the attention of outsiders. Their 4-0 demolition of Aberystwyth on Friday night was not only the club’s third consecutive league victory, but it also ensured that Bala leapfrogged both Airbus (who stumbled to a 1-1 draw against Cefn Druids) and their match-day opponents to secure second place in the table. In a league where TNS’s dominance – both in terms of resources and squad ability – seems to be growing every year, Bala can legitimately claim that, for the time being at least, they are the ‘best of the rest’ in the Welsh Football Pyramid.

While at first glance this may seem a rather modest achievement to be lauding, especially since the season is still in its infancy, it is important to recognise the equally modest resources with which Bala have managed to produce their current success. From a town of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, which possessed little in the way of firm footballing traditions until very recently, the club have managed to construct stable foundations (including a UEFA licensed stadium that is fit for staging European games) upon which it has been able to thrive. Having spent most of their 120 odd years (the exact year of the club’s foundation is unknown) in the lower leagues of Welsh football, Bala’s ascendancy has been rapid; indeed, it was only five seasons ago that the club gained entry to the premier division of Welsh football for the first time in their history. After early struggles to preserve their top flight status, when they just managed to squeeze themselves into the revamped ‘Super 12’ format for the 2010/11 season, Bala have managed to consolidate themselves as an established Welsh Premier Club, and all the signs indicate that they are maintaining an upward trajectory.

Much of this season’s success should be attributed to the arrival of new head coach Huw Griffiths, who works in conjunction with long-serving manager Colin Caton at Maes Tegid. In a footballing age where the lone authority of the manager figure is commonplace, it is an unusual arrangement, but so far it is a relationship that has been fruitful. Griffiths has managed to introduce elements of innovation to the team’s play, while Caton’s experience and longevity at the club portrays a crucial sense of stability within the club. The style of Bala’s play as they tore apart Aberystwyth also demonstrates that they should not be dismissed as mere plucky underdogs. While their third goal carried a heavy hint of good fortune, following a horrendous error by Aberystwyth goalkeeper Mike Lewis, their swift and incisive counter-attacking football repeatedly caught their opponents off-guard, and the build-up play to their opening couple of goals was as sleek as a newly released Apple product. If they manage to retain the same potent mixture of vibrancy and ruthlessness in their play over the course of the season, there’s no reason why the Lakesiders can aim very high indeed.

So there we go then, Bala Town FC: a genuinely uplifting story from the League of Wales. Don’t worry, the normal service of pessimism and despair will resume next week…

Talking Points

  • Bangor’s crisis shows no sign of abating, as they slumped to yet another abject home defeat on Friday night, this time at the hands of Cefn Druids. Neville Powell assured the media at his post-match interview that he still retained the support of the club’s chairman, but having secured a measly 2 points since the start of the season, and with the threat of relegation looming large, has Powell’s time finally run out?
  • After a recent upturn in results under new boss Russell Slade, Cardiff City’s away day blues continued at the New Den with a 1-0 defeat to Millwall. While their promotion hopes are far from terminal at this early stage, Cardiff’s miserable record on the road, which has yielded a mere four points and no wins this season, is perhaps emblematic of a mental fragility within the squad. With the Championship looking as competitive as ever around the promotion places, Slade will need to address these issues quickly to avoid a season of mid-table mediocrity.
  • Remarkable scenes at Brecon on Sunday afternoon, but for all the wrong reasons: with the match between Brecon Northcote and Newquay tied at 3-3 towards the end of 90 minutes, a Brecon player broke free of the last Newquay defender, and poised himself to shoot home the winner. Just as he slotted the ball past the despairing Newquay goalkeeper however, the referee, in a Clive Thomasesque moment of madness, blew for full time, to howls of protest from the Brecon faithful. Thankfully, such instances of utter incompetence are rare, but the shallow pool of referees in the lower leagues of Welsh football is an ongoing concern, and is perhaps an issue that the FAW should examine in greater detail.