Briton Ferry Llansawel host Buckley Town at the Old Road in the JD Welsh Cup on Saturday (2pm) with General Manager Stuart Williams targeting a place in the quarter-finals while the club also push for promotion to the JD Cymru Premier.
Currently sitting second behind leaders Barry Town United in the JD Cymru South, the Reds have made light work of Croesyceiliog and Mold Alexandra in the previous rounds, but they will not be taking Buckley Town for granted. “Last year we went out to Trefelin early on in the competition,” said Williams to FAW.cymru this week. “The Welsh Cup is something we always want to do well in. The draw has been kind to us with a home match although Buckley have been doing well in the Cymru North lately. It will be a good test for us.”
Striker Luke Bowen is the current leading scorer in the JD Cymru South this season having arrived at the club in the summer of 2020, but he and a number of other new signings had to wait to make an impression as the pandemic curtailed fixtures below the top-flight. “The pandemic was a tough time for us and it had a massive effect on the club,” explained Williams. “We signed some major players just before it happened and we're still recovering from it, but on the field I think we're back to where we need to be to challenge for promotion.”
Williams has a long association with the club having joined when Briton Ferry Athletic and Llansawel FC merged in 2009. Briton Ferry Athletic were founder members of the domestic top flight in 1992 but were relegated for the second time in 1997 and would drop down to Tier 4 prior to the merger. In his role as General Manager he is responsible for the day-to-day management of every aspect of the club. “When we took over we had the senior squad and a U18 team, and that was it,” he explained.
“Now we have ten academy teams with five grassroots teams feeding into them. The girls' development centre has six teams supporting the women's U19 and senior teams. We also compete in the Cymru Premier Development League, and with the reserves and seniors we now have an elite pathway for men and women throughout the club.” The club has certainly regrouped under its new guise, but their success extends far beyond matters on the field.
“The Reds in the Community programme is important to us and that has continued to grow,” Williams added. “We're giving unemployed people opportunities to work at the ground and gain new skills, and we want to provide a mental and physical well being hub. Football is tribal, but our community work pulls people together and I have seen a lot more interest from the local area. The work going on behind the scenes is something we are really proud of and will ensure that we are more than just a football club. Our aim is to create a community asset that everyone can be proud of while improving the mental and physical health of people living in our area.”
“We want to go to the next level now and the aim is achieving Tier 1 status for both the men's and women's teams as well as continuing to develop and improve the ground. Over 20 players from our academy have been signed by professional clubs, but when players are released by professional clubs we want them to see us as a club they can come back to and there will be more opportunities for them.
"We still have a couple of things to do but we're nearly there for achieving a Tier 1 Licence. We look at teams like Penybont and Haverfordwest County who have gone up and are now thriving in the top division, that's our target now.”
On the field, long-standing manager Carl Shaw was sacked in August 2021 and replaced by current manager Andy Hill. “It was a difficult decision to part company with Carl Shaw but I think the consistency that we've shown since then has been the most pleasing thing and we want to keep pushing Barry Town United at the top of the table,” Williams added. “We want to keep pushing and as a board we have the ambition to get promoted to the Cymru Premier and see what it brings us. We have a history of playing at the top level, but when you look at what we have done since 2009 it's massive. We want to leave the club in a better place than when we took over, and I think we can safely say that we've already done that.”