Focus on development ahead of FAW Youth Cup Semi-Finals
5 March 2022

Focus on development ahead of FAW Youth Cup Semi-Finals

Both semi-finals of the FAW Youth Cup take place at Latham Park, Newtown on Sunday, 6 March, as The New Saints take on Penybont and Caerau Ely face Flint Town United for a place in the final.

FAW Youth Cup Semi-Finals

Latham Park, Newtown

6 March 2022

  • The New Saints v Penybont (12:30pm) 
  • Caerau Ely v Flint Town United (3:30pm)

But while all four teams are keen to progress with the right result this weekend, a different type of progression remains the primary focus. The four team coaches spoke to recently to explain more about the respective pathways that exist at each club, and how they have enabled players to move through the ranks and into the 1st team during the course of the current campaign to show how mutually beneficial a healthy working relationship between the youth and senior sections can be. 

The New Saints progressed to the semi-finals with convincing victories over Cefn Druids and Caernarfon Town, and coach Simon Smith was keen to emphasise how interested 1st team manager Anthony Limbrick is in the academy as his side head towards the JD Cymru Premier title. “Anthony has been brilliant from day one with the young players all the way through the academy,” explained Smith. “He takes a keen interest in all age groups, players, staff and parents which is key to showing there is a pathway. This season a number of U19 players are training with the 1st team and have made their debuts. On a daily basis we are having conversations with coaches Chris Seargeant, Simon Spender and Connor Roberts and between us all we are delighted with the players and the pathway that is in place.”

Victories over Pontardawe Town, Ammanford, Cardiff Met and Briton Ferry Llansawel booked Penybont's place in the last four, and coach Leon Williams explained how 1st team manager Rhys Griffiths has also shown a keen interest in the Development side. “We frequently discuss players within the development squad which has led to Morgan Weaver, Teejay Vickery and Tom Tweedy signing long term deals with the club,” he explained. “Other players have been involved in the squad and train with the first team on a regular occasion throughout the season. Rhys has also trusted the Development Team to provide minutes for first team players in need of match fitness with Jack Evans, Liam Walsh and Kostya Georgievsky all having played a small part in our season. This has helped our young players gather more experience that they would not otherwise have been exposed to.” 

Caerau Ely began their FAW Youth Cup campaign with a 4-2 win over Merthyr Saints, while further victories over Rhydyfelin, Taffs Well and Garw SBGC have earned them their place in the semi-final. “The lads have worked hard throughout,” explained coach Owen Gamble. “For a club of our size to get this far in such a prestigious tournament is massive. The lads are all excited to play and give their all, it's not every season that you will get this opportunity, but the end goal of progression to the 1st team is what is at the forefront of my mind. We speak to the 1st team management on a regular basis and provide feedback on how the players are developing as they look to progress. The club is definitely set up with a clear pathway into 1st team football which is really positive for the lads, and some of them have already made that step up with a good amount of game time.” 

Victories over Brickfield Rangers, Buckley Town and Barry Town United ensured that Flint Town United complete the semi-final line-up, and Academy Head of Coaching Danny Bell was full of praise for the way the side have performed this season. “It's been a fantastic so far for the group,” he said. “We play the same way as the 1st team in terms of principles, systems and formations, so to see that coming together has been fantastic for us as coaches. We're really lucky to have a 1st team manager who buys into youth as I meet with Neil Gibson every week to go through all things around the academy. We've had a number of players make their debuts in the JD Cymru Premier and we've had at least one academy player in the 1st team squad for every game this season. There's definitely a pathway there and we have a number of players from the academy training with the 1st team every single session, which is really nice to see.”

Swansea City were the last team to lift the FAW Youth Cup as they claimed a 2-1 win over The New Saints in 2019. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the competition has been suspended for the last two seasons, but the focus on player progression and development at the four remaining clubs this year confirms just how important this competition is, and all four clubs will be desperate to move one step closer to lifting the trophy this weekend.