Here we go again! The biggest game in Welsh domestic football is less than six months away, and preparations are well underway as the third fixture between Wales ‘C’ and England ‘C’ is set to take place in March 2020 at Caernarfon Town’s Oval.
The third iteration of this blockbuster fixture for domestic football in Wales is set to be another super instalment, after entertaining fixtures at Barry Town United’s Jenner Park two years ago and Salford City earlier this year showcased the best talent the domestic game in Wales has to offer.
Ahead of this third outing, we caught up once again with Wales ‘C’ boss Mark Jones to get his take on the confirmation of next year’s fixture.
“I’m really excited for this. The first two years of this competition were very, very enjoyable for everyone involved – the players, the coaching staff, and the fans as well, hopefully – they’ve just been fantastic experiences!
“We’ve had two good games so far at Barry, where we were a little bit unlucky, and again at Salford last year, and now I’m really pleased that we’re taking this fixture to Caernarfon for our third fixture in 2020.
“The reputation of their fans is incredible for the noise they bring, the numbers they turn up in, so I’m looking forward to that support from them and the wider footballing community in Wales too, because it is key that we have the fans behind us as we look to continue to put domestic football in Wales on the map.”
It has been a very exciting time for domestic football in Wales, but particularly in the JD Cymru Premier where those who are regulars at competing internationally have put in very strong performances, but also those teams who are new to the European scene have performed well too.
Jones argues that this is one of the legacies of the ‘C’ International fixture in Wales, and speaks to how the desire to be involved in this showpiece game has driven up standards from players, coaches and clubs alike.
“I just think that the performances of our clubs in recent times have proved the point of this fixture really. The impact of what we’ve done with this fixture has been quite underrated, I think, in terms of how it has driven up standards even further – and we already know how much the league has improved regardless!
“A lot of good things have happened for our league in the last few years, such as having one of our teams beat a Scottish Premier League team in Kilmarnock, when Connah’s Quay knocked them out of the Europa League, and the job the Wales C boys have done to compete against the best of the best in the National League.
“In the last two years we’ve competed the best of that league and I hope to compete with them again, but what this fixture does is show the standard and the quality of those in our league now.”
With the likes of Connell Rawlinson and Adam Roscrow making the jump from the domestic game in Wales to the professional game in the English Football League as a result of this fixture in recent years, it’s legacy for players is proven.
Jones confessed that this is one of the key benefits of the game, adding that it is hugely exciting for players in Wales to have this fixture as a pinnacle.
“Experiences like this will do an awful lot for a player, but perhaps it won’t be fully realised until it is time for them to hang up their boots later on in life, you know.
“In the short term, of course it can help careers instantly in terms of moving on to bigger and better things, as we’ve seen with two of our players and three of the English players who have competed in these fixtures in recent years, but it will always be a magnificent memory for people to play for their country.
“Anybody who is anywhere near this team is automatically on the radar for the professional game, so it can bolster your career and bring you to the attention of top clubs, but otherwise what a fabulous memory to take away from your career when it is all said and done, to represent your country at C level – there is only one level higher than that, remember!
“I’m glad there is this pinnacle for our domestic players to aim for, because everybody needs that goal and there is no greater honour than representing your country!”
With the JD Cymru Premier only 27 years young, the growth of the league and the domestic game as a whole in recent years has been staggering, and the ‘C’ squad manager added his praise for the ever-increasing standards and where he hopes this fixture can play a continuous part in building towards the future.
“I expect managers in the league will be using this game to even further motivate our Welsh players to try and get into this team, because it really does mean so much to all of these boys to represent their country at this level, and rightly so.
“We’ve seen it both years so far just how much it does for players in terms of making them raise their levels and improve their performances, and the likes of Liam Thomas last year, scoring 26 goals in the season, he forced his way into the squad, and that’s what I want to see!
“I think the standard is continuously improving leaps and bounds. The fitness levels, the coaching levels, the quality of the players across the JD Cymru Premier, JD Cymru North and JD Cymru South is growing all the time.
“Everybody at those levels has their badges, they’ve gone through so many trials and tribulations to get to those levels and they’ve got a lot of experience. We’ve got some fantastic ex-professionals involved in our game on and off the pitch, and people who haven’t been professional – like myself – doing everything they can to improve and be their best selves.
“This league has only been running 27 years, and every year it is growing in stature. The improvement in the last couple of years has been massive, and I think the future for our domestic game in Wales is very bright and very exciting, and I hope this fixture can continue to play a part in that.”