With no game this weekend for the Cofis, their captain Gareth Edwards was in a reflective mood as we caught up with the defender earlier this week to discuss how his side had tackled the season so far.
Leading a group of sides separated by two points from sixth to 10th in the standings, Caernarfon are right where they want to be this season inside the automatic playoff positions, but with their captain set to retire at the season, does he think his side can hold their spot and book a European berth for the 2021/22 season?
“A top six spot is our aspiration, and we will always aim for Europe, but we know it is going to be very difficult for us to achieve – especially as we’re likely to have to navigate the playoffs to get there, but that’s the challenge in front of us and we’re looking forward to it.
“If we did make it into Europe this season then how could I retire on that!? There’s no way I could – that might prolong my career a little bit longer. I’m really enjoying the experience of the last few weeks though, it has been nice to be back and around the lads and it’s given me a renewed vigour for the game.
“Who knows, never say never, if we can sneak into Europe then who knows what happens after that, but it’ll be a case of my body giving up before my mind! I’ve got positive feelings about this season and I think if we can just get a little run of form going then we’ve certainly got the players at our club to take on the best.”
“I would have said I was staying on for another season!”
Announcing his impending retirement early in the first lockdown period, the world has changed a fair bit since then as the pandemic has swallowed up eight months of time and changed the face of sports in Wales significantly for the time being.
When asked if he would have made the same decision regarding retirement had he known the way the pandemic was going to pan out, Edwards’ answer spoke volumes, and he also spoke about how challenging his final season has been so far without some crucial elements of the experience of being a Cymru Premier footballer.
“I would have said I was staying on for another season! It is a season tinged with disappointment for me, really, missing the first nine games with an injury from our only pre-season friendly, and then to come back with no supporters – who have always been very good to me – it has been difficult.
“I’m hopeful that they will be able to get in before the end of the season, and I think it is crucial for the supporters themselves to be allowed back as much as it is for any club to have them there for financial reasons or anything like that, because our supporters are the lifeblood of our club and we need them.
“We do need to get them back safely as soon as possible. I’m confident in the team and that we have something to play for and you never know what is going to happen as the season goes on, but I hope we see the fans back soon because we miss them a lot and football needs them.”
“I hope it will make everybody a bit more appreciative.”
As a teacher himself and a senior player in the Caernarfon side, many of his teammates will have looked to Edwards for advice and guidance during this unprecedented period, but despite everything he has seen and experienced in the game, the defender won’t have had an experience like this before.
The Cofis legend discussed navigating that experience as a leader for the club, and how he hopes the experiences of the last few months will positively affect everybody’s appreciation for the ‘normal’ things some may have taken for granted previously.
“I’m always learning – you never stop learning in any walk of life. The word unprecedented is overused, but there is no other word for this situation – nobody saw it coming, nobody knows how to deal with it, really, and everybody is trying to do their best and what they believe is right for the benefit of everybody’s safety.
“We’re lucky that we’re actually able to play, absolutely, but I do feel for the supporters and those players who can’t play. I’m learning all the time, I think I’ve learnt a lot from this situation and it is a difficult time for everybody, whether you’re a senior player or a young player, and hopefully it’ll teach people not to take what they have for granted.
“For those people that have missed out on a great deal of football this season, hopefully it will make them a bit more appreciative of what they have and what they’re able to do in normal circumstances, and if anything I hope it will increase everybody’s overall appreciation for what opportunities sport gives us all as people.”
“We have a lot of potential to do well.”
After a lot of change at the club over the lockdown period, both in terms of the playing squad and management staff, it was difficult for many to predict how the Cofis might get on this term with so much change around the club in an already very challenging period, but alas in sixth they sit and their captain feels there is more to come.
“It has been a challenging season, but we’re happy with where we’re at right now. We’ve let ourselves down at times, we haven’t played well at times but still found results, so there have been positives and lessons to take from what we’ve done so far.
“A lot of teams are still in that pre-season mode, I guess, where they’re working out formations, their new teammates, who the best XI is for each team, how people fit into systems and all that, so for us to be floating around sixth position when we know we have more to come, it is very exciting for us.
“We’re excited to see where the season takes us. It doesn’t help with the stop-start nature of it, of course, but we’re happy with where we are, and our performance against Connah’s Quay showed what we’re capable of. We just want to kick on now and see where the season takes us, but we have a lot of potential to do well.”
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