What a wonderful addition Colwyn Bay have been to the Welsh domestic pyramid this season, and things are going well for the Seagulls thus far too.
Sat in third place in the JD Cymru North standings behind Prestatyn Town and Flint Town United, Craig Hogg’s side have regularly caught the eye this season, and claimed some scalps as well as they’ve knocked JD Cymru Premier opposition out of the JD Welsh Cup.
We caught up with the man in the hotseat at Colwyn Bay to learn more about their season so far.
“In all honesty we didn’t really know what to expect this year.” Hogg said. “Moving from the English system, having spent the last 30 years there, was a very bold and brave decision to come back to the Welsh domestic system, but it is an opportunity we have grabbed with both hands.
“The expectation this year was just to learn, truth be told, to learn about the league, the Welsh pyramid, the other players, coaches, and gather the information and the experience we need to become a JD Cymru Premier team in the seasons to come.
“Our expectations as a club were to finish in the top 10 somewhere, but more importantly to have that knowledge as I mentioned previously to help us move forward, so I don’t think we can be anything but happy with how things have gone, and we really, really are.”
That bold and brave decision to come to the Welsh domestic game has had a transformational effect on the club according to Hogg, with supporters revitalised and the team on the pitch doing the business as well, with eyes on climbing to the top of the Welsh footballing pyramid in the coming years a key focus.
“The club is in a totally different place now, with a fantastic support base that has really got behind us, and in terms of some of the football that we’re playing home and away, and the fans who have followed us home and away, the whole experience has been humbling, and everyone is giving everything they have to help this club move forward.
“We’ve shown against the likes of Airbus in the JD Welsh Cup that we can compete against the Tier One sides, but putting that game aside I think there are so many other positives to take from our performances throughout the year.
“Let’s be honest, this team has been thrown together over the summer, so we’ve had to learn quickly, getting those footballing principles across to the group, but the way we’ve adapted to that has been a real positive for us.
“Competing against the big teams in our division, and Airbus in the division above, it does give us satisfaction that we are on the right path, but we need to be consistent in our performances and in our results – which is the most important thing – with a view to one day gaining promotion.”
No stranger to playing a part in fairy-tale journeys to the top of the Welsh game – having played a significant part in Llandudno's rise to the top division and on to European football some years ago – there is very little that the Colwyn Bay boss hasn’t seen in the Welsh game, but one thing stands out above all else to Hogg when he looks at the league at present.
“The biggest takeaway that I’ve got is how competitive the division is. I knew it was going to be tough from my experience six years ago – being away for so long obviously that could have changed, but it hasn’t, and it is as competitive as ever.
“All the managers are so tactically astute. There are managers in this league who do not get the credit they deserve – outside the top two, top three, there are some excellent coaches, some very good players littered throughout the league, and there are no easy games.
“Ruthin Town’s performances as a team really impress me. A team of local lads who give everything, with some unbelievable athletes and good technicians. I look at Craig Papirnyk at Porthmadog, who I’ve known for years, and is another impressive coach. Chris Roberts at Llangefni, they’ve given us problems this year, and I could list so many more – Penrhyncoch too, which is such a difficult place to go – and I’ve been very, very impressed with everyone.”
There’s quite the group of players at Hogg’s disposal too, with a number of names familiar to fans of the JD Cymru Premier, others who have made a name for themselves at Tier Two level, as well as those with significant experience in the English system and some exciting young players to boot.
All of which is starting to mesh together to deliver consistent results as well as strong performances, says the manager.
“We’ve got a fantastic group of players here with their experience in the game. I’ve worked with a lot of the players previously, such as Mike Williams when I was at Llandudno and we got promoted and qualified for Europe – he has been massive for us on and off the pitch in bringing his experience to the team.
“Sion Edwards is Sion Edwards, his experience speaks for itself, but for a guy of 32 to be putting in the performances that he’s put in both on and off the ball has been outstanding.
“Sion is our James Milner, he’s found a new lease of life at Colwyn Bay and is loving his football, he’s been massive for us. Toby Jones struggled with injuries at the start of the year, but he has been massive for us too, and we’ve added players with experience from England to that as well. It has been a challenge to bring all that together, but it is starting to bear fruit now, with our experience and the youth in our team mixing well and starting to translate into consistently good results.”