One of the senior statesmen of the higher rungs of Welsh domestic football, we caught up with Porthmadog FC stopper Paul Pritchard to reflect on the season so far at Y Traeth in the JD Cymru North.
This weekend Port take a weekend away from the trials and tribulations of a thrilling league campaign as they contest a local derby in the JD Welsh Cup against Llanberis, but the 35-year-old ‘keeper addressed the club’s season so far at length and the progress shown in recent weeks in conversation with the JD Cymru Leagues website.
“I think we have turned a corner.” Pritchard said. ”We’ve managed to get a few good results on the bounce in the last few weeks, and that confidence and consistency looks to be coming back now.
“With two wins against Llanfair and Ruthin, we got a draw against Penrhyncoch – who are flying high in the table to be fair – and we were disappointed not to take three points, so I think that shows where we are at the moment and that we are moving in the right direction.
“We’ve lost a few key players from last year, I think that has to be taken into account, and we’ve been missing a lot of players in the opening few games of the season through injury as well, plus we’ve got a new management team, so getting things together in those circumstances has taken us some time.
“I think we had a difficult start to the season as well in terms of the run of fixtures, and let’s not forget that in some of those big games we were denied points or a win by the finest of margins, not getting luck with decisions perhaps, and once you start losing games in a league this competitive it is hard to snap that run, but we’ve made good progress in recent weeks.”
"I'd have loved to have reached a JD Welsh Cup Final."
Holding their own in mid-table in Welsh Alliance League One so far this term, Llanberis welcome Sion Eifion’s Porthmadog to Ffordd Padarn in the JD Welsh Cup and, although Pritchard admits he feels the confidence in the Porthmadog dressing room is reaching peak levels, the goalkeeper is adamant Port are in for a stern test on Saturday.
“Make no mistake about it, this will be a very tough game for us. Their pitch is quite compact and it will be a challenge for us, so that’s a potential banana skin for us and we need to make sure that we’re at our very best if we’re to progress.
“We are on the up, our confidence is high, and it is always great to play in the JD Welsh Cup. I’ve never done that well in the competition personally, I think the furthest I’ve got is to the semi-final, but I’d have loved to have reached a final in my time.
“This weekend is going to be a local derby for us as well, against a team with some good players, so it will be an interesting game for the neutral. Both teams will be very much up for the game, but we hope our ability will shine through and we’ll make our way into the next round.”
In the midst of their best run of form of the season at the moment, things are on the up for Porthmadog after a difficult start to the 2019/20 season, but where does Pritchard see the side being at Christmas and what weapons do they have at their disposal to help them climb the table?
"We've got decades of experience between us at this level and beyond."
“With the likes of John Owen, Jay Gibbs, Mel McGuinness, John Littlemore, and so on, we’ve got great ability in the squad and decades of experience between us at this level and beyond, so that is only going to help us as we look to climb the table in the coming weeks.
“We’re not a million miles away at all, and we’re looking forward to climbing that table. We’re not panicking at all – of course we’re disappointed with how we’ve started, but with a couple of good results we’re going to be right in the mix again in the middle of the table.
“Over the next few months we want to establish ourselves in the top half and then go from there, but the league is so tough now. I’ve been involved at this level for nearly 20 years and this is the strongest it has ever been, but we’ve got what it takes and I’m looking forward to trying to reach our high targets.”
"He is a really good, exciting young manager."
Pritchard also reserved special praise for his young manager as well, who has weathered a tough start to life in the hotseat at Y Traeth well and seems to have led his team out the other side, with the goalkeeper adding that Eifion deserves credit for handling the significant jump from managing the club’s reserves to managing the first team in such a manner.
“Sion Eifion is a really good, exciting young manager, and Craig Papirnyk offers a huge amount of experience to the coaching team as well, but the staff have been great and they’ve got a real trust in the playing squad.
“Sion is ambitious and he jumped at the chance to move up from the club’s reserves side to the first team, and that’s a big jump in standard, but he’s shown with the way things have turned around in recent weeks what a great job he can do.
“Yes, he is young, but he’s got a lot of ideas, he’s got confidence, he’s been around the team before during his time with the reserves and he has good experience around him in terms of the staff and the players.
“Every manager needs those things, and you’ve only got to look at the likes of Niall McGuinness at Flint who has been in a similar situation starting management at this level at a young age, so all credit to Sion and the management team really for the work they’ve done so far this year.“