The origin of this domestic football series comes from a very straightforward question that was asked to me on Twitter by Aled Roberts (@capaled on Twitter):
“Who are the best Welsh clubs from each county?”
Not knowing the answer off-hand, I decided to do some research to discover who are currently the best performing clubs from each county in Wales in terms of their respective league position and placement during the current 2021-22 season, whilst also making some references into which teams were the most historically successful clubs in that county also.
I have decided to split the country up into several parts to make it more manageable for me to write up, especially considering I have been struggling with “writer’s block” recently. Therefore in this second part, I will only focus on the two northwestern counties of Wales, with the other counties of Wales coming in later blogs.
- The first part of the County By County series which focuses on the northeastern counties of Flintshire, Wrexham, Denbighshire, and Conwy can be found HERE.
[NOTE: All positions mentioned below are defined as of 14th March 2022]
Ynys Môn: Holyhead Hotspur
Ynys Môn or the Isle of Anglesey is a historical hotbed for football, with the island having had its own competitive league for 125 years in the form of the Anglesey League before it was eventually absorbed into the North Wales Coast West League during the recent reorganisation of Welsh league football. The island’s representative football team is also the current Inter-Games Football Tournament / Island Games gold medalist having beaten Guernsey on home turf in the final in 2019 in front of an attendance of nearly 3000. Despite the obvious passion for the game on Anglesey, the island has never had any of its teams win or even appear in the final of the Welsh Cup, and it has only had two of its teams compete in the top-flight. The first was Cemaes Bay who played in the League of Wales for three consecutive seasons between 1995 and 1998 and achieved their best league finish (and the best of any Môn club since the foundation of the League of Wales in 1992) of twelfth position in the 1996-97 season. The second was Llangefni Town who played just one season in the Welsh Premier League and finished bottom of the 2007-08 table but missed out on staying up by just two points.
Curiously, Holyhead Hotspur, who could be argued as the island’s biggest team since its foundation in 1990, has never reached the Cymru Premier, but they are certainly the island’s best performing team in the current Welsh pyramid. The Hotspurs, alongside Llangefni Town, are competing in the Cymru North this season, with the team from the islands’ biggest town performing better than the team from the island’s administrative headquarters. Holyhead is currently in eighth position and has secured their position in the Cymru North for next season, whilst it is more nerve-wracking for Llangefni who are in fourteenth position and scrapping to avoid relegation to the Ardal Leagues.
Sadly, there are currently no teams from Ynys Môn in the Ardal North West League, with the next highest Anglesey club in the Welsh pyramid being Bodedern Athletic who are currently leading the fourth-tier North Wales Coast West Premier Division, which has over half of its clubs originating from the isle. At the time of writing, Bodedern are experiencing a perfect season having won all of their eighteen league fixtures this season!!
As Gwynedd is such a large county within Wales, with many of its clubs playing in the various tiers of Welsh football, I have decided to divide it into the two former counties of Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire (making it easier for me to research and divide) to determine the best club from the dual components of the northwestern county.
Caernarfonshire: Caernarfon Town
Caernarfonshire has a wealth of exceptional and successful clubs within the region, with its most successful club historically being Bangor City. The Citizens won the Welsh league title on three occasions, famously winning the 2010-11 title on the last day of the season in the final game played at Farrar Road, and the Welsh Cup eight times which included three consecutive Welsh Cups between 2008 and 2010. In addition, Bangor City enjoyed some historic European adventures over the decades, famously beating Napoli 2-0 in the 1962-63 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
- Highlights of Bangor City vs. TNS on the final day of the 2010-11 season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFmJz95oieQ
However, after years of severe financial mismanagement under questionable owners and a recent tumultuous period that has seen the club demoted to the second tier, whilst the vast majority of supporters moved away to form a breakaway protest club in Bangor 1876 (who are currently second in the North Wales Coast West Premier Division), the historical club is on the cusp of folding completely having been thrown out of the Cymru North this season due to unpaid debts. They have not applied for a playing license for the top three tiers for the following season, meaning should they return for the 2022-23 season, they’ll be playing in the fourth tier of Welsh football.
Despite the ongoing issues at Nantporth, there is still a well-supported and historical club from Arfon in the top-flight in the form of their fierce rivals, Caernarfon Town, who have survived their own period of financial uncertainty that saw them drop down to the third-tier of Welsh football, and are now enjoying their best period since moving back to Welsh football in 1992. The Canaries are currently Caernarfonshire’s best team in the Welsh pyramid and are competing in the Cymru Premier after gaining promotion back to the top-flight in 2018. Last season, The Oval-based side came agonisingly near to qualifying for the UEFA Europa League via the post-season playoffs, but ultimately lost in the playoff final to Newtown 3-5 at home. They are competing in the Championship Group in Phase 2 of the Cymru Premier schedule for the fourth consecutive season after benefitting from Connah’s Quay Nomads’ 18-point deduction and being lifted to sixth position.
The next highest team in the Welsh football pyramid from Caernarfonshire are CPD Porthmadog, another side who once played in the Welsh Premier League, but now finds themselves competing in the Ardal North West league. Unsurprisingly for a club of its size, Port are one of the strongest teams in the northwestern league and are currently challenging for the title being situated in second position. Should they overcome the challenge from their main rivals Mold Alexandra, and a potential late charge from Denbigh Town, the famous name shall hopefully return back to the second-tier after a two-year hiatus.
Merionethshire: Bala Town
The old county of Merionethshire may not have had the historical success with their football clubs as Caernarfonshire’s clubs experienced, but they certainly have Gwynedd’s best club currently. Bala Town is currently Merionethshire’s and Gwynedd’s best club, and is also considered as one of Wales’ best clubs. Since gaining promotion to the Welsh Premier League in 2009, they have regularly finished highly in the league. The Lakesiders were Welsh Premier League runners-up in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, and won their first major trophy by lifting the Welsh Cup in 2017 when they beat TNS 2-1 at Bangor becoming just the second Gwynedd-based club to win the old trophy. They have become regular qualifiers for European competition and have finished in third position for the past two seasons. This season, Bala are currently challenging for a third runners-up spot in their history with TNS already winning the title, but are aiming to win their second Welsh Cup by having reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup.
The second-best team from the old county currently is located at the opposite end of Llyn Tegid to Bala Town, and that is CPD Llanuwchllyn. They currently compete in the Ardal NW league having originally been part of the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier League (where they finished as high as third in the 2016-17 season), and are enjoying a decent season in the third-tier once again by being in the top half of the league in sixth place.
So that completes the initial delve into finding out which clubs are currently the best teams from each of the two northwestern counties of Wales. The next part of the series will look at the central counties of Wales in the form of Powys and Ceredigion to find out which clubs are currently the most successful in those counties.