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 2021-22 season, whilst also making some references to 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 fourth part, I will only focus on the four southwestern counties of Wales, with the other counties of Wales coming in later blogs. To see the other parts of the County By County series, the links can be found below:
- Part 1 – The northeastern counties of Flintshire, Wrexham, Denbighshire, and Conwy.
- Part 2 – The northwestern counties of Ynys Môn and Gwynedd.
- Part 3 – The central counties of Powys and Ceredigion.
[NOTE: All positions mentioned below are defined as of 18th May 2022]
Pembrokeshire: Haverfordwest County
The best team from Pembrokeshire / Sir Benfro is undoubtedly Haverfordwest County, who are the sole representatives of the county, in not just in the Cymru Premier, but in the entire top four tiers of the Welsh football pyramid. The Bluebirds were founding members of the League of Wales for the 1992-93 season and were ever-present in the top-flight (bar three seasons in the mid-1990s) until the 2010-11 season when they suffered relegation. During that period in the League of Wales/Welsh Premier League, their best league finish was a third position in the 2003-04 season which earned the club a place in the UEFA Cup the following season, taking on FH of Iceland in a losing tie. Haverfordwest returned to the Welsh Premier League for a season-long stay in the 2015-16 season before getting relegated once again, but they soon rebounded back to the top-flight in 2020 when they were promoted as runners-up after Cymru South champions, Swansea University, were denied a top-tier licence.
In their second consecutive season back in the Cymru Premier, Haverfordwest found themselves in the bottom six at the league split again. A change of management also occurred with long-time manager Wayne Jones being replaced by the Belgian coach Nicky Hayen in December 2021. The Bluebirds flirted with relegation towards the back-end of the season, but with a couple of games remaining, they managed to confirm their place in the league for the following season by finishing in tenth position and avoiding a demotion. Haverfordwest accumulated 38 points from the 32 league games that they played, and concluded the season 7 points ahead of the relegation zone to maintain their top-flight status for another season.
The next best performing teams from Pembrokeshire were applying their trade in the fifth-tier Pembrokeshire League, with Goodwick United currently leading the table in accordance with the league’s website: http://www.pembrokeshireleague.co.uk/
Carmarthenshire: Carmarthen Town
Clubs from Carmarthenshire / Sir Gaerfyrddin have had some success in recent times with a couple of its teams winning Welsh Cups in the 21st century. The first of these was Carmarthen Town, who had initially appeared in two previous finals before getting a cup victory. Firstly, they lost the 1999 cup final on penalties to Inter Cabel-Tel (now Cardiff Met University), and then lost 0-1 to Total Network Solutions (now The New Saints) in the 2005 final, before finally clinching the county’s first Welsh Cup on home soil when the Old Gold beat Afan Lido 3-2 at Llanelli. The following year’s final would see Llanelli appear in the final match of the national cup tournament for the first time since their debut final appearance in 1914. They took on Bangor City at Newtown, and sadly, Llanelli lost 2-4 after extra time on that occasion as their opponents won the next three Welsh Cups. However, the Reds would gain revenge in the 2011 final as they stopped Bangor’s quest for a fourth consecutive cup triumph by decisively beating them 4-1 in their hometown, achieving their first Welsh Cup victory at Parc y Scarlets.
Sadly, for the 2021-22 season there were no clubs from the county playing in the top flight of the Welsh pyramid. Despite being an almost ever-present side at the highest tier, Carmarthen Town were relegated from the Cymru Premier in 2020, whilst Llanelli suffered a greater fall. Despite becoming Welsh champions in the 2007-08 season, financial problems forced the club to be dissolved and reformed as Llanelli Town in 2013. The new side managed to return back to the Cymru Premier for the 2018-19 season, but were relegated after just a season back at the highest step of the pyramid.
Three Carmarthenshire-based sides competed in the 2021-22 Cymru South league, with Carmarthen Town finishing the highest. Despite receiving a three-point deduction for failing to fulfill a fixture against Risca United, they still finished in fifth position with a points tally of 51 points and narrowly missed out on fourth position on goal difference. Llanelli Town completed their league campaign situated in mid-table, finishing in ninth spot with 40 points and missing out on a top-half finish with an inferior goal difference. Finally, Ammanford were the lowest of the Carmarthenshire-based clubs as they concluded the season in twelfth position in the league, and experienced a tough campaign with the threat of relegation looming large towards the end of the season. However, the club managed to avoid relegation to the Ardal Leagues by finishing three points clear of the drop zone, in the end, to maintain their status in the southern second-tier league.
Swansea: Swansea University
Despite the successes of Swansea City in the English league system throughout the recent years by making appearances in the English Premier League and winning the English League Cup in 2013, plus a large number of players from the area playing for the national team, surprisingly, there has not been a club from the City and County of Swansea / Dinas a Sir Abertawe that has played in the Welsh top-flight since its inception in 1992.
For the 2021-22 season, there was only one club in the Cymru South that came from the city-county, and that was Swansea University. The university team, who play their home games at Sketty Lane, were unfortunate not to become the first team from the area to play in the Welsh top flight when they won the inaugural Cymru South title in 2019-20. However, they were denied a Cymru Premier playing licence resulting in runners-up Haverfordwest County earning promotion instead. An unfortunate conclusion to a club that had unbelievably risen from the ninth tier of Welsh football to the top of the second tier in just eight years. This past season, they were unable to repeat the feat of a couple of years prior when the team finished in eighth position in the table. From their 30-game league campaign, Swansea Uni earned a points tally of 40 points and finished ahead of Llanelli Town with a superior goal difference of +1 (in comparison to Llanelli’s -11).
The next best teams from Swansea are Garden Village and West End who competed in the Ardal South West league. Garden Village finished the stronger of the two teams as they completed the season in eleventh position in the third-tier league with 34 points earned. Alas, West End faired off much worse with their campaign and suffered relegation to the fourth tier when they only accumulated 13 points from their 30-game schedule and finished in fifteenth position in the sixteen-team league.
Neath Port Talbot: Briton Ferry Llansawel
The county of Neath Port Talbot / Castell-nedd Port Talbot has provided a number of clubs that have competed in the Welsh top flight throughout its history. Both Briton Ferry Athletic and Afan Lido were founding members of the League of Wales in its first season in 1992-93, whilst Neath and Port Talbot Town also became successful top-flight teams during the 2000s and 2010s. Afan Lido won the first two editions of the Welsh League Cup in 1993 and 1994, and added a third in 2012, as well as playing in the preliminary round of the 1995-96 UEFA Cup. Port Talbot Town were one of the stronger sides in the league throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s, with the club achieving their highest position of third place in the 2009-10 season as well as a Welsh Cup final appearance in the same season, but were unfortunate to end on the losing end of a 2-3 scoreline against Bangor City. In addition, it meant they too played European competition but lost to Finnish club TPS in the first qualifying round. Neath were also a strong team during this period, with the club finishing third in two consecutive seasons in 2011 and 2012, as well as playing in the Europa League also in a losing effort against Norwegian side Aalesunds.
Alas, the good times for the county’s teams are long gone and there were no teams from Neath Port Talbot competing in the Cymru Premier for the 2021-22 season. All the teams previously mentioned suffered relegation from the Welsh Premier League, with Neath actually getting dissolved by the High Court in 2012 due to unpaid debts. For the 2021-22 season, there were five teams from the county competing in the Cymru South with Briton Ferry Llansawel (Briton Ferry Athletic merged with Llansawel FC in 2009 to create the club) being the best-performing team of the five. At one point during the season, it looked as if The Ferry would have a chance of promotion, but they sadly fell away from the top two teams and ultimately finished in a very respectable third spot in the table. BFL accumulated 56 points from their season, which left them 13 points adrift from second-placed team Pontypridd Town.
Of the other NPT clubs competing in the Cymru South, Goytre United also achieved a top-half finish when they concluded the season in sixth position, whilst Afan Lido and Trefelin BGC ended up in tenth and eleventh spots respectively. Alas, it would be a horrendous season for beleaguered Port Talbot Town who finished rock bottom of the league having lost all 30 of their league games. The club which has struggled with financial problems this season, only managed to score 8 goals all season and conceded 121, resulting in a goal difference of -113. A sad time for a former giant, and one of the best-supported clubs in Welsh football.
So that completes the initial delve into finding out which clubs are currently the best teams from each of the four southwestern counties of Wales. The next part of the series will look at the southern counties of Wales to find out which clubs are currently the most successful in those counties.