Manager/Coach Spotlight: Tom Lewis (Llansannan)

PICTURE by CPD Llansannan.

ON THE BLOG, it’s good to sometimes give those in charge of the players the opportunity to speak too. With that in mind, here’s the first in a series of managers/coaches I’ll be focusing on in the coming months – Thomas Wynne Lewis of CPD Llansannan.

Lewis, originally from Denbigh but now living in Groes, was assistant manager to Gari Evans last year. But when Evans left to take charge of Ruthin Town, Lewis was subsequently offered the role of first team manager at Llansannan, which he says he accepted “without a second thought”.

And in what is the 34-year-old’s first full season in management, the club has enjoyed a more-than-decent campaign before the coronavirus lockdown took place.

Llansannan are currently sitting in fifth place in the Vale of Clwyd & Conwy Premier Division table, with several games in hand on the teams above them. They have also reached the semi-finals of the Premier Cup (where they are scheduled to play Bro Cernyw), the President Cup (where they will play Llysfaen) and even the prestigious NWCFA Junior Cup, having knocked Cefni (4-2), Bro Cernyw (3-0), Rhos United (3-1) and Trearddur Bay Bulls (3-2) out of the competition.

In the past, Llansannan have enjoyed many a success and Lewis has been part of that in one way or another for the last decade, having also previously been a player for Cerrigydrudion and Caerwys.

Lewis (far right) after winning the Premier Cup as a player with Llansannan.

Speaking about the club’s formidable cup runs this season, Lewis said: “It’s been a good season, to reach three semi-finals is a very difficult thing to achieve and we can be proud of our efforts this season no matter what the outcome is.

“I’d probably say my highlight so far would be either the President’s Cup win away at Llanfairfechan Town or the Junior Cup Quarter Final against Trearddur Bay Bulls. Both excellent sides but we deserved to win both. I’ve enjoyed all aspects of management so far, even the low points. How you react to set backs is a huge part of the job.

“It would be great to win a cup or two if the season returns. At the start of the season I’d have taken one cup but now we’re in three semis I’m going to be greedy and say I’d settle for all three and nothing less!”

Whilst speaking about Trearddur Bay (formerly Bryngwran) Bulls, a team I’ve followed and watched grow for a number of seasons here on Anglesey by now, I wanted to know what Lewis made of them and how he thought Anglesey football compared to that of the VVC League.

The club finally won the Anglesey League last season after years of going close and have absolutely smashed it since being promoted to the Gwynedd League this season with only the unstoppable Bangor 1876 sitting above Richard Owen’s side in the table.

Speaking about The Bulls, Lewis said: “I was very impressed with them and I fully expect to see them playing at a higher level in the near future. They’re the best side we’ve seen at our place this season and I was delighted to beat them.

“I’m not sure there’s too much difference between Anglesey sides and VCC sides really. The only obvious difference is the referee allowing the volunteer linesmen to call the offsides!”

Lewis (right) celebrating a goal against The Bulls with Llansannan players. PICTURE: Wynne Evans.

Going back to speaking about Llannsanan, Lewis, who is also a keen Wrexham fan and a follower of the Welsh national football team, believes that – despite the fact his club are currently sat in fifth place – they are one of the best three teams in the division, along with Rhuddlan Town and Llanfairfechan Town.

I asked him if, as a promoter of all things Welsh and a follower of the national team, he thought that the Welsh language was being used often enough within the local leagues.

He replied: “As a club from a majority Welsh speaking area, the vast majority of our squad and committee are first language Welsh speakers so the language has a very high profile within our club.

“A lot of the players use Welsh on the field but instructions from myself tend to be in English so that the two or three non-Welsh speakers aren’t marginalised. We’re a very inclusive club so Welsh and English speakers feel equally at home here.

Lewis (far left) with CPD Llansannan squad.

Lewis was also keen to heap praise onto one or two players at the club who he has learnt a lot from over the years. He added: “Leon Gierke’s (former Burnley trainee) experience of football at all levels, including the professional game is second to none. Also, Joe Maguire and Geraint Jones’ experience and advice has been helpful.”

Like many other clubs throughout Wales, Llansannan will be expected to meet the new criteria set by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) for the 2020/21 season.

And although his side are on course to fit the bill, Lewis believes that, given the current circumstances surrounding the coronavirus situation, clubs should be given more time to sort their fields and facilities out.

He said: “We are in a good place to meet the criteria but I do think with the ongoing Coronavirus situation perhaps the FAW should give clubs a longer timeframe to complete the work.

“I think it will be tough for some sides and I do sympathise with teams who will struggle but I’ve got to say I think it’s a good thing overall. We all want better facilities to play and watch football so I think on the whole it’s a positive thing.

To round off an interesting interview with the Llansannan gaffer, I asked him to name an ultimate XI of footballers he’s watched play locally (but none from his own team!). He chose the following players who are from the Llansannan, Denbigh and Ruthin area:

And no, he didn’t include himself either! PICTURE: CPD Llansannan.

GK- Stuart Griffiths. TL says: “An excellent keeper who has played for Denbigh Town and Llandyrnog Utd in the past. Now at Llannefydd.”

RB- Stuart Vernon. TL says: “A good attacking full back who has played at tier one, two and three level most of his playing career. Now at Denbigh Town.

LB- Billy Holmes. TL says: “Another Denbigh Town player. Very effective going forward and defensively.”

CB- Kevin Evans. TL says: “A veteran centre half who still chips in with the odd goal. Still playing Cymru North football with Ruthin Town.”

CB- Danny Jellicoe. TL says: “I have played summer league football against him many times. Brilliant defender who can head the ball further than I can kick it!”

CM- Owain Roberts. TL says: “Classy centre midfielder, still doing the job for Denbigh Town.

CM- Mike James. TL says: “He’s in his late 50’s now but I’m convinced he could still do a job in the Cymru North!”

CM- Kristian Pierce. TL says: “More of a winger really but too good to leave out. Has played for Bala, Rhyl and Port but now back at Denbigh Town.

FW- Mark Roberts. TL says: “Still as quick as ever and scoring plenty in tier three. He’s scored hundreds of goals at every level of the top 3 tiers of Welsh football.”

FW- Tommy Mutton. TL says: “Ex-Swansea City, Bangor City, Rhyl and Denbigh Town. Lethal finisher and great footballer to watch.”

FW- Gwion Owen. TL says: “Brilliant footballer and unstoppable on his day. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the Welsh Prem at some point.”

Cheers for the chat Tom and all the best to both you and Llansannan in future!

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