PICTURE by Bangor City FC shows Marc Lloyd Williams having a shot on goal.
OFTEN times over the years Wales’ top flight has been looked down on for not being “good enough” standard wise. BUT, there has been many times when clubs and players in the JD Cymru Premier (formerly League of Wales and Welsh Premier League) have put the division, and Wales as a whole, on the map of the footballing world.
From Barry Town going on a 51 match unbeaten run in the late 90’s to Bangor City’s Les Davies (now with Flint Town United) being shortlisted for UEFA Player of the Year alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in 2012 – Wales’ top flight has had its moments in the spotlight.
I came across an interesting video put together by Sgorio recently. Within it, Dylan Ebenezer spoke of the five occasions that the Cymru Premier’s top scorer also finished as the top scorer in Europe (although only one of them received a Golden Boot for their troubles!).
This was the inspiration and the helping hand behind this bit of research I’ve put together below …
So, the very first person playing in the Welsh top flight to also finish as Europe’s top scorer in the same season was Dave Taylor (above) back in 1994. Ian Rush was the very first Welsh forward to win the European Golden Boot (whilst playing for Liverpool in 1984) and Taylor was the second Welshman and the first League of Wales player to do so whilst playing for Porthmadog in 1994. That season, he managed 43 goals for the Gwynedd-based club who were a very free-scoring side in those days. All in all, he managed 62 goals in 66 games during his time at Port.
Recalling his memories of that season whilst speaking to Sgorio , Taylor said: “I really enjoyed my time at Porthmadog. We had a really good attacking team, we had two wingers who would be putting the ball into the box regularly. Going forward was great, with a lot of creativity and the people there were fantastic.”
Playing alongside Taylor at Port those days was the man who, by now, is the Cymru Premier all-time top goalscorer – Marc Lloyd Williams (below), who bagged 319 goals in 467 appearances for Port, Bangor City, TNS, Aberystwyth, Rhyl, Newtown and Airbus. But, despite twice finishing as the league and Europe’s top goalscorer (with a record-breaking 47 goals for Bangor City in 2002 and 34 for TNS in 2005), ‘Jiws’ never got his hands on the European Golden Boot.
That is because the rules were changed by UEFA in the 1996–97 season. Since then, European Sports Media has awarded the Golden Shoe based on a points system that allows players in tougher leagues to win – even if they score fewer goals than a player in a so-called ‘weaker’ league.
Speaking to Sgorio, Marc Lloyd Williams said: “Nobody ever said La Liga was a poor league when Ronaldo and Messi were scoring 20+ goals a season, but when someone in the League of Wales did it, it was a case of ‘well, it’s a poor league’. It was a shame to not get my hands on it (the Golden Boot), but, by the second time, I was used to it!”
Another lethal forward to miss out on the European Golden Boot was Tony Bird (below playing for Cardiff City), who managed 42 goals in 38 games for the formidable Barry Town side of 1996/97.
And the most recent of all to have had the pleasure of winning the prestigious prize stripped away from him was Rhys Griffiths, who hit 40 goals in 31 matches for Llanelli in 2008.
Speaking to Sgorio, Griffiths joked: “The year I could’ve won it (the Golden Boot), Ronaldo won it, I think it was the year he was at United, and for me to take it from him, although I’m in the Messi camp, it wouldn’t seem right. More than anything I was proud to win the Welsh Premier Golden Boot, which was more important to me, and I managed to win it for a third time that year, so I was thrilled.”
Griffiths (above), now manager at Cymru Premier side Penybont, who recently rolled back the years when he came off the bench to score two goals in a 4-0 win at Haverfordwest County, finished as the Welsh top flight’s top scorer in seven consecutive seasons between 2005 and 2012 – which is more league Golden Boots than anyone else so far. Whilst combining his time as a firefighter with his career on the pitch, the target has man picked up a total of 273 goals in 344 appearances, if you throw in the two he scored just last month.
Nowadays, it seems like a rise in competitiveness in the Cymru Premier has lead to 40+goals being scored by the eventual top scorer becoming a thing of the past. Last season, although cut short, Bala’s Chris Venables managed 22 goals and the season before that TNS’ Greg Draper finished top of the pile with 27. It’s a good thing for the league of course, as it seems to point to a rise in standard in a way.
Dave Taylor told Sgorio: “The league is improving year on year, you’re not going to get, in my opinion, somebody going rattling 40 goals a season. I personally don’t think anyone will beat ‘Jiws’ record.”