‘My Dream XI’ – Cemaes Bay assistant Alan Gray picks his team

PICTURE by Cemaes Bay FC

THE second article in this series sees someone who’s enjoyed many a success as a coach on the island pick his ultimate eleven of local players.

Alan, from Amlwch, is a popular and well-loved figure amongst the football community who has been on the touchlines for nearly a whole decade by now as an Assistant Manager at Amlwch Town, Bro Goronwy and Cemaes Bay (where he is currently and has also been previously).

During those years, he’s worked under the likes of Colin Hawkins, Lee Potter and Darren Thomas and has been a part of many a success – from winning the NWCFA Junior Cup with Bro in 2018/19 to winning the last-ever Anglesey League with Cemaes Bay just last season.

He has, of course, also worked alongside many a great player during that time. Here, he picks his greatest team.

Al says he’s picked this 11 on the basis of a number of things – from commitment to honesty and the success he achieved alongside these players.

(Club in brackets is player’s current team)

GOALKEEPER – Dan ‘Patch’ Jones (Cemaes Bay)

Alan says: “Excellent shotstopper and a great goalkeeper. A genuine good lad that’s been very loyal to me. Was at Bangor City in his youth and played for the first team. Always brings the music to the changing rooms.”

RIGHT BACK – Rhys Lloyd (Cemaes Bay)

Alan says: “Brilliant player and a cracking lad. A no nonsense player that, excuse the pun donkey, loves a good hoof. Strong tackler of the ball. We had Rhys in my first season at Cemaes, which was also his first season in men’s football.

“That season, he started most of our games (except for the cup final which led to a huge tantrum. You have to hear that story!) versatile at centre half and right back and a solid 100% all the time even in training.

LEFT BACK – Aaron Heald (Bangor 1876)

Alan says: “Aaron came to us while I was at Bro Goronwy and had only turned 16 a few days before. We played him at left back in his first game and I was gobsmacked.

“What a talent. It’s no wonder he’s at 1876 now. For such a small lad he can’t half put a tackle in. Great passer of the ball too. I enjoyed a good crack with Aaron too. He will go on to big things in the game and I can only wish him nothing but the best of luck.”

CENTRE BACK – Dylan Jones (Cemaes Bay)

Alan says: “Well what can I say about Dyl. He’s a top quality defender. We used to play against Dyl when he was at Bro in my first time at Cemaes and he used to get on my nerves. He was a pain in the backside. Always shouting, talking. And you knew soon as you heard “DYYYYLLLSSS” don’t even bother going for the header as there’s only one winner.

“A top top player and an even better lad. Has been a pleasure to have shared a dressing room with Dyl these last few years. A proper leader. You can tell he’s played at a very high level.”

CENTRE BACK – Kieran Thomas (Retired, now a referee)

Alan says: “What a great player when he played. Such a shame to have packed in at an early age due to injury but great to see him now refereeing. If he’s as good of a ref as what he was as a player he will go to the top.

“No doubt about it. A solid brick wall. I have never seen anyone execute a last ditch tackle to perfection like him. His best game I have seen him play was the Dargie cup final. He was the difference that day in my opinion.

“Like Dyl, the young lads learn a lot off a true leader. And if this centre half partnership that I have picked would have played together your looking at a tier 2-3 standard defensive partnership.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER – Keenan Downey (Cemaes Bay)

Alan says: “Had to give him a mention as he’d only whinge! Nah, all jokes aside – a class act. Simple as that. The engine in centre midfield and a play maker.

“He plays with the same energy in minute 90 like he does in minute 1. We made him captain last season and was a nice feeling from a personal point of view to have watched him blossom and lift a trophy as a captain.

“It was down to me he got his senior debut. He played in a friendly against Llanerchymedd and was sent off within minutes for using some colourful language. Then he waited for his debut patiently and then one night we put him on right wing and that’s where he stayed for the season. A top player and a top lad (when he’s not whinging).”

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER – Ryan Folksman (Cemaes Bay)

Alan says: “One of the most naturally gifted players about. Makes everything look so effortless. He could put a ball through an eye of a needle that lad. He could find space in a bed with Gemma Collins.

“He’s like a bag of tricks. You don’t know what he’s going to do when he gets the ball. Is he going to pull out a nutmeg, a turn, a 30 yard pass, a shot. Who knows apart from him? Quality player. And when he’s on it, he’s on it!

RIGHT MIDFIELDER – Callum Thomas (Bodedern Athletic)

Alan says: “Good old sheephead. Brilliant player. Faster than what Dyl Jones is to the bar at last orders! It was no suprise that he ended up shining for Boded at Welsh Alliance 1 level and in my opinion could go higher.

“Always pops up with a goal. Excellent crosser off the ball. I remember my first game for Bro I didn’t really know much about Cal, and in the first friendly we went 3-0 down and Callum does a rabona and honestly now I went ballistic thinking is this lad taking the mick here? We’re 3-0 Down and he’s doing rabonas, do that carry on when we are 3-0 up! And Potter whispers in my ear “he can’t kick with his left al, so he has to do a rabona as that’s the only way he could of got that cross in!” but as good of a player as what he is at rabonas.”

LEFT MIDFIELDER – Tom Wood (Bodedern Athletic)

Alan says: “Now I know Tom wood plays striker, but we used to play him on the wing and he was outstanding there for us. When I got him to Bro he was striker and honestly now the lad was a joy to watch and work with. On his day unplayable.

“Menai Bridge Tigers in the Junior Cup semi final; a 5-0 win. Tom wood 4 goals! Tom has always given me nothing but honesty and 100% and I have nothing but respect for the guy. He’s a brilliant player.

“I remember when he was at Cemaes. He was banging them in left, right and centre and I know that Tom was big into his surfing. So I said to him “you score us 40 goals this year and I’ll buy you a surfboard” anyways come November he’s scored like 29 goals. So I checked the prices of surfboards ready for it cause I thought at this rate he’s going to end up with a surfboard by Christmas never mind end of the season. Anyways, the price on them, jeez!

“So we turn up now for a game at llangoed. I thought I have to slow him down otherwise he’s going to cost me a bomb as I didn’t realise they were so dear. Before the match, me and darren were talking about them team and I said “Daz, I think Tom wood should be benched today. I think he’s knackered” Darren just laughed at me (rightly so) Tom started and scored a hatrick. Class act!

STRIKER – Andy Williams (Cemaes Bay)

Alan says: “Andy, wow. What can I say? A consistent class act. Like a fine wine, getting better with age.

“Andy is a joy to be around he’s so knowledgable about the game and has been scoring goals for years. I’ve seen him do it for Amlwch, for bro, and Cemaes. He’s quality and oozes class. He genuinely loves football and is a credit to the local game.

“It’ll be a sad day for the local game when Andy packs in. Fit as a fiddle and the record with goals speaks for itself!”

STRIKER – Steven ‘Tyco’ Whittaker (Cemaes Bay)

Alan says: “Easily the best I’ve shared a dressing room with. Been a pleasure to have worked with him. He can score from anywhere and his goal a few years ago away in Trearddur Bay was the best I have seen locally.

“He’s won all sorts of trophies, awards, accolades and rightly so, he’s done it at a high level too for Boded. He can single-handedly win games by himself. Good laugh to be about as well. And like Andy he genuinely loves football and is so knowledgeable. Rightly so, he stands as a club legend. And it was actually him who approached me 2 years ago and said “let’s get the band back together” which was a no brainer.

“I tell you know if he decides to go into management or coaching he will make a top top coach/ manager.

SUBS:

Dan Jones (Amlwch Town)

Alan says: “I had to give him a mention. Very unlucky not to be in the starting 11.

“Excellent at set pieces and has an engine on him. Less said about the headers the better!

“It was no suprise that Amlwch made him captain as you will not get better commitment than what Dan will give you.”

Taylor Jones (Pentraeth)

Alan says: “What a good player Taylor is. He was at Bro when I was there and has since moved on to Pentraeth.

“When we used to play against Taylor he would always pop up with a goal against us and it was very annoying, I actually tried to sign him so he would stop scoring against us but he was so committed to Bro who I think he gave like 8 years service too.

“Him and his brother Connor in midfield worked a dream for us. A big game player and a top lad too. His dad Andy is very supportive too – Taylor could be playing on the moon and Andy would find a way of getting there to watch him!

“The best game I’ve seen Taylor play was in a cup final vs Nefyn – we won 3-1 and he came out that second half like a man possessed and it was down to him we won the cup!”

Jamie Jones (Bodedern Athletic)

Alan says: “When I was manager of Amlwch Reserves it was Jamie’s first season in men’s and I knew he was a brilliant player having seen him in juniors.

“He had a bit of a stop/start career but there was no doubting this lads talent. In my second season at Bro I asked Jamie to sign and he did. And it was a case of just letting him play his game and do his own thing. And that’s what he did.

“He scored loads of goals for us that year as we won the Junior cup and I’m sure he got players player in presentation. And it was 100% deserved. He then stepped up 2 leagues and went to play for Boded and under a quality manager like Ricky Williams he will only get better.”

Lewis Connor (Llanerchymedd)

Alan says: “What a character Lewis is. One of the funniest lads I have ever met. I miss winding him up on a Saturday morning messaging him “you’re on the bench today” then getting about 10 missed calls and messages off him before telling him I was only joking. Every week he’d fall for that!

“Lewis brought us a lot of success and was a big part of it. He just got his head down and concentrated on his football. Great passer of the ball And while I said earlier on about Tyco scoring the best goal I’ve seen, well it was Lewis who assisted that and it was the best assist I have seen.

“He moved on to Llanerchymedd and I wasn’t at all shocked to hear of him getting man of the match every other week at Welsh Alliance level.

“I remember once we were playing Bangor Uni and were winning 6-1 at half time and Colin Hawkins blamed Lewis for their goal and went ballistic. Lewis stormed off saying it wasn’t his fault and went into the toilet but he slammed the door too hard and the handle fell off and we were rushing trying to get him out by the start of the second half!! Brilliant.”

John Aaron Jones (Cemaes Bay)

Alan says: “I need a keeper on the bench so have to put chimpy in. It was a tough choice between him and patch who to put in. But cannot leave chimp out.

“A great shot stopper and his kicking is phenomenal. I’ve seen him score from a goal kick! When chimp has the bug for footy he’s a gem to have in any team.

“He’s good outfield too. I’m sure years ago he scored like 25+ goals when he had a season up top.”

Another top side and plenty of great stories there too. Cheers Al!

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