PICTURE by CPD Caernarfon Town FC
BY NOW, Paulo Mendes is a familiar name to anyone following top-flight football in Wales.
Week after week, he has been proving himself to be one of the stars of the 2020/21 campaign with a string of impressive performances for the Cofis.
Following two successful seasons in the JD Cymru Premier at Aberystwyth Town, the midfielder made the switch to The Oval with Caernarfon Town last September and has continued the form that made him a firm favourite amongst supporters of his previous club.
The 27-year-old had spells at Darlington, Redditch, Airbus UK Broughton and Colwyn Bay before signing for Aber in 2018. With the Seasiders, he steadily began to make a name for himself in Wales’ top-flight and, when he departed Park Avenue last year, he had played 55 times for the club, scoring nine times.
Talking to AFE about how that move to Aber came about for him, Paulo said: “My agent at the time spoke to Nev (Powell – Aber manager at the time) because he knew him and asked if he wanted to have me on board, and then he took me to Aberystwyth and introduced me.
“When I was at Airbus I used to play as a winger but when I joined Aber i was a Centre Midfielder and I had to adapt because I had only played a few times in that position. But, the more you play, the more you get used to it and I think that was what happened to me.
“Nev trusted me and for that I’m very grateful. I had to watch a lot of videos of centre midfielders but in Portugal when you play in a professional academy you play in more than one position so it wasn’t very difficult for me to adapt to the role in the end.”
Mendes adds that the highlight of his time with Aber was scoring twice in a 5-1 win over former club Airbus.
Now at Caernarfon, he seems to have really found himself a home and is thriving in the heart of the midfield for Huw Griffiths’ side who just secured a top six place ahead of the league’s ‘split’- despite a 4-1 loss at The New Saints on Friday night.
Talking about settling in at Caernarfon and the 2020/21 campaign to date with the club, Paulo said: “I think the boys, really since I have signed here, all of them have been great with me. Huw (Griffiths – pictured below) as a manager has been very good to me too. You can see that he knows the league very well and every game, every training, I’m learning. He improves you as a player because he gives you the feedback straight away and tips.
“My personal targets are always to score more goals than the season before and play more games as well. Achieving the Top Six place was the goal from the beginning of the season and that never changed!”
This season, Mendes has proven to be one of the star men for the Cofis, scoring six goals from the midfield so far – his latest one a consolation on Friday. He’s a real engine in the heart of their side who never stops working hard.
He says his favourite Caernarfon goal to date was the ‘nice volley’ he scored against Newtown in a 3-2 win back at the start of the 20/21 campaign and adds that the highlight of the season has been ‘going on a run of games unbeaten’.
He has settled in so well at the Oval in fact, that he’s even picked up a few Welsh words!
Mendes said: “I know a few words in Welsh. I know ‘Da iawn Paulo’ and I also know ‘Diolch’!”
Born and raised in Portugal, (Arnaldo) Paulo (Fernandes) Mendes says his love for football developed when he was a young boy – when he would ‘sit in the corner and watch his brothers play’ the game and ‘smash up their mum’s furniture’ together by playing football indoors when he was a little older and joined in!
He says he looked up to the likes of Brazilian trio Ronaldinho, Robinho and Ronaldo when growing up.
But, what does he think are the main differences between football back home in his native and over in Wales (and the rest of the UK)?
Mendes said: “The way we play in Portugal is more relaxed, more calm, the players have a lot of quality so its very very difficult. The English system that I played in when I came was non-league and for me to adapt was a little bit hard because I was used to training everyday and in non-league it was just once or twice a week playing Tuesday and Saturday. The language barrier was a problem as well, it was tough because you have to perform week in week out, no time to learn, just go on the field and do your job. I look back now and I can say that I could have worked harder, but that’s life, we move and we learn.
“I think the Welsh system was a little bit more easy because I could understand better what the managers wanted from me. I know people say football is universal but when you understand the language it makes your life way easier. Overall, I think what the English and Welsh system have is the never give up attitude and the working hard factor which is one of the best qualities to acquire while playing the game.”
Mendes is a player who is a real joy to watch for Caernarfon Town and is, for me, one of the best midfielders in the JD Cymru Premier this season.
I look forward to watching him thrive once more in phase two of the 20/21 campaign as the spirited Cofis, who hadn’t lost a match in nine outings before Friday, look to secure a place in Europe.
It won’t be easy with the determined Penybont and the unpredictable Barry Town United and Bala Town in there with the ‘big two’ TNS and Connah’s Quay Nomads. But, one thing is for sure, Caernarfon look a great side under Griffiths’ guidance and one that never backs down against so-called ‘bigger’ opponents – as they proved when they beat Gwynedd rivals Bala Town 2-1 some weeks ago.