PICTURE by Bangor City FC
IT’S quite hard to believe that Shane Owen has only played three-quarters of a season in senior football.
Given the progress he’s made in such a short space of time, you would be forgiven if you thought the 18-year-old goalkeeper had played in the men’s game for years.
But the 2019/20 campaign, cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, was his very first at senior level and he was just 16 when it began.
It was his maturity at that young age that caught the eye for so many players and opponents alike. In his very first match for Ogwen Tigers in the Gwynedd League, he would face the formidable Bangor 1876.
That team, consisting of a few former Welsh Premier League players such as Michael Johnston and Les Davies and several top young talents, would unsurprisingly go on to become the Gwynedd League champions having won every game they played before the season ended abruptly.
And yet, Owen’s debut, despite a 4-1 loss, proved he can go on to very big things in the near future – he showed, according to several team mates I’ve spoken to about that day, no fear against an opposing side who were far more experienced.
Recalling that day, Owen (above) said: “The Bangor 1876 match first game of the season was a good one for me. It was my first game in seniors and I’m put against Les Davies with 450 opposing fans so it was a bit of a throw in the deep end but I was pleased with how I dealt with it.”
Owen’s rise to tier two level with Bangor City has been both rapid and astonishing.
As a youngster (even younger than he is now that is!), he played for Cae Glyn, where he won the North Wales Cup with the U14’s – in the same season that formidable side also went unbeaten to win their respective league and cup competitions and secure a fantastic treble.
Having also played for Llangoed Under 18’s and both Bangor City and Caernarfon Town’s academies, Owen’s move up to the seniors saw him sign for Ogwen Tigers for the 2019/20 season.
There, he cemented the number one spot in Mike Williams’ team and played alongside his brother Leon, who is also a very talented player (both pictured below).
Talking about that experience, he said: “It’s nice because in juniors we’ve played against each other many times and the big thing with that is it doesn’t matter how many I save because if he scores he’s won but it’s a bit nicer being on the same team.”
Owen, who regards the likes of Pepe Reina and Manuel Neuer as two of his goalkeeping idols, says there’s one idol in his life who stands above all – his dad Kevin, who never misses a game.
He added: “My idol had been my dad since before i could kick a ball. He’s obviously taken me to countless games in my life so without that I wouldn’t have been able to do as much.
“It’s nice to have him come support and watch as much as he can because he still gives me tips sometimes as he’s been a keeper in his time too.”
With Ogwen Tigers sadly having to fold as a club last summer, that meant Owen was free to go elsewhere. He joined fellow Gwynedd League side Llangoed, whose under 18’s team he played for previously.
But after just a few weeks at Tyddyn Paun, JD Cymru North club Bangor City came in to sign him. The Citizens are, of course, now managed by former Barnsley player Hugo Colace (below) – who played youth football for Argentina with the likes of Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi.
In a squad made up mostly of foreign players, Owen was one of a few ‘local’ signings made recently by Colace.
Describing his experiences at Nantporth to date, Owen said: “It’s been great – training this often and hard has really helped to improve my overall game and help me become part of a family.
“As for Hugo, he is the most professional man I’ve ever met. He always pushes you to do better and he’s the perfect guy to have in terms of getting you on track to be the best player you can be.
“In my career, I’ve made sure to listen and take in what I’ve been told by anyone with experience because everyone has a bit of experience that you don’t so I’ve tried to learn off everyone I’ve played with whether it be coaches or other keepers. If i had to say who taught me the most though it would have to be my keeper coach at Bangor, Christian Minardi, because he has transformed a lot of my game and worked a lot on technique and making me a more complete player.”
When asked about the best players he’s played alongside during his whole career to date, Owen added: “The best players I’ve played alongside is an unfair question due to the change in level but THE best without a doubt is Mello the Brazilian magician for Bangor – what a player, best left foot of anyone I’ve seen, great dribbler and great guy too.
“Outside of outside that I’d say Cian Williams who plays u18 for Swansea City and Wales. Cian dominated junior football and could play anywhere on the field and still be the standout. I played alongside him for many many years since Cae Glyn started.”
When football returns, Bangor City are likely to play in the JD Cymru North (tier two) – but are attempting to get back into the top-flight through the application process.
Looking forward to the future with the club, Owen said: “My hopes are that we get accepted into the JD Cymru Premier as I think it makes sense that the team with professional players, ood enough facilities and good enough players to compete go up to the top level. On a personal level, I hope then I can continue to improve and hopefully get a few games in for the first team.
“I’ve missed the excitement of competitive games – because I have been lucky enough to get a few friendlies this season whether it’s for u19 or first team I had enough pre season but I’m missing leagues and cups. When there is something on the line or something to work towards the game is always ten times better and you enjoy them more.”