WPL 2017/18 PREVIEW: Barry Town United
HAVING ENJOYED A FAIRYTALE RESURGENCE, CAN BARRY CAUSE A SHOCK THIS SEASON?
Finally back where they belong, the 7-time winners of the Welsh Premier League will be hoping to continue a fairytale rise, following years of bad luck.
Many football fans will know of the FC Porto team that, managed by Jose Mourinho, managed to defy incredible odds to win the UEFA Cup, before winning the Champions League a year later against AS Monaco. What many of those football fans might not know though, is how a small team from Wales managed to beat the Portuguese team 3–1 just a few years prior. In what ranks as one of the greatest ever results by a Welsh team in Europe, that’s exactly what happened as Barry Town won the second leg of their Champions League qualifier in 2001. Yes, Barry crashed out of the competition 9–3 on aggregate, but many in Wales will never forget how Barry Town stunned the Portuguese giants, whose team included big names like Ricardo Carvalho and Helder Postiga on the night!
However, now, those happy memories are tainted in sadness. Just two years later, the club entered administration, which was the start of a tumultuous period, which culminated in 2013 with the team being withdrawn from competitive football by their director against their will. In order to continue playing, the club was taken over by their faithful supporters and renamed Barry Town United but was forced to restart in the Welsh Football League Division 3, which is the 4th tier of the Welsh domestic football pyramid. However, since being forced to start in the Welsh Football League Division 3, the team has enjoyed a resurgence, climbing the leagues, and earning promotion to the Welsh Premier League following a title winning 2016/17 campaign.
A key element in the side’s resurgence has been manager Gavin Chesterfield, who joined the club in 2007 and has remained ever since, albeit for a brief, ill-fated 10 game spell in charge of Haverfordwest County FC in the 2010/11 Welsh Premier League season. He has been at the club during their downward spiral, and has continued to serve the club, even when it was forced to restart in the Welsh Football League Division 3, and it’s an incredible achievement for him to be at the helm of the club look forward to their return to the top flight this season.
Ahead of their return to top tier football, the team has kept the core of the squad that won promotion intact, the Vale of Glamorgan side signing 6 players, with only 2 players departing. Barry based midfielder Ryan Newman joins from Bovingdon, skillful young winger Sam Jones joins from Cambrian and Clydach Vale, experienced midfielder Clayton Green, whose father Phil Green was a striker for Barry in the 80’s, has joined from Evostick Premier Division side Frome Town, forward Kayne Mclaggon, who came through Southampton’s youth academy, has signed from Merthyr Tydfil and Elliot Scotcher joins from Welsh Premier League rivals Aberystwyth Town.
Experienced duo Lee Baldock and Michael Hartley, who were two of Barry’s longest serving players, have left Jenner’s Park to join Port Talbot Town, having collectively made over 300 appearances for Barry Town United. Hartley has been at Barry since signing in 2010 after spells at Cardiff City and Haverfordwest, while Baldock has been at the club since 2011, having progressed from the Barry Town youth academy.
In terms of expectations this season, many fans will be hoping for a Cardiff Met or Llandudno style the first season, where the club could end up challenging for a European place, but I’m sure the majority of supporters will just be happy to see Barry Town back where they belong in the Welsh Premier League. After years of fighting to save their club, the fans and everyone associated with Barry Town United will be overjoyed seeing their club back in the top flight, and survival will be the main aim for this season.
Sam Jones-Cambrian and Clydach Vale
Clayton Green-Frome Town
Kayne Mclaggon-Merthyr Tydfil
Elliot Scotcher-Aberystwyth Town
Lee Baldock-Port Talbot Town
Michael Hartley-Port Talbot Town
‘Barry Town United celebrate clinching promotion last season’
Photo Credit: SameOldSmith
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