A captain’s guide to the new Genero Adran Premier Season
By Gwilym Hughes
It could well be said that 2022 is the year that women’s football has really kicked on. Cymru will break their record attendance record in the World Cup Qualifier against Slovenia at the Cardiff City Stadium this Tuesday, where over 10,000 will be in attendance; a win tomorrow against Greece will put them into the playoffs and on the verge of a first ever qualification. The success of the Euros in England has brightened the spotlight and captured the public imagination and there’s now an interest in women’s football like never before.
We spoke to the inspiring leaders of Wales’ Genero Adran Premier ahead of the league’s second ever season, hearing in their own words the progression of women’s football in Wales and what it’s like to be at the centre of it at such an exciting time.
There’ll be free entrance at every game in the opening round of fixtures this Sunday with games happening in Cardiff, Swansea, Abergavenny and Oswestry.
If you can’t make a game – or even if you can – tune into Swansea City Ladies versus Cardiff Met Women, a game that closes the opening weekend live on S4C from 17.30 on Sunday.
There’s never been a better time or a better reason to get behind the women’s game in Wales. Here’s our club-by-club guide to get you excited for the new season…
How it works
In the Genero Adran Premier, eight teams – Abergavenny, Aberystwyth Town, Barry Town United, Cardiff City, Cardiff Met, Pontypridd United, Swansea City, The New Saints – play home and away. After these 14 matches, the top four clubs then play against each other for the Adran Premier Championship and the same for the bottom four clubs for the Adran Premier Plate, both home and away. The Adran Premier champions will represent Wales in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. The team finishing 8th will be relegated to the Adran South / North.|
In the knockout cup competitions, every team in the Adran Premier, Adran North & Adran South compete for the Adran Trophy alongside three wildcard entries. The FAW Women’s cup is open to clubs all over Wales.
Abergavenny Women FC
Twitter & Instagram: @AbergavennyWFC Facebook: @AbergavennyWomenFC
Stadium: Pen-Y-Pound Stadium, Pen-Y-Pound Court, Abergavenny. NP7 7RN.
Last season: 1st (Adran South). Despite only dropping four points all season Abergavenny needed to wait until the final day to seal the Adran South title, finishing two points ahead of Briton Ferry Llansawel.
Captain Ceri Hudson: “It’s an honour to be captain of Abergavenny. They have been fantastic supporting me both on and off the pitch, so it’s nice to give back to the club. There’s a number of leaders in the squad and I feel lucky to have been chosen. The squad’s looking strong and we have a good balance of young players, experienced players, and very talented individuals. Everyone brings something different, whether that’s on the pitch, at club socials or from the sidelines.”
“Although it was disappointing to be in the position we were last season, I do believe it’s brought not just the squad together but the whole community. The support we received was fantastic and really showed us that people care about their local club regardless of gender. Last year was tough, the clubs demoted with us were strong and at times it was difficult, but the girls got the job done. Thanks also to the coaching staff and backroom staff, they were brilliant and deserve a lot of the credit for getting us back into the Adran Premier.
“It’s very exciting and it’s fantastic to see participation numbers growing in women’s football. Hearing Wales has smashed their previous attendance records, seeing packed out stadiums during the Euros can only help grow the game more. Hopefully this continues to inspire the next generation into playing, whether that’s in the community game, grassroots, or elite level football.”
Ones to watch: “We’ve made some great signings so far, Scarlett Teague and Katie Williams, both young players with a lot of potential. Lisa Bird and Ellis Lunn will support our strikers – both are excellent players with plenty of pace, and good role models. Our U16 and U19 players make regular appearances regardless of the league we play in.”
Craig Morgan-Hill, manager: “I am looking forward to getting the season underway. I’m under no illusions how tough it will be for us but I have belief in the girls that they will go and deliver for us.”
Aberystwyth Town Women’s FC
Twitter & Facebook: @AberTownWomen
Stadium: Park Avenue Stadium, Park Avenue, Aberystwyth, SY23 1PB.
Last season: 4th. The surprise package for many last season, ‘Little Old Aber’ finished above expectations by securing a spot in the Championship Conference and were the only team to take points off champions Swansea twice over the course of the season.
Captain Kelly Thomas: “I’m so proud to be captain after being here for 13 years. I feel a lot more pressure now. I put more pressure on myself to perform, to make sure the team keep going when things aren’t going so well, I feel the losses a bit worse, but the wins feel a bit sweeter as well! The squad are amazing, we’ve been together for so long now, we’re a really tight group and we all get along so well. Even when things are difficult it’s still positive!
“The first Adran Premier season was so exciting, because of the split EVERY game was important, you’re still pushing for that fourth place. It was nice going down to Swansea and get that draw, they had the trophy at the side of the pitch ready and it was nice to spoil the party. It was a great boost then going into the last few games of the season.
“It’s no secret there’s been so much work going on in the backrooms to make sure that women’s football is developing across the country. Things are completely different to 10/15 years ago, there’s such a clear pathway for young players in Wales. In Aber, we’ve got the FAW Development Centre, we’ve got the U10s-U16s, Development Team, U19s, Seniors. There’s so many opportunities. The amount of Adran players involved across the Cymru age groups and on the verge of the seniors. That’s the motivation for us because five-six years ago these players were in the English setup.”
One to watch: “Elen Valentine. It’s really exciting to have her with us, she’s come in from Birmingham City, and she’s since been called up for the Wales U19s. You can tell she’s a real professional and been in that environment, she’s very vocal on the pitch.”
Gavin Allen, manager: “There was a lot of positives last season but the question is can we improve again? We’ve retained the majority of the squad with one or two additions and we know we can compete for one of the top four places again if we work hard.”
Barry Town United
Twitter: @btuwomenfc Facebook & Instagram: @barrytownwomenfc
Stadium: Jenner Park, Gladstone Road, Barry. CF62 9BG.
Last season: 7th. Having only reformed as a team last summer, Barry Town United clinched survival on goal difference on the last day of the season after a 2-1 thriller against Pontypridd.
Captain Lauren Harris: “There’s an incredible buzz around Jenner Park, there’s excitement running through the team, and everyone is focused on our targets. Our whole squad is more experienced, last season our average age was 18! That was tough but we’ll be far more confident in competing this season.”
“I’m a fan of the new structure the league has now, it makes the league more competitive. Three clubs could have been relegated at the end of last season, hopefully that will continue to develop and the gap between the top three and the bottom five will continue to close. Aberystwyth were a great example last season as they competed so well with the top three after the split. As far as developing the league it’s gone really well.”
“We’ve seen the increase in support for us from within the club, pictures of us are now up in the clubhouse etc. We have so many youngsters coming down to watch and making noise that drives us on. It’s great seeing the same crowd who watch the men’s team come and watch. We’ve introduced season tickets this year which I think is a great step as it gives fans something to make them feel a part of the club. We also love bringing the junior and youth players in by giving them mascot or ball girl opportunities.
“Barry has the biggest setup in Wales for girls, we’re one big family and we’re growing all the time, I was coaching the local FAW Huddle session which has turned into a new U7 team for the club as the girls loved it so much!”
One to watch: “Delia Ebbin, our Bermudan international, has stayed, she’s been on international camp over pre-season and since she’s come back it’s become obvious she’s going to be a leader for us this season, especially for the younger players coming through the pathway, her experience will be a great influence.”
Luke Williams, general manager: “We expect another big test this season, with the league looking stronger than ever and it’ll be interesting to see how we develop. Our players will have gained valuable experience from their first season in the league and we can’t wait to get started.”
Cardiff City FC Women
Stadium: Cardiff City Stadium or Cardiff International Sports Stadium, Leckwith. CF11 8AZ.
Last season: 3rd. After a bright start to the season Cardiff City faded away to finish 11 points behind rivals Swansea. Silverware was secured after they won the FAW Women’s Cup in a capital derby against Cardiff Met.
Captain Siobhan Walsh: “I love this team and it’s an honour to lead them week in week out. We’ve got a great group and some real characters. They’re a nice mixture of girls, we all get on really well, we’ve got a great bunch I think and taken a lot of positives from last season. We didn’t really know what to expect with the restructure, but we know what to expect now so we’re hoping to build on what we did last year. I think playing competitive games week in week out is great, it’s helped us develop, definitely beneficial for us in terms of where we wanted to be and who we wanted to compete with.”
“Over the last couple of years the women’s game has grown and the Euros in the summer was a testament to that. We’re just hoping to continue that on our level and get our attendance up this season on the back of it. The more exposure we get the better. But also being shown on TV like on Sgorio last year. They showed games and highlights so hopefully there will be more of that this season.”
Ones to watch:
“I can’t give someone a big head this early in the season, but the youngsters are shining. Lily Billingham ended the season very well. Phoebie Poole scoring lots of goals for us so there’s plenty of individuals in there. Seren Watkins has a bright future if she keeps her head on straight and keeps doing what she’s doing and working hard.”
Iain Darbyshire, manager: “We’re looking to build on last season. It shouldn’t be celebrating one win here and one win there against the big teams, the aim is to do it every time. We want to push on now, challenge for league and trophies. With this group, we can definitely do that.
“The club have been very good to us; they understand the women’s game is growing and they’ve given us a lot of new additions. The girls should have everything because they work as hard as anyone else, it’s only a matter of time before things get even better.”
Cardiff Met Women’s FC
Twitter, Facebook &Instagram: @CardiffMetWFC
Stadium: Cyncoed Campus Stadium, Cardiff Metropolitan University , Cyncoed Road, Cardiff. CF23 6XD.
Last season: 2nd. Finishing four points behind Swansea, manager Yzzy Taylor walked away with the manager-of-the-season award after securing the Genero Adran Trophy in her debut season at the helm.
Captain Stephanie Turner: “Cardiff Met have always been a tight knit group, a group with a mixture of experience and ages, constantly learning from one another. Players and staff are all on board and determined to achieve what we know we can this season. What an exciting time to be a part of women’s football! “
“I think last season’s restructure has proved it was a huge success and it’s what the domestic game in Wales needed, with last season being the most competitive yet. Three trophies and three different winners, some clubs proving their doubters wrong. I believe each club this season have strengthened yet again, and this season will be even more competitive.”
“With success of the Lionesses and Cymru, we have more interest than ever and need to keep people interested and talking about women’s football. We need to engage with local clubs and supporters to get more people at games each week. We have already seen the success that live streaming and highlights can have and I think if we continue with this exposure, it can only grow the attraction to the game.”
“The set up at Cardiff Met is outstanding, we have an academy which is run by coaches and players, where we’ve seen more girls attending recently. We also have a wealth of experience and expertise across the coaching staff which is something the club is proud of. This has proven to be a success with players such as Chloe Bull, Nealy Martin, Jessie Taylor, Maddy Schupbach, who have gone into academies and receiving professional contracts in recent years.”
One to watch: “Amelia Forking has joined us in the summer from Cardiff City, she’s been outstanding, and you’d swear she’s been at the club for a number of years the way she has settled in with the group. She’s also recently been called up to the U19s squad!”
Yzzy Taylor, manager: “At Cardiff Met WFC we are really excited to get the Adran Premier season underway. We are raring to get back to competitive football. We achieved well last season and want to do even better this season.”
Pontypridd United FC
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @PontyUnitedW
Stadium: USW Sport Park, Treforest Industrial Estate, Pontypridd. CF37 5UP.
Last season: 5th. Inaugural Genero Adran Premier Plate winners, Ponty will be hoping for Championship Conference football after the split and go one better in the cups having fallen at the semi-final stage in the FAW Women’s Cup.
Captain Holly Broad: “I’m so proud to have been given the opportunity, not only to captain Pontypridd United Women but to be a role model for others across Wales. The squad are an incredible group of women, both on and off the football pitch. We’ve created a culture at Ponty where people are welcomed openly, and individuals feel comfortable to come into the environment. There are so many personalities, backgrounds, and experience levels within the group. We’ve built a fantastic rapport, and everyone is so supportive of each other.”
“It’s an amazing time to be involved in women’s football. I feel incredibly lucky to have played football from the age of 12, when others have not been granted the same privileges. There have been huge, positive changes to the women’s game. It’s incredible that it is now a genuine career option for some at the top level. Women’s football in Wales is in a strong position. The national teams, across all age groups are challenging at international level and producing some outstanding performances and results.”
“There’s plenty of opportunities for youngsters to get involved at Ponty. We have a robust pathway and structure in place in the club, which caters for boys and girls of all ages and abilities in fantastic facilities.”
Ones to watch:
“We’ve brought in an exciting, experienced player in the form of Jasmine Turner, who has signed following a stint at Bridgwater United. Emily Bayliss and Brooke Evans, another two of our summer signings who have made the switch over from Cardiff City Women alongside up and coming talents involved in the national programmes, Olivia Francis, and Paige Ward – we can’t wait to see them start their journey in senior football.”
James Fishlock, head coach: “We’re looking forward to the new season, we’ve worked really hard during pre-season on the pitch with the existing players and off the pitch to strengthen the squad and the coaching staff. It’s been really enjoyable and we’re confident we can perform well from the first game onwards. The group have responded really well to myself and Jon since we’ve come in and we’re really excited to get started.”
Swansea City Ladies FC
Twitter, Facebook & Instagram: @SwansLadies
Stadium: Llandarcy Academy of Sport, Llandarcy Park, Neath, SA10 6JD. or the Swansea.com Stadium. SA1 2FA.
Last season: 1st. Inaugural Genero Adran Premier champions Swansea have just returned from Champions League in Greece where they were knocked out in the first round for the third year in a row.
Captain Alicia Powe: “It’s an honour to be captain of any team, but to be captain of the Swans is a massive privilege and I’m honoured to be put in that situation; to be a captain for a great bunch of girls. It’s fantastic. We feel like the Champions League in Greece put us in a great position to start the league, so everyone’s excited to get back to training on Friday and to get the season started. It’s like being part of a big family. I’ve played football with most of the girls for a very long time. We’ve been friends since day one and have a really good atmosphere in camp. The new signings are great and they’re fun to be around.”
“The Euros has really put women’s football on the map. It was always climbing before but since then it’s had a lot more recognition and now our first game is being held in the Swansea.com Stadium. It’s really great to be a part of football at this point in time, and hopefully it’ll continue to grow.”
“There’s a lot more females now who either want to support football or are looking to start football. Regardless of your age, there are football teams around for all abilities, all levels, all ages so we’re stepping in the right direction and it’s all up from here.”
One to watch: “Emily Freeman. She just signed from Swansea University, she’s a great little footballer. And Monet Legall, she’s also one to watch. They have slotted in really well and they both got some playing time out in Greece. They’ll definitely be on the cards to watch.”
Ceri Phillips, manager: “We are very excited for the start of the Genero Adran Premier season to kick off, especially for the season opener at the Swansea.com Stadium against Cardiff Met. We have had an excellent summer in terms of recruitment, training, and the experience of yet another Champions League and we are confident that has set the team in good stead to defend our league champions crown again this season.”
The New Saints Women’s FC
Twitter & Instagram: @tnsfcwomen Facebook: @TheNewSaintsFCWomen
Stadium: Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry. SY11 4AS.
Last season: 6th. Despite relegation looming on the final weekend of the season, TNS secured a runners-up spot in the Plate Conference, and will be pushing for the first silverware in club history this season.
Captain, Bethan Lewis: “There is a real sense of pride in being captain of TNS in such a competitive league. Having the privilege of leading such a talented bunch of girls has been the highlight of my career so far. The determination, talent and teamwork of every player involved is a credit to the club, and the atmosphere created by the players week in week out is second to none.”
“It is a really exciting time to be playing women’s football at such a competitive level the growth in such a small space of time is amazing. It’s growing but to keep growing the game in Wales we need to keep getting spectators down to games and encouraging girls to get involved. The support TNS have received this year has been amazing and we need to keep building on this throughout the league.”
“We have many opportunities for young girls to get involved at TNS, with great facilities and brilliant coaching staff including a programme for U5-U11s as well as the U15 and U16 youth teams. We have our U19 development squad, so we have opportunities for all ages at TNS. Come down and get involved, we’d love to see you there.”
One to watch:
“We were very proud of our centre back Tia Lockley who has been called up for U16s Welsh camp, she is a very inspiring young individual with a lot of potential, and we’re lucky to have her as a part of our squad!”
Andy Williams, head coach: “At TNS, we were delighted with the progress we made during the inaugural season of the Genero Adran Premier. I was extremely proud to have been a part of a great adventure and congratulate everyone connected to the league for making it such a success. Naturally, we are not content with standing still and have been working hard in recent months preparing for the new season.”
Match information can also be found from www.adranleagues.cymru or via the Cymru Football app – available on Apple iOS and Android. The leagues can be followed on Twitter & Instagram on the @adranleagues channels.
Watch Genero Adran Premier matches live and highlights on Sgorio on S4C.
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