14 April 2023 |

Rhys James: Briton Ferry Llansawel "can’t wait to show everybody what we have got"

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When Rhys James replaced Isaac Berry as Briton Ferry Llansawel manager at the start of the season, he was left in no doubt about the team’s ambition for the months ahead. 

“I sat down with the squad when I first took over and we outlined what our goals were,” James explains. “We asked all the players and the staff what they wanted to achieve and we all collectively said promotion to the Adran Premier because that’s where we believe we belong. 

“The girls have taken on my ideas brilliantly and I believe I have given them freedom to express themselves in an attacking team.”

After finishing second in the Genero Adran South in 2021/22, recruitment was key for Ferry last summer as they aimed to go one better. 

Former Welsh international Laura-May Walkley was brought in after a second-place finish in the Genero Adran Premier with Cardiff Met and she has proved to be one of the team’s most important players. 

“Adding experience last summer was vital,” James says. “Bringing in the likes of Laura-May Walkley, Fleur Jenkins, Jess Denscombe and Brooke Llewellyn who have all played at higher levels. 

“They have improved us not just on the pitch but by bringing character to the group, helping to lift us after we just missed out on the title last year.”

Ferry won their first three league matches of this season, but then lost 2-0 on home turf to Cascade – who proved to be stern rivals for the title throughout the campaign. 

But perhaps a key turning point came in the new year, when a brace from Megan Kearle and one goal each for Lowri Baker and Jess Denscombe gave Ferry a convincing victory away at the Ystrad Mynach outfit. 

“It wasn’t nice to lose to Cascade just before Christmas, but we went away, had a break and then beat them 4-0 at their place in January,” James says.

“The performance was absolutely excellent. Everything I asked from the girls in and out of possession, the effort levels, the character – it was all there.”

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That defeat to Cascade in December proved to be the only game that Ferry lost in the league campaign, as they secured the Genero Adran South title with 45 points out of a maximum 48. 

Now there is just the small matter of the Genero Adran Leagues promotion play-off against Wrexham to decide who earns a spot in the top-flight. 

“I think there is an element of nerves in everyone because it is a big occasion, but whoever I speak to around the club they have a real confidence and determination ahead of the game,” James says. 

“I am exactly the same. I am really looking forward to it and we can’t wait to show everybody what we have got on a big stage. I know we will bring lots of support and I am sure Wrexham will too, so it will be a brilliant day for women’s football.”

While Ferry played every team in the Genero Adran South on four separate occasions in the league this season, Wrexham are more of an unknown quantity. But James has done his homework on the Genero Adran North champions. 

“I went to watch them against Connah’s Quay Nomads at the Racecourse, which was a brilliant occasion. 

“It allowed me to have a look at them and identify their strengths and weaknesses. You can see why they score a lot of goals because they have lots of dangerous players in the final third.”

But James is confident in his own’s side ability too and Sunday’s fixture will give them a chance to show it when it matters most. 

“This club means the world to all of the girls. All they want to do is get this club back in the Adran Premier and they have done everything they can this year so far. 

“They have won games, scored goals, kept them out at the other end, made sure they have stayed fit when games have been called off. If they play as well as I know they can on Sunday, they should get the right result.”

The Genero Adran Leagues promotion play-off between Wrexham and Briton Ferry Llansawel takes place at Latham Park in Newtown on Sunday 16 April, with kick-off at 4:30pm. 

Tickets for the afternoon can be purchased in advance from the two clubs and they will also be available to buy on the gate, costing £3 for adults and £1 for under 18s.