Newly appointed Haverfordwest chairman Rob Edwards has outlined his ambitious plans for the club and wants to transform them into European contenders in three years.
Edwards, who recently replaced David Hughes as chairman of the Pembrokeshire side, told Leyton Orient podcast ‘The LO Down’ that a sustained growth period can take the club back into Europe for the first time since 2004.
“It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that next season, if we’re a [Cymru] Premier League club we can consolidate,” Edwards said. “Season two, there is no reason why we can’t push on into the mid-table, and in the third year, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be a top-four club or win a cup competition and play in Europe. Within three years is the idea that we can qualify for European competition.
“I don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility as long as we run it well of the pitch and investment is used wisely,” he added.
Edwards’ appointment is expected to coincide with Haverfordwest’s return to the Cymru Premier following a four-year absence from the top-flight, after County finished runners-up in the Cymru South and also successfully obtained a Tier 1 domestic licence.
Whilst the club await that final confirmation from the FAW, Edwards does not believe the club is in need of wholesale change.
“In terms of the current squad and anything outside of the first-team, in terms of back office and academy, there is no need for wholesale changes – it’s not broken,” he said. “It’s more adding to what you’ve got, maybe someone who’s more experienced or up and coming.”
“The step up from Tier 2 to the [Cymru] Premier League is a pretty big one so there will be improvements needed,” he added. “Wayne Jones has already highlighted a good number of players he wants to look at.
“We are hamstrung in that we can’t officially tell people we are a [Cymru] Premier League team as we don’t know yet, so our business is limited to advanced negotiations rather than actually being able to get anyone completely tied up, but we’re talking to players as much as we can.”
Edwards, who is also a director of the Leyton Orient Trust, explained how his involvement with Haverfordwest County came to light: “I was looking at getting involved with a football club for few years, we enquired about Gateshead last year when that was all up in the air.
“Particularly in the English leagues, there’s so much investment required to take a club forward – look at Salford, they’re millions in debt and they’re a safe mid-table League 2 side,” he added.
“I wasn’t actively looking to get involved in a club in Wales. The brokers that I used to find one of the opportunities before sent me Haverfordwest as a club looking for investment and to get someone else involved. Upon enquiring and speaking to David Hughes, the previous chairman – we probably spoke for 50 or 60 hours over the five or six weeks – it was just a natural fit.
“Financially the club Is in a good position and the team are performing well on the pitch. There wasn’t one moment where I thought ‘yeah, this has caught me’, there was a gradual falling in love, if you like, over a five, six week period.
“What I’ve noticed in Welsh football is that you don’t need a huge amount of investment to make a difference to team’s fortunes. The teams that have had a bit of investment are performing well, TNS had won the league eight years running, until recently, and they’ve come in with an amount of investment that probably wouldn’t have got them very far in England.”
County supporters will be reassured by Rob Edwards’ intentions to realise his ambitions for the club through a measured strategy where long-term sustainability is at the heart of his long-term planning.
“This is not a Salford project. It’s not a Man City, a Newcastle or an Eastleigh,” he said. “There’s some investment going in but there needs to be return for everything, whether that’s financially or through people coming through the club in terms of spectators or sponsors.
“What we don’t want to be is in a position where we’re knocking on the door for European competition – if we qualified the previous year and we invested that money – we don’t want to be in the position where we are relying on that windfall of playing in Europe to keep the solvent.
“What we don’t want to do is invest heavily and don’t want to hedge our bets on the fact that we’re going to get into European competition because it’s not a given at all, there’s other clubs in there that will be doing the same thing.”
“We want to make sure we’re a [Cymru] Premier League team in two years’ time and it will be a sustained growth period,” he said. “It’s not a case of coming in and going straight for Champions League or European football, that’s just not realistic. What we want to try and do is create a team that is consistently sustainable and can reinvest money that we generate money off the pitch.
“The commercial side will be a big part of it. There’s obviously investment coming in but it’s not a constant state of investment – it’s not a hobby, it’s not an ego-trip just to own a football club. I want to build something that’s sustainable for a long time whether I’m there or not”.
DECISION DAY NEARS FOR PROMOTION/RELEGATION
Although official details remain unconfirmed, it is understood a final decision on promotion and relegation within the Cymru Leagues will be made on Wednesday 17 June.
It is believed to be likely that the Tier 2 promotion candidates will be granted a place into what could possibly be an expanded 14-team Cymru Premier next season. Changes to the start of the season and the Cymru Premier’s mid-season split format could also be announced.
The wait for the final decision is a cause of frustration amongst some clubs who have been forced to stall planning around budgeting and recruitment for next season.
As frustrating as this is for the those clubs, particularly those in limbo, the FAW have been forced into an an unenviable position against their will due to the current circumstances. The extent of the ramifications from any decision, along with the impact that future planning decisions might make on the game, mean that the FAW need to explore and consider a multitude of possibilities and difficult scenarios in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. Welsh domestic football by its very nature is in a delicate state and decisions made in coming weeks will be crucial to safeguarding the game’s future throughout the tiers.
The clubs and FAW have remained almost silent about the challenges they face moving forward and whilst it’s impossible to know exactly what will happen in the coming months, it is becoming increasingly obvious that providing testing, sterile environments and social distancing are going to be obstacles which need to overcome in order for domestic football to resume. That is without the challenges of day-to-day operating and commercial and business pressures that were detailed in this reassuring and transparent post by Bala Town chief executive Nigel Aykroyd.
My hope is that amidst this public silence, the clubs are in dialogue with each other behind the scenes and are united in acknowledging the challenges ahead of them and not assuming a naïve ‘business as usual’ approach.
CROWTHER COACHING ROLE KEY AS AIRBUS REBUILD
Airbus UK manager Steve O’Shaughnessy believes new signing Jamie Crowther will play a key-role at the club in a player/coach capacity.
Reflecting on a frustrating season, in which the club who finished bottom of the table and are waiting to find out if they will be relegated from the Cymru Premier, the Wingmakers manager hopes Crowther can make an impact in whichever league they are competing in next season.
“With Jamie also coming onboard, incorporating his coaching into the side, hopefully we can build and show what we are about as a side, no matter what league we are in,” he told the club’s official website.
Crowther, 28, made 16 appearances for Caernarfon Town where he also combined playing with coaching. Airbus have confirmed the departure of last season’s leading scorer Andy Owens, who has announced he will not be returning after two seasons with club.
“At the present time it is extremely difficult to sign the squad on from last season because we do not know what league we are playing in and a lot don’t want to commit, but we would like to sign the majority. It is not fair on a lot of clubs in a lot of divisions as they can’t plan ahead,” rued O’Shaughnessy.
O’Shaughnessy says he will utilise the club’s burgeoning academy once again next season after prospects George Peers, Owen Payne, Lewis Hall, Oli Lanceley and Ellis Hickey all featured in the Wingmakers’ first-team last season.
“The link will be even more valuable this season. As you know the pandemic has had a knock on effect for football and we will be most probably relying a lot on the academy. This season showed the quality of the youth set up, something that Lee Starkey, Rick Chapman and the rest of the academy set up should be proud of. I said on several occasions in the last campaign that if I think they deserve the chance, I won’t be afraid to use them.”