TheRovingSheep sat down with Risca United Chairman Ryland Price who was happy to speak to YClwbPelDroed on numerous key factors, we would like to think Ryland for his co-operation and are grateful for such insightful information.
Q- Thank you Ryland for taking time to chat to Clwb Pel Droed today.
A-No problem, happy to get involved to help promote and build up the profile of not only our ‘national sport’ as much as possible but also that of Clwb Pel Droed. Keep up the good work!
Q- For those who may be unaware last season of course the club moved from its spiritual home at Ty-Isaf Park in Risca and the club now play their home matches at the superb CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynach. The facilities there look superb, how do you feel Ryland the move has gone for the club, how initially did the move come about, and have you gained any new supporters from the new locality?
A-The move was a very difficult decision for the club to take, we took criticism for taking football out of the village and some said we would lose our identity. Of course any criticism isn’t easy to take and, if it came from hardened Risca United supporters who turned up week in week out, they could be justified in their criticism and we would have to accept it.
As happens a lot of the noise was from people on the outside who didn’t come and watch and support us regularly and don’t understand the circumstances. However, we are an ambitious club that has made a lot of progress in a short space of time, two consecutive promotions put us back in Division 1 after many years out of it.
That along with the new FAW Tier 2 licensing criteria meant that we had no choice but to move from Ty Isaf Park if we wanted to continue the progression. It was a case of having to move rather than wanting to move. We still of course have a presence at Ty Isaf Park with our Reserves, U18s & U19s WL teams playing there.
Without question the move has been a success both on and off the pitch. As for losing our identity, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have embraced the local community and businesses who are supporting us whilst maintaining the vast majority of those supporting us from Risca itself.
With our academy that attracts the best young players from across the county borough, we have them and their families added to our supporter base. The academy teams and our U19 Welsh Premier Development team also play at the CSE.
The profile of the club has never been higher and we want to continue the progression. Added to that who wouldn’t want to play or watch a game at such a great facility? So yes, we have gained new supporters from the move.
Q- Last season the Cuckoos returned to the Welsh League Division 1 for the first time in several decades, how do you feel the lads adapted to being back at this level and were you surprised by some of the quality of the opposition that you encountered?
A- I don’t think there were any surprises in the quality of the opposition to be fair, we knew that we would have to step it up. The biggest difference we found in the early stages of the season was adapting to the fitness, speed and intensity, added of course to finding our feet on a new and very big 3G home pitch. Overall we adapted very well, we were very competitive in the vast majority of our matches in what turned out to be one of the most competitive seasons for many years.
Q-This season of course the league looks like it is going to be very competitive with Port Talbot Town included and with teams like Undy Athletic being promoted what are the aims and goals of the Cuckoos this season, will you be aiming to build upon on a solid campaign last season in which you managed to avoid relegation and sustain Welsh League Division 1 status.
A- Yes, a few more Gwent derby games added to the mix and two massive clubs of Welsh football coming back into the division. Our goal is quite simple, we will look to keep progressing. Last season was a great learning curve that we will build on, we are aiming to be a club competing for the title.
Q- Risca look to be a forward thinking club with the change of ground, you have a fantastic media operation in place with Mark Sparky Bennett covering games home and away, we know that your academy at the club is producing some great results and players please tell us a little more about the academy structure.
A-As I have mentioned a few times, we are ambitious and want to keep progressing. Certain resources are limited to us, so in order for us to achieve our goals and be both competitive and sustainable we have to invest in youth development.
This will be just our third year operating a FAW accredited academy that competes in the Welsh Premier League academy games programme. Prior to that the talented young players from the region did not have this opportunity to be coached and play at a higher level.
It is a great platform to nurture the talent we knew was out there across the area, bridging the gap between grass roots and the professional academies.
We have teams from U10s to U16s consisting of the best young talent from around Caerphilly borough surrounding area. In our first year a talented group of U12s became the Welsh Premier League Academy champions and they will be looking to defend that as U14s this season.
As part of our player pathway bridging the gap between academy junior football and the senior game we have in place a tiered youth structure. We have an U18s in Gwent County League, U19s in Welsh Youth League and we also have an U19s in the new Welsh Premier Development League.
The club has always relied on youth players coming through, this seasons squad is no exception. However, the academy puts this potential on a different level. It’s early days for our academy but we are confident that we will reap the rewards from the development programme.
Q The other week was a fantastic occasion for the club with a game against a Cardiff City development team to pay tribute to Jonathan Payne who has dedicated 20 years at the club. You must have been proud man Tuesday night and delighted for Jonathan?
A -Yes very proud, Payney has been a great servant to Risca United (and its former junior section Gelli Utd). It’s no secret that we didn’t want him to retire, he has so much more to offer but we of course respect his decision and wish him well. He has gone out on a high and was the easy choice as Player of Year for last season.
Thanks to Cardiff City and their talented youngsters, two of which were on loan with us last season. A donation to Payneys charitable choice, the Special Care Baby Unit at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport will be made from proceeds on the night.
Q This season of course you have lost a great player in “Tuna” aka Matthew Thomas who has signed for Carmarthen Town. Matthew has risen through the Gwent County leagues and was a real asset for the cuckoos. How do you feel he will progress in the Welsh Premier League ?
A – Matthew was awesome for us last season, he developed as a player during his time with us in the last few seasons and fully deserves his chance in the top division in Wales. Of course we didn’t want to lose him but he is the third player in recent years to progress via Risca United to the Welsh Premier League.
I am sure with the guidance of the Carmarthen Town coaches Matthew take his chance and be successful at that level, everyone at Risca United wishes him good luck. I will take this opportunity to mention goalkeeper Mark Mears (Malv) who has also decided to retire, again prematurely in our opinion.
Since returning to the club two seasons ago Malv has been a major factor in our progression, he will of course also be missed for his big personality both on and off the field.
Q There is a lot of money these days involved in the game and potentially this can cause some clubs to go into free fall with over expenditure. Nearby Merthyr Town in the English Southern Prem have a motto “Progress through stability” from a Cuckoo perspective how hard is it at this level to get the balance right between signing players and to try and progress.
A – At this level there is a great disparity in the resources available to different clubs but that isn’t new and isn’t likely to change. We don’t look at other clubs and how they chose to conduct their business, we have enough to do focussing on ourselves. We are an ambitious club but our ambition will not be at all costs, Merthyrs motto is spot on.
We have our goals but it is paramount that we are sustainable. As mentioned earlier we have put in the foundations with our academy and youth structure that will eventually feed into our senior teams
Q Thank you Ryland for taking time to chat today and we wish you every success for the forthcoming season.
A- Thank you for the good wishes best wishes Ryland and from all at Risca Utd.
A- Thank you for the good wishes best wishes Ryland and from all at Risca Utd.