Q&A: Kenneth Hopkins of Rhymney AFC

Q: This season Ken will see Rhymney AFC competing in Division 3 of the Gwent County Leagues. You have made a solid start to the campaign and are currently placed in 7th place on eight points. How did your pre-season go and what are your realistic hopes and aim in the league this season?
A: The answer to your question is simple anything other than promotion would be regarded as failure after just missing out last season despite losing three games.

Q: Many readers will be interested to know Ken how your involvement with the club came about and in conjunction to being the clubs coach I’d imagine you’re kept busy behind the scenes helping with all aspects of the club?

A: After spending my playing days at Tredegar Town & Llanelli Hill in 1983 I came back and finished my playing days at my hometown club. I’m fortunate to have a Club Secretary in Brian Jones & Chairman Dave Williams behind me, and we have several ex players involved at the club. One in particular Malcolm Newell. who is the clubs major sponsor and he also manages our B side.

Q: For those who have not visited Rhymney AFC, I’m sure you will agree when I say that located at the top of the valley its a tough place to go in winter. How hard is at this level of the Welsh pyramid system to attract players to the club? Is it mainly lads from the locality or are you able to attract players from other clubs to come onboard?

A: We have had two senior sides for 22 years and it’s always a pride that the transition from youth through to the first team always makes it all worthwhile.
While we pride ourselves on Rhymney lads there are always players from near villages coming to our club.

Q: I gather yourself and a lot of the lads this season like many of us embarked on a trip to France for Euro 2016. You may not have found any Rhymney Ale over there but how did you enjoy the experience.

A: The whole experience was fantastic and at any given time we had half the club out there and as we are a fantastic outfit off the field, which most clubs envy, the whole event of Euro 2016 will never be forgotten.

Q: We have seen some clubs in recent seasons including Abergavenny come out of the Gwent County First Division and take their place in the Welsh Leagues. Cwmbran Town for example are another former big club currently playing in league above you in the Gwent county 1st Division. Realistically, is there a big gulf do you feel in the 2nd division Gwent County league to the 1st Division and would Rhymney AFC ground criteria pass for Welsh League football if you were to reach that level in coming seasons?

A :We call The Eisteddfod Field, Wembley! That’s what our playing surface is like and teams always comment on the ground’s setting. We raised a huge amount to put the barriers around the field and would not look out of place in GC1. As for the gulf, we would sit comfortably in Division 2 and with local lads already at Welsh league sides ready to ‘come home. 

Q: The club has been successfull in winning trophies since its inception in the 60’s including winning the Institute Bowl, Tom Perkins Cup and William Firth Cup trophies in the Gwent Leagues, and also Rhymney Valley Football League trophies. How important is it for yourself that the club continues and serves the community and players play for the badge and the club?

A: The club is always the most important and players know how privileged they are to be at the club by its sheer following which has seen us take around 50 away to Rogerstone, Brynmawr & Machen already this season (Ultra’s).

Q: Social media now plays a huge role in promoting clubs to groundhoppers and keeping fans up to date with results. Looking at the club’s twitter account its superb to see banter with followers on the Rhymney AFC Twitter page. How important do you feel in the modern era that the role of mediums such as twitter can play in attracting supporters to watch a game?

A: As an elder of the club I’m amazed at the impact social media has at a club and I am all in favour as it only raises the club’s profile, through our media team run by Tyrone Knight, as long as it’s positive and controlled, it’s a great asset. We use social media for annual charity matches, which we usually do to at least to earn money for local charities.

Q: On a personal note, any fixtures that you look out especially in the league this season, and without giving too much away to the opposition any players we should look out for this season who look to be making good progress at the club?

A: I’m really looking forward to Machen at home, after just drawing 3-3 at theirs despite being 2-0 up then losing a player, going 3-2 down then equalising with 10 men for 40 minutes, sets the return game up to be a cracker.

As for a player Kai Richards is an eighteen year old, who I’m sure, if he keeps improving will end up at a Welsh Premier League club.




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