Gareth ‘Gaz’ Edwards is a name that commands respect amongst the Oval faithful. Joining the Canaries in July 2014, he rose to become a key component of their league-winning side and in doing so won the hearts of the club and admiration across the Huws Gray Alliance. Here, he speaks to Clwb Pel Droed about the ups and downs of life at Caernarfon Town.
Having been denied a domestic license despite winning the league, Caernarfon have kept the core of their squad in a bid to become only the second club to win consecutive Huws Gray Alliance titles.
However, their start has not gone smoothly with a shock 4-4 draw to Denbigh Town and 4-1 loss to main title rivals Prestatyn Town. They sit second below a high flying Prestatyn Town side, but Edwards is far from concerned at this stage of the season.
“We’ve had a bit of a slow start this season however it was the same last season, we notoriously start slowly for some unknown reason.
We’ve kicked on a little bit of late and started to put a bit of a run together however we all know that individually and collectively we’ve got a lot more to give. Although we’ve not been playing particularly well, we’re second in the league and seem to be grinding out results whilst not at our best.
It was always going to be difficult this season after last season’s disappointment, but we’ve got character and there is a long way to go yet.”
A proven winner, Edwards has claimed league medals with Cefn Druids and Caernarfon respectively – but he still sets his standards high. Whilst defending the Cofi goal is his main concern, the defender isn’t shy of going at goal to help the side on their quest for a double-double, retaining the league cup and league championship.
“Having been part of the best defence in the HGA for the past three seasons, my target is to make it four in a row. This is going to be an uphill challenge now after how many we have conceded so far this year.
We are starting to get a settled defence including GK, which is giving us that consistency we needed. I also want a few more goals to my tally to help the team and to achieve the most important target of winning the league and cup again!”
Having travelled up, down and across North Wales for many a season as a Huws Gray Alliance player, Edwards knows his way around on away days. When asked where his favourite ground to visit it, he decides a tripartite answer is best.
“Porthmadog for playing facilities, Guilsfield for shower facilities and Penrhyncoch for the food.”
As a Cofi, Edwards has grown accustomed to some playing in the midst of some big atmospheres in tight, title-decisive games. Whilst remaining focused on the job at hand, he’s well aware of the magnitude some games carry.
“The derby games are the big ones for the players and supporters. Until you play for a team like CTFC you don’t realise how much it means to the local people. They live, eat and breathe their team, so to go to Bangor City last season with only 11 fit players and beat them on their own patch in front of so many of the Cofi army was something special that will live with me for a long time. After that it’s the Welsh Cup games and trying to put a good run in that together.”
He mentions the JD Welsh Cup as Caernarfon prepare to kick off their campaign in the first round proper against Conwy Borough on Saturday 1st October. Having already declared his ambitions for the league and Huws Gray championship, he shows no lack of ambition regarding Wales’ premier cup competition.
“You try and approach each game as professionally as possible and as Conwy are in our league there is no doubt it will feel like a league game. You really notice it when you play the teams from the Welsh Prem or from the Southern leagues. We’ve got unfinished business in the Welsh cup and need to put a good run together after last season’s disappointment against Goytre.”
Without a doubt, one of the most important figures at The Oval is first team manager Iwan Williams. Whilst still in the early stages of his management career, Williams has proved a formidable operator, guiding his team to dominant success last season. Edwards explains his effect on the squad, and how they’ve bought into his vision of ‘togetherness’.
“We have a laugh at the gaffer’s expense regarding his favourite word ‘togetherness’ but this is his ethos and something that Iwan has instilled into the club since his arrival. It’s absolutely vital that our changing room, both players and staff are together, something that is needed for us now more than ever. When you’re at the top and reigning champions you’re there to be shot at, and after our indifferent start we certainly had a few taking aim at us so far! Haters are going to hate, all we can do is go about our business in the right manner with everyone pulling in the right direction and we will be there or thereabouts come the back end of the season.”
For all of their success, dark clouds gathered at the end of Caernarfon’s season as it was announced they were to be denied a domestic license by the Welsh FA which they needed in order to play in the Welsh Premier League. This bombshell hit both the players and supporters hard, as Edwards details.
“We were absolutely devastated. Up until the day before the appeal I still believed it was just a bit of red tape and everything would get sorted. When the news came in it was hard to take, with so many questions but no answers to them.
The players and management did everything right, the supporters came in their numbers home and away and we were on the crest of a wave, so when we learned it wasn’t to be it was truly devastating.
On a personal level it was like deja vu, having won the league with Druids two seasons before that, where I should have been going up into the Welsh Prem, before Huw Griffiths left due to budget issues and I shortly after left for Caernarfon.”
Edwards is still at Caernarfon, and the supporters are there with him. It’s clear that he has bought into the culture of the Cofis after two seasons with them, and is eager to sing their praises.
Without a doubt the best set of supporters in the Welsh league, they are there in their numbers come rain or shine home and away. They’ll let you know when you’ve played well and they’ll let you know when you haven’t, that’s for sure, but that’s how much love and passion they have for their home club. They’ve taken me in as one of their own and I’m proud to represent them. It’s a special club where everyone is together; everyone will stop and chat with you although sometimes I struggle with the Cofi dialect!
Edwards ends his interview with a reflection of a last season’s title celebrations. After their emphatic 7-0 defeat of Cefn Druids to win the league, the whole club invaded a pub on the outskirts of Wrexham to celebrate. One chant sticks out to Edwards in particular.
My Favourite chant for the lads is ‘every where we go / everywhere we go / we’re the Cofi boys, making all the noise, everywhere we go’. The supporters sang this for four hours straight after taking over a pub just outside Wrexham after we’d demolished Druids!
Caernarfon’s journey to Huws Gray Alliance glory, and subsequent entry into the top flight, will no doubt be more difficult than last years. Prestatyn Town look like they have returned to their usual level of ferocity following a subdued league campaign last season, and they’ll be well aware of the forthcoming fight with Caernarfon for the league title.
Yet the Cofi faithful will remain optimistic, and with players such as Gaz Edwards, you can’t blame them. With players of his pride and passion at the club, they may all be able to sing ‘Everywhere we go’ once again in April.
Picture credit: Arwyn Roberts