At the start of the season, there were two predictions everyone was making in the Welsh Premier League, predictions that put The New Saints at the top, and Rhyl somewhere near the bottom.
While The New Saints’ have again matched their expectations, Rhyl have silenced their critics, transforming into a tough and ambitious outfit, a shadow of the side who were saved from relegation by a technicality just seven months ago.
With 10 games played, Rhyl are fourth having won four, lost four and drawn two. The table doesn’t lie – but these stats don’t tell the full truth, with a 10-0 loss against TNS proving to become a catalyst to their season, as they didn’t lose for five games after it.
Niall McGuiness and co know there is a long way to go yet, but a top six including Rhyl is now not a far fetched prospect, so we’ve picked three reasons why Rhyl can be on the right side of the table post phase one.
- The nature of the league
The Welsh Premier table makes for interesting reading, with Rhyl in fourth but only four points apart from Airbus UK Broughton – who sit ninth. This small margin indicates it will be a scramble to get into the top six, but means all will not be lost if they are to drop points with 12 games and 36 points still to play for.
2. Niall McGuinness
To some confusion he missed out on manager of the month, but Niall McGuinness has achieved the recognition of many who first doubted him when he took the helm of Rhyl at just 24 years old. After an initially subdued start, he has overseen the beatings of established sides such as Airbus, Aberystwyth and arch rivals Bangor.
Off the pitch, his summer signings include Carl Lamb, Oliver Buckley and Mike Sharples who have all gone on to play major roles in their post-TNS run.
McGuinness’ drive and attitude appears to have been bought in bulk by his players, which will be a significant attribute for the rest of phase one and beyond.
3. A do or die approach
Having come within an inch of the Huws Gray Alliance last season, Rhyl won’t be taking any of their games in this league for granted. From that scare may come a source of great motivation, helping lift them well away from the dreaded relegation zone.
On the other hand, if the league were to split tomorrow they’d secure the top six , be set for two more crunch derbies with Bangor and guaranteed a place in the play-offs for Europe.
This would be a dream situation for a club who have recently become familiar with the plight of surviving, and give one of the country’s most successful and well supported clubs a chance to fight at the top once again.