At the age of just 28, Rakesh Patel last Saturday made his 302nd appearance for Cwmbran Celtic, becoming the most capped Welsh League player in the club’s history.
At just 17 the Fairwater Academy product made his first team debut in the 2007/2008 season, donning the yellow and blue of Celtic. Mickey Chopeman who was the manager at the time worked closely with Assistant Head of Academy Dela Cheedy, recruited seven talented youngsters in Patel, Ben Evans, Lloyd Davis, Liam Palmer, Luke Sallis and Owen Llewellyn.
Rakesh’s career with Cwmbran has been relatively stable, with his loyalty to the club not to be questioned with his years of service to the same club.
“Every season was a battle, but this club was installed with a togetherness and team spirit, no matter what the obstacles we faced, we never accepted defeat.”
After four years of Division One football the club were relegated due to a formality as no club were able to replace Afan Lido in the Welsh Premier League from South Wales. Celtic and the FAW had a 186 day dispute but Celtic lost the tribunal. This saw Dela Cheedy stand down as Cwmbran Celtic manager as he took a break.
“Dela Cheedy was the man that taught me everything, it still feels strange not having him in the changing room now.”
Dean Morris replaced Cheedy last March and as respect to Patel, offered him a place on the management staff.
After a two year exile from the second tier of Welsh football, Cwmbran Celtic returned to the division after finishing second in what was a tight top three. Not only did Celtic have a successful season in the league though. Patel was part of the team that went on a Welsh Cup run, beating Goytre at home despite being a level below before losing to then Premier League side Port Talbot Town.
“This club has always had a pull on me, it’s a special club run by some amazing people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep this club running.”