Who are the 10 greatest Welsh Premier managers of all time?
Here are the views of Grassroots North Wales….
1 Gary Barnett
Barnett joined Barry Town in 1996 as a player after gaining rich experience in the English leagues with Oxford United, Fulham, Huddersfield and Leyton Orient.
The midfielder was a key member of Barry’s first League of Wales title-winning side in 1995/96 under Paul Giles.
After Barnett was appointed player-manager in 1996, the success continued at Jenner Park.
He led Barry to another three league Championships in 1996/97, 1997/98 (the invincibles) and 1998/99 – four consecutive titles in all – and five cups, League Cup (3), Welsh Cup (1) and FAW Premier Cup (1), as well as playing in many memorable European ties.
In their three title-winning seasons with Barnett at the helm, Barry produced a stunning record of: played 110, won 89, drawn 18 and lost just three, with 345 goals scored and only 80 conceded.
That unbelievable 1997/98 campaign saw them emerge undefeated in 38 matches with 33 wins and five draws.
Barnett played over 130 games for the Linnets, scoring many important goals for the club. His time with Barry will be remembered as the club’s golden age.
2 Craig Harrison
Some may agree with this, others will not, but I believe Craig Harrison is The New Saints’ greatest-ever manager.
The former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace defender ensured Saints added scintillating football to their steely ability to win trophies.
In December 2011, Harrison was unveiled as director of football and manager of TNS.
He oversaw the full-timers being crowned 2011/12 Welsh Premier League champions, as well as the winning the Welsh Cup.
In May 2017, Harrison led the side to their sixth successive WPL title, as well as breaking Ajax’s 44-year-old world record for the longest winning streak in top-flight football.
Alongside six WPL crowns in a row, Harrison won four Welsh Cups and three League Cups with the Park Hall club, also enjoying some fine results in Europe.
Other managerial stints with Airbus, Bangor City and Hartlepool United were not as successful, but Harrison is now part of a crack three-man management team at Connah’s Quay Nomads.
3 Neville Powell
Nev has been involved with the league since its formation in 1992 – first as a player at Bangor City before moving to Connah’s Quay in 1993 to start his managerial career.
After 14 years on Deeside, winning the League Cup and reaching a Welsh Cup final, he returned to Farrar Road to wake the sleeping giant in 2007.
Three successive Welsh Cup wins were achieved under Powell’s managership between 2008 and 2010.
And in 2011 he brought the Welsh Premier trophy back to Farrar Road for the first time since 1995 as City defeated TNS 1-0 on the final day. In that season he led Bangor to 15 consecutive wins from the opening day, setting a then modern-day British record.
Powell is unique in that he has won ties in Europe for Bangor City as a player (against Fredrikstad 1985-86) and a manager (versus FC Honka 2010-11).
He is currently director of football at Aberystwyth Town.
4 Nigel Adkins
Adkins first joined Bangor as a player at the start of the 1993/94 season, but two months into the campaign, boss Paul Rowlands accepted an offer to take over at Altrincham and Adkins was appointed manager.
His first season could hardly have gone better as City were crowned Welsh Premier champions with a win away at Porthmadog in the last game of the season.
The following year he strengthened his squad, bringing in Marc Lloyd-Williams from Porthmadog to play alongside Frank Mottram and he also signed former Everton player, Kevin Langley.
The Citizens dominated the league, scoring 96 goals and finishing nine points clear of second-placed Afan Lido.
Adkins was named the league’s Manager of the Year in 1994 and 1995 but left Farrar Road in February 1996 following a string of disappointing results.
In August 2012 he became the first manager to manage in both the Welsh and English Premier Leagues as his Southampton side took on Manchester City.
He has since been in charge at Reading and Sheffield United, and is currently boss of Hull City.
5 Ken McKenna
After great success as a goalscorer with Conwy United and Bangor City, where he was a Welsh Cup winner in 1997/98, McKenna moved to Llansantffraid as a player the following season and played a vital role as TNS clinched the championship in 2000.
He took the reins as manager of the Saints in 2001.
As boss he guided TNS to three consecutive league titles in 2004/05, 2005/06 and 2006/07 as well as the Welsh Cup in 2005 and led the club into Europe on seven successive seasons.
McKenna left his role as TNS manager in 2008. He is current assistant-manager of Football League Two club Morecambe.
6 John Hulse
Birkenhead-born Hulse led Rhyl through the most fruitful period in their history between 2002-08.
In 2003/04 he was manager of the Lilywhites side which landed the unprecedented quadruple of the league championship, Welsh Cup, League Cup and North Wales Challenge Cup, as well as finishing runners-up in the FAW Premier Cup.
Hulse was also at the helm as the Lilies qualified for Europe over four successive seasons and he won the League Cup with the club in 2002/03 and Welsh Cup again in 2005/06.
He was also part of a managerial partnership with Everton and Scotland legend Graeme Sharp at Bangor City when the all-Blues lifted the Welsh Cup in 1998.
And Hulse was in charge at Conwy United when they qualified for the Inter-Toto Cup in 1996/97.
7 Tony Willcox
Willcox managed Cwmbran Town for 11 years from their first match in the then League of Wales, and led them to the inaugural title in 1992/93 following a titanic battle with Inter Cardiff.
The reward for winning the league was a place as Wales’ first ever entrants in the European Cup and despite winning the home leg against Cork City 3-2, the Crows went out on the away goals rule following a 2-1 defeat in Ireland.
As well as the inaugural title, Cwmbran secured third place in 1999 and 2000 as well as givng Barry Town a run for their money in 2001 before the Crows had to settle for second place.
Under Willcox, Cwmbran also reached two Welsh Cup finals and five European campaigns, becoming the first Welsh club, and only the second throughout Europe, to play in all four European competitions.
Tony sadly passed away aged just 47 in April 2003, having suffered heart problems.
8 Colin Caton
Has been in charge of Bala Town for 16 seasons and in almost 650 competitive matches.
A former highly-rated defender with Colwyn Bay and Witton Albion among other clubs, Caton became manager of the Lakesiders in 2003.
Under his leadership, they won the Welsh National League and Cymru Alliance titles, as well as numerous cups along the way, before reaching the Welsh Premier in 2009/10.
In 10 top-flight seasons, Town have finished runners-up twice and third once. Caton has guided Bala into the Europa League five times and his crowning glory arrived in 2016/17 when the Maes Tegid club lifted the Welsh Cup for the first time, beating mighty TNS at the 30th attempt in the final.
9 Andy Morrison
Morrison joined Connah’s Quay Nomads as director of football in November 2015 and has totally transformed the fortunes of a club which up to then had achieved relatively little in the Welsh Premier.
Captain of the Manchester City side which won the Division 2 Play-Off final at Wembley in 1999, Morrison later became assistant-manager of an Airbus UK Broughton outfit which reached the Europa League qualifying stages for three successive seasons, finishing second twice and third in the Welsh Premier between 2013-2015.
Morrison’s first season at Deeside saw him lead Nomads to their highest ever league finish of fourth and Europa League qualification before progressing to the second qualifying round, defeating Norwegian side Stabæk Fotball over two legs, and not conceding a goal in the process.
In 2016/17, the Quay were runners-up in the WPL under Morrison and the following season came third, as well as landing the Welsh Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
This season, the Deesiders were WPL runners-up again and beaten finalists in the Irn-Bru Scottish Challenge Cup and Welsh Cup.
10 Neil Gibson
Legendary figure at Prestatyn Town where as manager he has achieved things no-one ever thought possible.
After winning the Welsh Alliance League title as a Town player in 2005-06, Gibson took over as player-boss the following season.
The Cymru Alliance championship was won in 2007/08 and Prestatyn reached the promised land of the top-flight Welsh Premier.
Seven seasons at that level ensued, during which Town lifted the Welsh Cup and lesser-regarded NWCFA Challenge Cup for the first time in their history, as well as playing in Europe, where they won their inaugural Europa League tie.
Relegation at the end of 2014/15 was followed by a season of re-adjustment in the Huws Gray Alliance before Prestatyn won that league for a second time under Gibson’s leadership in 2016/17.
Their second stint in the WPL was to last just a single season. Former Tranmere Rovers and Wales Under-21 midfielder Gibson returned to Bastion Gardens as boss this term and will remain in charge for 2019/20.