Farewell to the Cymru Alliance – Here’s our All-Time league XI (1990-2019)

Darren Thomas of Caernarfon Town is seen by many as one of the greatest Cymru Alliance players of all-time

This season marked the farewell of the Huws Gray Cymru Alliance after 29 years of standing proudly as the tier-two league of the Welsh football pyramid serving North and Mid-Wales.
From 2019-20, as part of a national restructure, the league will become known as the FAW Championship North and Mid.
Over the past three decades, the Cymru Alliance has featured some outstanding players.

Choosing an All-Time XI proved quite a task, but after much deliberation, these are the choices of sports writer Dave Jones, who has covered the league since its inception.

Paul Pritchard (Porthmadog)

Paul Pritchard in action

The 35-year-old Pritchard has played for a fair few clubs in his career, but has always operated at a high level, usually tier-one or two, and proved an asset to whoever he represents.
Sometimes he has played for struggling teams, which has often meant him being kept busy, but has never been anything less than reliable.
With more than 100 Welsh Premier League appearances to his credit for Caernarfon Town, Connah’s Quay Nomads and Rhyl, Pritchard has also kept goal for numerous Huws Gray Alliance sides, including Holyhead Hotspur, Glantraeth, Llangefni Town and Llanfairpwll (the latter three when they competed in the second-tier league).
Outside of the Welsh pyramid, Pritchard has turned out for Warrington Town in the Northern Premier League.
A former Wales Under-18 international, he has represented Anglesey in the Island Games and earned a late call-up to the Welsh Semi-Professional squad in May 2008, featuring briefly in the Four Nations Tournament against Gibraltar at Rhyl.
Paul has just completed a magnificent first season at Porthmadog.

Joe Williams (Caernarfon Town/Llandudno)

Versatile defender who won three Huws Gray Alliance championship medals in four seasons.
In 2014/15, Williams was a member of Llandudno’s first-ever Cymru Alliance title-winning squad, and was part of Caernarfon Town’s championship sides of 2015/16 and 2017/18.
Previously with Glan Conwy and Conwy Borough, Williams was a key regular in Alan Morgan’s 2014/15 triumphant Tudno side, playing anywhere across the back and also venturing into midfield on occasion.
The following season, Iwan Williams took over as Caernarfon Town manager and Joe Williams soon joined him at The Oval.
With Joe Williams a virtual ever-present, the Canaries won the Huws Gray Alliance title, but were turned down for promotion on licensing issues.
Joe remained with the Cofis, who were crowned champions again two seasons later and this time regained Welsh Premier status.
Williams continued to be a highly consistent performer in the top-flight for Town this term.

Nathan Craig (Caernarfon Town)

Caernarfon talisman Nathan Craig

Dynamic attacking left-back with a penchant for scoring spectacular goals from set-pieces.
Joined Everton aged 12 and progressed through the ranks, becoming a reserves regular and full-time pro, and making his competitive first-team debut versus BATE Borisov on December 17, 2009 in the UEFA Europa League.
After being released by Everton in summer 2011, he joined hometown club Caernarfon Town, making 17 appearances and scoring five goals for a team then in the Welsh Alliance.
Craig again turned professional at Torquay United in 2012 and went on to make 47 appearances, scoring one goal.
Following the club’s relegation to the Conference in May 2014 Craig, along with seven other team-mates, was placed on the transfer list. In June 2014, following the player’s request, his contract was mutually terminated.
Went on loan to Dorchester Town before returning to Caernarfon to take up the new post of Football in the Community Director and re-signing for the club.
In 2014/15, he netted three goals in 19 games for the Canaries, then in 2015/16 notched 16 in 35 as Town won the Huws Gray Alliance title.
The 2016/17 campaign brought 19 goals in 37 matches for Craig, then last term, as the Cofis won the HGA crown again, the former Wales Under-21 cap netted 21 times in 34 outings.
Town were back in the Welsh Premier this term and Craig bagged himself 14 goals and made the Team of the Season subs bench.

Danny Collins (Buckley Town)

Former Wales, Sunderland and Stoke City defender Danny Collins first made his mark in non-league football with Cymru Alliance club Buckley Town.
A one-time Deeside Primary Schools’ team-mate of the legendary Michael Owen, Collins was on Chester’s books as a schoolboy, but after four years joined Mold Alexandra, representing their reserves in the Welsh National League.
He moved on to Buckley Town, where he attracted the interest of Wrexham and Tranmere Rovers before deciding to sign for Chester City in December 2001.
In just under three years at Chester, he made 71 appearances. After a successful spell on loan at Vauxhall Motors, his career started to take off, having been converted from an unconvincing forward into a composed central defender.
Collins helped Chester win the Football Conference in 2003-04, and in October 2004, he joined Sunderland for £140,000.
He won the Football League Championship twice with the Black Cats in 2004-05 and 2006-07, making 149 league appearances for the club before Stoke City signed him for £2.75 million in 2009-10.
After three seasons with Stoke in the Premier League, Collins has gone on to play for Ipswich Town, West Ham United, Nottingham Forest, Rotherham United and, his current club at the age of 38, Grimsby Town.
Collins played six times for England C before winning 12 full international caps for Wales between 2005-11.

David Hayes (Prestatyn Town)

The inspirational David Hayes

Hayes played as a striker before becoming an inspirational centre-half with the history-making Prestatyn Town sides of the 2000s.
His highest-profile successes at Bastion Gardens came during the club’s spells in the Welsh Premier League, but he also made a major impact in the Seasiders teams which won the Huws Gray Alliance in 2007/08 and 2016/17.
The story really began back in 2005/06 when Hayes skippered Prestatyn to their ground-breaking Welsh Alliance title triumph in a season which saw the club emerge undefeated throughout the entire league campaign.
After a highly-promising debut season in the Cymru Alliance, Town were crowned champions in 2007/08 to clinch a dream promotion to the top-flight Welsh Premier.
Prestatyn stayed in the WPL for seven seasons, twice in that time clinching a top-six spot.
In 2012/13, Hayes was a proud member of the first-ever Town side to lift the Welsh Cup in the club’s 103-year history, beating Bangor City 3-1 in the final at Wrexham.
Summer 2013 saw the Seasiders play in Europe for the first time and claim a famous Europa League victory on penalties over Liepajas Metalurgs of Latvia before going out to Croatia’s HNK Rijeka in the next round.
An unforgettable few weeks was completed by Prestatyn lifting the NWCFA Challenge Cup for the first time.
In an amazing game against Rhyl which ended 5-5 after extra time, Hayes scoring with a stunning 30-yarder, Town won on penalties. And fittingly it was Hayes who put away the winning kick.
A lionheart defender, excellent on the ball, a fierce competitor, awesome in the air and always a threat in the opposition box, Hayes retired at the end of last season.
With the club struggling for leaders on the field on their return to the Huws Gray Alliance this term, however, Hayes donned his boots once more to help the cause to great effect.

Paul McManus (Rhyl)

Midfield genius McManus was the talisman of Rhyl’s invincibles of 2012/13.
The Lilywhites became the only team in the history of the Cymru Alliance to go through an entire season unbeaten, winning 24 and drawing six of their 30 matches, scoring 100 goals and conceding just 24 as they won the title by a nine-point margin.
Despite occupying an attacking central role, McManus finished joint top-scorer on 16 league goals along with Steve Lewis and Marc Evans, Dave Forbes notching 14 and Tom Rowlands 12.
Tireless set-piece specialist McManus arrived at Rhyl having previously represented Chester City, whom he played for 26 times in the Football League, Bangor City and Airbus UK Broughton and soon became a massive hit with Lilywhites fans.
Fittingly, McManus was named the Huws Gray Alliance 2012/13 Player of the Season.
He remained a key member of the Rhyl squad which went up to the Welsh Premier for the next two seasons, but in 2015/16 was loaned out to Flint Town United.
“Macca”, 28, recently became permanent manager of Runcorn Town in the North West Counties League.

Michael Parker (Prestatyn Town)

Michael Parker (left) with Prestatyn manager Neil Gibson

Has spent most of his senior career with Prestatyn Town, where he won the Huws Gray Alliance title in 2007/08 and 2016/17.
The complete midfielder, strong in the tackle, super-fit, box-to-box operator; a great passer of the ball and a great ability to find the net.
Like former team-mate David Hayes, Parker’s greatest moments in a Prestatyn shirt came in the Welsh Premier, where he spent eight seasons in total with the Seasiders and became their record marksman with 48 goals.
He was also part of the 2012/13 Welsh Cup winning side and featured in the club’s subsequent success in the Europa League.
Surely the biggest compliment to Parker’s ability is the fact Andy Morrison, manager of Welsh Premier League runners-up Connah’s Quay Nomads, was so determined to bring the player to Deeside Stadium this season.
Morrison succeeded, and more great chapters are waiting to be written in the 31-year-old Parker’s career.
Parker came through the youth system at Rhyl and had brief spells with the Wrexham AFC Academy and Bangor City, but his main claims-to-fame are his achievements at Prestatyn Town and involvement with Nomads during the club’s best-ever period. He rejoined Prestatyn this weekend.

Jay Gibbs (Caernarfon Town, Holyhead Hotspur and Porthmadog)

Jay Gibbs (right) signs for Caernarfon Town with former manager Iwan Williams

A former Tranmere Rovers scholar and Wales Under-19s international, the 26-year-old is a proven star performer at the tier-two level of Welsh football.
Gibbs has everything required in a central midfield player. His short and long game with both feet is second-to-none, he can slow a game down and speed it up when needed. He has a penchant for scoring spectacular goals and is a constant threat at set-pieces.
He is also a fiery character with a winning mentality.
In the Huws Gray Alliance, the Holyhead-based player has represented Caernarfon Town, Holyhead Hotspur and Porthmadog.
Gibbs was a key man in Caernarfon’s title-winning side of 2015/16, netting 10 times in 38 matches. He was also part of Town’s 2017-18 championship squad before signing for Llandudno in January 2018.
The midfielder joined Porthmadog in summer 2018, scoring some typically cracking goals, but returned to Llandudno for a second spell in January, then went back to Y Traeth.

Darren Thomas (Caernarfon Town)

Nicknamed “The Cofi Messi” by the Caernarfon Town faithful – and not without reason.
The 31-year-old magician is capable of producing those pieces of genius that can turn games in an instant.
His most famous moment will surely always be his amazing goal for Caernarfon in a Welsh Cup tie against The New Saints in November 2014.
With complete underdogs Town already 1-0 up, Thomas produced a dazzling run from his own half, leaving the Saints defence in his wake before firing home a stunning shot.
Unfortunately for the Canaries, the tie was held up for some time after a wall behind the goal Thomas had just blasted into collapsed under the weight of celebrating fans. TNS, no doubt benefiting from the break, went on to scrape a 3-2 win, but Thomas had secured himself a place in club folklore.
Diminutive, pacey and skilful winger Thomas rejoined the Cofis in 2012/13 and, apart from a four-month stint in the Welsh Premier with Aberystwyth Town, has been a major factor in Caernarfon’s climb up the leagues.
He has pocketed more than 100 goals for the Cofis, and proved outstanding in the second half of this season, which marked the club’s return to the WPL.
Thomas has also played for Llangefni Town and Porthmadog, scoring two Welsh Premier hat-tricks for the Anglesey club and quickly collecting 13 goals from 30 WPL appearances back in 2007/08.

Shaun Beck (Flint Town United)

The most famous goal-getter in Cymru Alliance history?
Surely so, based on pure consistency alone.
Flint Town United striker Beck was named Cymru Alliance Player of the Season in 2008/09 – when he also finished league top-scorer – but that only tells a small part of the story.
He also topped the league’s goals chart in 2009/10 with 28 as the Silkmen finished runners-up behind Llangefni Town.
There is no record available of who is the league’s all-time leading goalscorer, but Beck is most definitely Flint’s No1 marksman at this level of football.
He started with the junior set up, moved into the reserves and then stepped up to the first team.
Apart from brief spells with Bangor City and more recently, Greenfield, Beck also had a short spell at Connah’s Quay Nomads in the Welsh Premier League on second forms in 2004/05, but otherwise he has remained with Flint during his career, winning the North Wales Challenge Cup in 2006/07 and, in one of his final games, the Huws Gray League Cup last season.
Now aged 37, his total years of service with the Silkmen totals 27.

Marc Evans (Llandudno/Rhyl)

Marc Evans (second right) celebrates winning the HGA with Llandudno in 2015. Pic: Neil Sheldon

With an uncanny knack for finding the back of the net, Evans has played a key role in two Huws Gray Alliance title-winning sides.
The Anglesey striker bagged 25 goals in 32 matches for Llandudno’s champions of 2014/15 and 16 for Rhyl’s 2012/13 invincibles.
In 2017, Evans made a major impact in New Zealand soccer when netting a club best 39 goals in a season, including eight hat-tricks, for Melville United, breaking a record which had stood since 1995.
A former Wales Under-19 international, the 28-year-old has also scored goals for a number of other clubs, including Porthmadog, Gwalchmai and Holyhead Hotspur in the past, but his career tends to have comprised mainly short-term stays.
No-one can doubt his ability, he is a natural goal-getter with pace, skill and a real eye for the target.
After leaving Llandudno at the end of 2014/15 to play in New Zealand, he twice signed back for the Seasiders on returning from Kiwi land, but the moves never worked out. He had a brief stint with former club Holyhead Hotspur this season, netting four goals, but left in December due to work commitments.

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