Paul “Muncher” Griffiths is one of the chief reasons why Cefn Albion have become one of the most go-ahead grassroots football clubs in Wales over the past six years.
Here, the much-respected defender talks to Grassroots North Wales about his career.
Please tell us which clubs you played for before joining Cefn Albion. Did you win any honours with these clubs?
Cefn United (Welsh National League Wrexham Area)
Lex XI (Cymru Alliance) – We won the NEWFA Cup on the Racecourse after beating Mynydd Isa.
Llangollen Town (Cymru Alliance)
FC Cefn (WNL) – We won (I was captain) the Welsh National League Premier Division title
Penycae (Cymru Alliance)
With the intention of finishing altogether to spend time with my family, I stepped down as Cefn Albion captain at the end of 2018/19 but decided to sign a form and help out if needed.
This season I only played in the 3-2 win over Penycae. It’s great that the team has continued to push on without me involved on the field.
Nowadays, my efforts are mainly focused behind the scenes and my legs are really thankful that’s the case!
You’ve been with Cefn Albion from the start. You started in the North East Wales League in 2014-15 and are now pushing hard for promotion to the Cymru North. Did you think when you started that the Albion had such great potential?
Honestly, yes! When Cefn Albion formed there was a large nucleus of players who were either signed from high-placed sides or were part of the 2011-12 title-winning FC Cefn team, so on paper the potential was certainly there.
Despite having to start in the North East Wales League, collectively we all agreed to do things right from the start and try to play football the right way.
Most weeks we were racking up large scorelines but not once did we take the foot off the gas or disrespect the opposition by putting goalkeepers up top or changing penalty takers etc. Our focus was (and still is) playing an exciting brand of football that constitutes a winning mentality.
Over the years the personnel on and off the pitch has changed but the ethos and everything the football club stands for has not.
What has been the highlight of your time with Cefn Albion so far?
It’s between two but I would have to say lifting the Welsh Trophy having been crowned 2018/19 champions down at Aberystwyth after beating Pontardawe Town 4-0.
I’ve been fortunate to win most things at the levels I have represented but this one was missing (I’d never come close!). It was nice to achieve it with a group of mates representing the village we all come from.
There is also the added bonus that my brother Dave, who won the same trophy with Cefn United in 2001/02, no longer has all the family bragging rights :).
My dad insists he has won it but i think it was called something different in his 1970s Albion days.
The other occasion that ran it very close was lifting the 2016/17 Premier Division League Cup having overcome a much-fancied FC Nomads 4-2 on The Rock.
This was a tough season in many ways, it was our first at that level and numerous key players had moved to other clubs leaving us threadbare.
During the same season I lost my mother after a short but brave battle with cancer. She was a big part of the football club doing things such as catering and washing kits behind the scenes so it was quite emotional and one that I dedicated to her as I kissed the cup and pointed to the sky before celebrating a huge scalp. I was a very proud captain that night for sure!
What do you think has been the secret of the Albion’s success to date?
You can have a team full of talent but attitude and commitment are also huge factors.
Luckily at Cefn we have been very fortunate to have both in abundance.
In addition, the fact that most of our players live within a stone’s throw of The Rock is a big reason why we’ve enjoyed a lot of success within a short space of time and continue to remain a very competitive voluntary club in our respective divisions.
I don’t begrudge any club that pays its players, I think it’s becoming a necessity nowadays and in some cases it does help clubs achieve their goals.
However, I strongly believe that at our current level if you can get a group of players representing you because they want to be with you then it will put you in good stead when crossing the white line to do battle.
I appreciate that we have been lucky at Cefn over the years, young talented players such as the twins Alex and Nathan Williams and then Dion Gibbins and Kien Morris to name a few keep rolling in off the local Cefn Mawr production line.
Some clubs are not that fortunate so have to use alternative methods and look elsewhere.
You’re a highly respected centre half. How would you describe yourself? A ball-playing, footballing defender, or more of a physical player?
To be honest Dave, I just give 100% every time I cross the white line, I’d like to think I was recognised as a committed, honest player who wears my heart on my sleeve.
As a captain, although many told me I whinged ‘A LOT’, I tried to bark out constructive orders\criticism and would never ask team-mates to do anything that I wasn’t prepared to do myself.
I just wanted to be successful and that comes with hard work!
I do like to play football so I would always do so and be able to in the right situations but if i needed to get rid then i wasn’t bothered to pump it over the rock.
At 6ft+ I’d throw myself into any challenge against any opponent and be fully committed to win the ball.
I relished a good aerial battle except against Les Davies of Bangor City.
For 90 minutes I would only concentrate on winning, after that it’s gone and time to enjoy a cold pint and a chat in the clubhouse.
Pace was my biggest downfall and over the years. I had to learn how to adapt to different situations\standards.
Despite being slow, a fun fact is that I have never received a red card so my timing and awareness must have been okay. That’s not to say I didn’t get a few yellows though ;).
Who is the best striker you’ve ever faced?
I’ve played against a fair few decent strikers so it’s hard to single one out.
In the Cymru Alliance, Darren Thomas from his time with Llangefni and early Caernarfon stands out along with Shaun Beck at Flint.
At Welsh National League level, I thought Tony Cann (Rhos Aelwyd) and Kieron Jones (Brymbo) were both quality players. Aaron Taylor ‘Taz’ (Queen’s Park) was very good.
There have been some great players so I’ve probably missed loads!
Where does your nickname Muncher come from?
Believe it or not, at 16/17 I was still really small and let’s say I was the proud owner of some excessive puppy fat, you could just say i enjoyed food a little too much.
Upon joining Cefn United one of the senior players and good friend James Jones cottoned onto my excessive ‘munching’ and Muncher was born.
Unfortunately, It caught on like wildfire and i’m now stuck with it for life, I had no choice but to embrace it ha! Thanks Jamesy!!
Do you feel you had a big chance of winning the Welsh National League Premier Division title before the season was cancelled?
Obviously on paper it was Holywell’s title to lose but I honestly feel like it would have gone right down to the wire this year.
They were enjoying an invincible season until we beat them at their own ground, who knows how this result may have affected their performances on the field.
You then have the dreaded mid-weekers which are tough for every club, games come thick and fast and players and management juggle work commitments alongside football – it’s a tough period of the season and it doesn’t surprise me when I see unexpected results happen. I’ve seen it so often over the years!
I’m unsure what remaining fixtures each of the clubs challenging for the title had but the Premier Division is a tough league, no fixture is a given anymore.
Cefn Albion were in tremendous form and after beating Holywell I can assure you that we were all ready to challenge for honours every step of the way.
I read and respect a lot of opinions that have been shared across social media but never get involved, this was far from over is my opinion on the subject.
Congrats to Holywell though and kudos to Rhostyllen who have had a brilliant season.
The PPG outcome was inevitable and the right decision for everyone’s safety.
The announcement drew a line in the sand and our focus as a club immediately turned to 2020/21 where we already have some exciting plans and new additions expected to the football club.
How optimistic are you that Cefn Albion have a successful future ahead?
You have to be optimistic (which I am) and plan ahead for future seasons.
At Cefn we have lots of exciting plans for the season (s) ahead and lots of hard work is going on behind the scenes to build two competitive squads (First and Reserves) and to arrange events to generate the necessary funding etc to support our objectives.
However, with the money that gets floated around nowadays and the different criteria (which comes with increasing costs) that has to be met, I feel it’s getting increasingly difficult for community-based clubs to sustain at the level in which they truly belong.
I was part of FC Cefn who folded after winning the Premier Division title so I am always cautious about these things….you just never know in football.
On the playing side, players and management are voluntary so I think the key will be holding onto the talented local lads who may be offered to play elsewhere at a higher standard or for money.
You can’t question lads wanting either though and they always leave with our best wishes but full credit to most of the lads over the years who have remained loyal.
Personally I’ve only ever left a Cefn team to test myself at a higher standard, the small amount of money I was offered was never a factor.
The reserve side is so important as it provides the perfect platform to allow local youngsters to transition from youth to men’s.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
Around Cefn and the surrounding villages people often tell me how good my dad (Alan Davies) and my uncle Pete Davies too (the Davies brothers) were.
I suppose without even seeing him play he’s someone I’ve been influenced by and aspire to be like.
When I first broke into Cefn United’s first team as a youngster I played alongside some brilliant players who were well-established.
Players such as James Jones, Richie Pearce, Neil Valentine and even my brother Dave really helped me learn and develop.
Finally, I’ve got huge respect for every manager\coach and player that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and playing alongside.
Playing football locally has brought me so much over the years and it’s fair to say I have a huge circle of friends because of it.