2009-10 North Wales football season – so many shattered dreams

Rhyl (white) and Connah’s Quay Nomads were both relegated from the Welsh Premier League in 2009-10 despite finishing outside of the drop zone. Pic: welsh-premier.com

The 2009-10 Welsh domestic football season will not be remembered with much affection by a number of clubs who ended it feeling victims of a great injustice.

Teams which had worked hard to establish themselves in the top two tiers found themselves demoted, not all on merit, but some down to Football Association of Wales’ insistence that radical change was needed.

In order to cut the Welsh Premier from 18 teams to 12, six clubs were sent down from the top flight and no less than 10 suffered demotion or relegation from the Cymru Alliance.

Some of those 10 still bear the scars today.

The 18 Welsh Premier League clubs met on 13 April 2008 and voted to support a restructuring proposal put forward by WPL secretary John Deakin which would replace the single WPL with a First and Second Division comprising 10 teams in each division for the 2010–11 season.

A further proposal was accepted that the Football Association of Wales should take full control of the Welsh Premier League and the existing Company, ‘Football League of Wales Limited’ should be dissolved.

These proposals were forwarded to the FAW for their consideration.

In June 2009, the clubs voted to accept an alternative proposal to reduce the Premier League from 18 clubs to 12 for the 2010–11 season onwards.

The so-called “Super 12” was on its way.

As a result, the end of the 2009-10 campaign delivered a lot of unhappiness for a number of clubs.

From the Welsh Premier, bottom five Connah’s Quay Nomads, Porthmadog, Welshpool Town, Caersws and Cefn Druids were relegated, along with Rhyl, champions the previous season and who finished sixth in this one yet were demoted after being denied the domestic licence.

Fifth-bottom Nomads achieved a more than respectable 41 points, but went down on goal difference, while fourth-from-the-basement Porthmadog would have stayed up in any other season.

With no-one coming up from the Cymru Alliance, title winners Llangefni Town unable to achieve the required criteria, 10 teams lost their tier-two status.

Bethesda Athletic’s Carl Thomas in action (blue). Pesda were unfortunate to be relegated from the Cymru Alliance in 2009-10

All sent tumbling from the CAL were – after 12 seasons in the league – Holyhead Hotspur (8th out of 17), first-timers Bethesda Athletic (9th), Denbigh Town, Llangollen Town, Berriew, Mold Alexandra, Lex XI, Llanfairpwll, Caernarfon Town and Gresford Athletic.

In a normal season, only the latter three would have faced the drop.

Since 2009-10, how have the relegated clubs fared?

Welsh Premier

Nomads celebrate their first-ever Welsh Cup win in 2017-18

Connah’s Quay Nomads
Going down did the Nomads little harm.
They won consecutive Cymru Alliance titles, but only qualified for promotion back to the WPL after the second success, failing on a criteria issue the first time.
Since former Manchester City hero Andy Morrison took over at Deeside Stadium in 2015, Nomads have won the Welsh Cup and Welsh Premier League for the first time in their history, reached the Scottish Challenge Cup Final, lifted the WPL League Cup and secured five successive European qualifications.

Had spent seven straight seasons in the Welsh Premier up to 2009-10, but since going down were in the Cymru Alliance for nine campaigns on the bounce before being relegated to the tier 3 North West for 2020-21.

Welshpool Town
Losing their Welsh Premier status really did signal a serious decline in fortunes for the Mid-Wales Lilywhites.
They finished rock bottom of the Cymru Alliance the following season and amidst spells of fighting to stay in existence, ‘Pool remained in the Mid-Wales League until the end of 2019-20.

Founder members of the League of Wales in 1992-93, Caersws proudly remained a top flight club for 18 seasons before going down at the end of 2009-10.
The Bluebirds never returned. Eight seasons in a row at Cymru Alliance standard followed before relegation to the Mid-Wales League in 2018-19.

Cefn Druids
With just one win in 34 matches in 2009-10, basement boys Druids would have gone down in any circumstances.
Far from signalling the end of them, however, the Ancients have performed very respectably ever since.
They won the Cymru Alliance in 2013/14, were relegated after one season back in the WPL, but sealed promotion again as runners-up in 2015-16.
Druids have been in the Welsh Premier for the past four seasons.
They have also reached the Welsh Cup final and played in Europe.

After being demoted from the WPL at the end of 2009-10, the Lilywhites finished runners-up twice in the Cymru Alliance before winning the title in 2012-13 without losing a single game – the only club in the league’s history to achieve such a feat.
Four modest seasons followed back in the WPL before relegation in 2016-17.
After three campaigns in the Cymru Alliance, the Lilies sadly folded at the end of 2019-20 due to financial difficulties.
A phoenix club, CPD Y Rhyl 1879, has formed in their place.

Cymru Alliance relegated clubs 2009-10

Holyhead Hotspur
Eighth out of 17 teams with 40 points accumulated and still relegated – how unjust must the world have appeared to Holyhead Hotspur at the end of 2009-10?
In typical fashion the Holy Islanders fought back, landing the Welsh Alliance title in 2011-12 as part of a treble, sealing a return to tier two.
Seven more seasons in the Cymru Alliance followed before a bottom place finish meant relegation in 2018-19.
Once more the club has rallied, winning the Welsh Alliance at the first attempt last term to ensure a place in Cymru North for 2020-21.

Bethesda Athletic
Following back-to-back Welsh Alliance titles in 2007-08 and 2008-09, Chris O’Neal’s Bethesda side produced a great first-ever season in the Cymru Alliance, finishing ninth with a goal difference of + 11.
Totally unfair that they should lose their status and Pesda have arguably been the biggest casualties of the 2009-10 cull.
It has been largely downhill ever since with relegations and disbansions clouding the club. Hopefully, they can return to an upward curve in 2020-21 under new manager Mark Hughes in tier 5.

Denbigh Town
After losing their Cymru Alliance status in 2009-10, Town recovered steadily in four seasons back at Welsh Alliance level, culminating in a title win in 2013/14.
Four great seasons back in the Cymru Alliance followed, the Vale of Clwyd side ending up a best-ever second in 2017-18 under Eddie Maurice-Jones.
Sadly, the club was relegated the season after, but they were an excellent second in the Welsh Alliance last term.

Llangollen Town
To finish 11th in your first season at Cymru Alliance level represents a very decent performance from Llangollen, yet they were to lose their status at the first hurdle after ending up seventh from bottom.
No sign of a return to the second tier since, the club having fared modestly in the Welsh National League Premier and Division One.

Just one season to savour life in the Cymru Alliance for the villagers.
Have been in the Mid-Wales League for the past 10 campaigns, lifting the Division Two title in 2015-16.
Berriew can look forward to testing themselves in Tier 3 North East in 2020-21.

Mold Alexandra
One of North Wales football’s most respected names would have lasted longer in the Cymru Alliance in this era but for the 10-clubs-down ruling.
Four subsequent seasons in the Welsh National League Premier delivered a championship in 2013-14 and a three-campaign stint back in the Cymru Alliance before a drop back to the WNL.

Lex XI
Fourth-bottom Lex plunged into the Welsh National League Premier Division for four seasons after 2009-10.
Newly-named Lex Glyndwr emerged in Division One in 2014-15, winning that title in 2016-17 and returning to the Premier for one season before disappearing.
Lex XI were back in WNL Division One last season, finishing third bottom.

Another club which slipped away badly after the carnage of 2009-10.
Eight seasons in the Welsh Alliance – three of them in Division Two – preceded a drop to the Anglesey League for the past two campaigns.

Caernarfon Town
The Canaries were on the wane anyway when relegated from the Cymru Alliance, finishing one off the bottom in 2009-10.
The club almost went out of business before staging a remarkable recovery which began in earnest with Lee Dixon’s side winning the treble of Welsh Alliance title, FAW Trophy and Cookson Cup in 2012-13.
Two Cymru Alliance championships followed in ensuing seasons before the long-awaited return to the Welsh Premier in 2018-19.
In two top flight seasons, the Cofis have twice finished in the upper six and their crowds dwarf every other club’s in the national league.

Gresford Athletic
Ending up rock bottom of the Cymru Alliance in 2009-10 did not sink the good ship Gresford.
After five steady seasons in the Welsh National League Premier, peaking in a title win in 2014/15, the Colliers have punched above their weight ever since in five Cymru Alliance campaigns, claiming a tremendous third place in 2016/17.

So how did 2009-10 affect relegated clubs within the top two tiers?

Welsh Premier

Connah’s Quay Nomads: Made them stronger and ultimately hugely successful

Porthmadog: Have never fully recovered. Will play at their lowest level in 30 years in 1990

Welshpool Town: Ended their top flight life indefinitely

Caersws: No glory days since

Cefn Druids: Bounced back to better things

Rhyl FC: No longer in existence.

Cymru Alliance

Holyhead Hotspur: Have remained strong, now back where they belong

Bethesda Athletic: Ended them completely as a force – hopefully better times to come

Denbigh Town: Like Hotspur, have stayed firm

Llangollen Town: No sign of a return to tier two since

Berriew: Never come near to a tier two return

Mold Alexandra: Can never be written off

Lex XI: Unpredictable as to what the future holds

Llanfairpwll: Slipped well away from higher league status

Caernarfon Town: Rallied superbly to become a Welsh Premier force again

Gresford Athletic: Have remained dark horses and much stronger in tier two now than they were in 2009-10

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