Happy birthday to the greatest manager Prestatyn Town have ever had – Neil Gibson, 41 today.
Gibbo stepped down as boss of the Cymru North club this weekend, but what an impact he made across two spells totalling 13 seasons in charge at Bastion Gardens.
Three Cymru Alliance League titles, a first-ever Welsh Cup in the club’s 103-year history, eight seasons in the Welsh Premier League – including three successive top-six finishes – and victory in their first European tie. The greatest period by far in the club’s existence.
A former Wales Under-21 international who won 12 caps for his country, St Asaph-born Gibson made one Football League appearance for Tranmere Rovers and also had spells with Sheffield Wednesday, Rhyl, Southport, Halesowen and Leigh RMI before returning to Prestatyn in the 2005/06 campaign after a short earlier stint at Bastion Gardens under Lennie Dunster and Martin Jones.
Initially an inspirational midfield player in Dave Fuller’s Seasiders squad which won the Welsh Alliance title without losing a single game, and then enjoyed an impressive first-ever season in the Cymru Alliance, Neil was appointed Prestatyn player-manager in May 2007.
Here is a look at his 13 seasons – broken only by a nine-month spell with Connah’s Quay Nomads – at the helm for the Town.
In Gibbo’s first season in charge, Prestatyn stormed to the Cymru Alliance League title by a 15-point margin, topping the goalscoring chart with 93.
Steve Bowes, who netted more than 50 the season before, was again leading scorer with 27, but it was very much a team effort with the likes of player-manager Gibson, Jack Lewis, Dave Hayes, Jon Fisher-Cooke and Ian Griffiths all shining.
Not surprisingly, Neil was named league Manager of the Season and led the club into the Welsh Premier League for the first time.
After a remarkable community effort in getting Bastion Gardens fit to meet league criteria, Town’s first season in the WPL proved tough, but in finishing fourth bottom they avoided relegation.
A much improved campaign for Prestatyn saw them secure eighth place in the WPL and they reached the Welsh Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history, going down 2-0 to eventual winners Bangor City.
This was the first season that the WPL was reduced to 12 teams and Prestatyn impressively made the top six Championship Conference.
The Seasiders came within one win of qualifying for Europe as they reached the Europa League Play-Off Final but lost 3-2 to Neath.
Town secured their joint highest-ever WPL finish of fifth place.
A great first phase ensured Prestatyn made the upper-half again and despite a very poor phase two, they had already sealed their place in the play-offs.
On this occasion, Town lost in the semi-finals to Bala.
It was a fine season in the goal stakes for Gibson, who netted 10 in the league.
One of the greatest seasons in Town’s history saw them lift the Welsh Cup for the first time in their 103-year existence.
Gibson’s heroes defeated Bangor 3-1 in extra time in the final at the Racecourse, Wrexham, Jason Price (2) and Andy Parkinson with the goals.
There was also a third successive top six WPL finish for the Seasiders, with their cup glory securing them a debut venture into Europe.
An amazing start to the campaign as Prestatyn won their debut European tie, beating Liepajas Metalurgs of Lativa in the Europa League on penalties.
Despite going out to HNK Rijeka of Croatia in the next round, the Seasiders had created another piece of history.
Prestatyn also landed their first-ever NWCFA Challenge Cup, defeating Rhyl on spot-kicks in a remarkable final at Belle Vue which stood 5-5 after extra time.
Town led the Welsh Premier after their first three games, beating Bala, The New Saints and Bangor City, but the season rapidly went downhill.
The Seasiders finished next-bottom, only being spared relegation as Haverfordwest County, the sole Welsh League Division One team to have been awarded an FAW Domestic Licence, failed to finish in the top two of the mentioned second-tier league.
Prestatyn’s seven-season stay in the top flight came to an end as they finished rock bottom.
But what a ride it had been for a club which had operated in the Clwyd League less than 10 years before their promotion to the WPL.
Back in the Cymru Alliance for the first time since 2008, Prestatyn started the season well but finished up a disappointing eighth.
Happy days are here again as Town are crowned Cymru Alliance champions by a magnificent 16-point margin, losing just twice in a 30-game season and amassing 114 goals.
A return to the Welsh Premier is secured.
Prestatyn’s second stint in the top flight begins badly.
After winning just four of their opening 22 matches, Neil steps down during his 12th season as manager in January 2018 to become head coach at Connah’s Quay Nomads.
Gareth Wilson takes over as Seasiders boss and the campaign ends in relegation.
Gibson returns to Bastion Gardens as boss in October 2018 with Town bottom of the Cymru Alliance and struggling badly.
Fortunes are immediately transformed. Gibbo makes some astute signings and the Seasiders eventually finish a comfortable 9th.
Several former players from past glory days return to Prestatyn and the season starts brilliantly.
Town prove unstoppable, finishing up Cymru North champions for a third time, on this occasion by 16 points in a curtailed campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately, Town are denied promotion to the Cymru Premier as an inadequate TV gantry means they fail the top-flight criteria test.
After the departure of several influential players, Gibson steps down as Prestatyn Town manager on October 9, 2020, stating he disagreed with the direction the new owners were taking the club in.
By the date of his resignation, Prestatyn had not played a single game in the Cymru North in 2020-21 due to Covid-19.
NEIL GIBSON’S RECORD AS PRESTATYN TOWN MANAGER (league games only)
2007/08 (CAL): Played 32 Won 24 Drawn 4 Lost 4 Goals For 93 Goals Against 29 Position 1st.
2008/09 (WPL): Played 34 Won 8 Drawn 9 Lost 17 Goals For 48 Goals Against 70 Position 15th.
2009/10 (WPL): Played 34 Won 12 Drawn 12 Lost 10 Goals For 53 Goals Against 53 Position 8th.
2010/11 (WPL): Played 32 Won 10 Drawn 10 Lost 12 Goals For 44 Goals Against 46 Position 5th.
2011/12 (WPL): Played 32 Won 8 Drawn 4 Lost 20 Goals For 41 Goals Against 63 Position 6th.
2012/13 (WPL): Played 32 Won 11 Drawn 7 Lost 14 Goals For 62 Goals Against 79 Position 5th.
2013/14 (WPL): Played 32 Won 9 Drawn 8 Lost 15 Goals For 42 Goals Against 47 Position 11th.
2014/15 (WPL): Played 32 Won 4 Drawn 6 Lost 22 Goals For 43 Goals Against 86 Position 12th.
2015/16 (CAL): Played 30 Won 14 Drawn 3 Lost 13 Goals For 61 Goals Against 50 Position 8th.
2016/17 (CAL): Played 30 Won 26 Drawn 2 Lost 2 Goals For 114 Goals Against 35 Position 1st
2017/18 (WPL): Played 22 Won 4 Drawn 3 Lost 15 Goals For 23 Goals Against 53 (departed club 24/1/18)
2018/19 (CAL): Played 21 Won 10 Drawn 4 Lost 7 Goals For 45 Goals Against 32 Position 9th (returned as manager 8/10/18)
2019/20 (Cymru North): Played 26 Won 22 Drawn 2 Lost 2 Goals For 84 Goals Against 19 Position 1st
STATS (league matches only)
GOALS FOR: 753
GOALS AGAINST: 662
Cymru Alliance League champions 2007/08, 2016/17, 2019/20
Welsh Premier – Europa League Play-Off Finalists 2010/11 (8 seasons in top league in Wales)
Welsh Cup winners 2012/13
NWCFA Challenge Cup winners 2012/13
UEFA Europa League entrants 2013/14