North Wales women’s football greats: No 2 – Iona Williams

Iona (right) with Bangor City goalkeeper Jo Roberts on Wales duty

What’s your full name, date of birth and where are you from?

My full name is Iona Wyn Williams. I’m from Llanrug but now live in Caernarfon. I turn 40 in February!

When did your interest in football start? What attracted you to the game?

I have always been interested in football since I can remember. I was brought up on an estate full of boys. I also have an older brother so we all played football in the street. I was also brought up 20 yards from a football pitch so I spent a lot of time there playing football. I was basically a tomboy.

Who were your first team? Did you win any trophies?

Bangor City U-16’s Welsh Cup winners

My first girls team was Bangor City Girls U16’s. This was a fantastic team and we won the Welsh Cup at the first attempt.

Our team was full of Welsh internationals which included Tania Jones, Ceryl Jones, Jo Roberts and Cheryl Foster. The team was packed with talent.

What position did you specialise in? Did you always play in this position?

My main position was centre midfield. I started as a striker at junior level and scored a few goals but as I moved into senior football I realised that I wasn’t quick enough to be a striker. I settled into a midfield role and passed the ball to much quicker players to score the goals.

When did you start playing senior football and for whom?

I started playing senior football for Bangor City Ladies at the age of 16. I was training with the club at the age of 15 and as soon as I turned 16 I played for the senior team.

You were a member of a very successful Bangor City sides which won the Welsh Cup in 2000-01 and 2001-02. What was special about that team? Which players made things tick the most?

Bangor City’s 2002 Welsh Cup winners celebrate

The Bangor City squad around 2000 was the best I have ever played with. We had a pick of all the best players in North Wales as we were the most successful team around.

Gill Smith would travel from Chester to training twice a week and Alwen Williams would travel from Blaenau Ffestiniog. So we had a choice of all the best players in between.

At one time I played in a midfield with Tania Jones, Ceryl Jones, Siwan Elenid, Manon Lloyd-Williams (all Welsh internationals) and now they are lifelong friends. I was Siwan’s bridesmaid when she got married a few years ago.

We played in the English pyramid where we operated one level below the FA Women’s Premier League National Division in the Northern Division where we once finished runners-up.

The big hitters in the Premier then were Arsenal and Doncaster Belles. We played against Arsenal in the 5th round of the FA Cup and lost 5-1. This isn’t a bad score when you consider that Man City Women have scored 7 past super league opposition in their last 2 games.

We were also the first Welsh club to represent Wales in the UEFA Women’a Cup in 2002-03. We had a trip to Poland to play among the best teams in Europe.

We played 3 games in a week in front of a crowd of 2,500 which was unreal.

The best team by far were Helsinki. They were so powerful and dominated the game. We lost all 3 games but did ourselves and Wales proud.

Bangor City Girls Welsh Cup Final triumphs
1996/97 Bangor City 3-0 Newcastle Emlyn (Park Avenue, Aberystwyth)
2000/01 Bangor City 3-0 Newport County (Newtown)
2001/02 Bangor City 4-2 Newport County (Caersws)
City were runners-up in five other finals

You went on to play for Caernarfon Town and enjoyed more success. How good was this side? Did the fact you were playing alongside past team-mates at Bangor help you?

Iona went on to achieve lots of success with Caernarfon Town

I left football for a year and went travelling after I finished university. I came back to a big change. A lot of players had left, the club moved to Caernarfon and had made a decision to leave the English system. We played locally with a very good team and dominated for a few years.

Llandudno Junction then became a dominant player in women’s football in North Wales. I’ve had many a battle against Llandudno and I will never forget a tackle by Stacey Tradewell where she broke my shin pad in half right down the middle.

You played Swansea City in both the Welsh Cup final and Welsh Premier national play-offs for Caernarfon between 2009-11. What was it like playing in those games ?

We played against Swansea on many occasions and for a few years we were the top 2 teams in Wales so it was always a battle against them.

The South Wales team that will stay in my mind for a long time is Barry Town. For years we were the best two teams in Wales and the Welsh squad was made up of players from these 2 teams.

There was good rivalry off the pitch but never any friends on the pitch. They had old heads in the team, the likes of Kathryn Morgan, Ayshea Martin, Wendy O’Reilly and the list goes on.

I will never forget playing them in the semi-final of the 2000-01 Welsh Cup.

They were the favourites and had beaten us a few times but we were so up for the game. From the minute the ref blew his whistle we did not stop battling. We won the game 4-0 and it was a big upset.

Do you still play at all or are you retired now?

I am now retired. I retired when I got pregnant with my first child. I have signed for Caernarfon this season as a stand-by player and I do get the odd phone call from Tania asking if I can play.

I did put my boots back on for one game and that was the last Sunday before the first lockdown, I think I jinxed things!!

Of the players playing today in North Wales, are there any you feel can progress far in the game?

I do believe that the players in North Wales don’t get the opportunities they deserve as we live on the wrong end of the A470.

I think there are a couple of players around who deserved a chance at a higher level, Lexi Crawley and Jordanne Greenough to name two, but I guess they’re not that young any more!

Did you play internationally at all? Or play any representative football?

I did play international football for a few years. I played for Wales U-16 numerous times and then moved on to Wales U-18’s where I was lucky enough to be captain.

When I was 17 I had a call up to the senior squad.

I’d just arrived home from school and I had a phone call from the Wales manager Roy Thomas asking me to travel with the squad to Poland the following week.

Tania, Ceryl and Manon were also in the squad so it was like going on holiday to play football with my mates.

Iona and fellow Wales internationals Tania Jones, Cheryl Foster, Manon Lloyd Williams and Ceryl Jones

The following year I went travelling for 12 months and because of this I feel I missed my opportunity to secure a place in the senior squad.

I missed an A level maths exam to travel to Spain to the European Championships with Wales U-18’s. I had to sit the exam on my own when I returned and I didn’t do very well!

What was the No 1 highlight of your football career?

Bangor’s 1997 Welsh Cup winning squad

I have many highlights in my football career. Being the captain of Wales was an honour and winning the first Welsh Cup with Bangor City Ladies in 1996-97 was special.

Who was your hardest ever opponent?

I’m not sure who is the hardest opponent I have ever played against but if I look closer to home, Gill Smith a team mate at Bangor City was always a pain to play against in training. She was all elbows and was physical. I loved the battles though.

What aspect of being a footballer did you enjoy the most?

Being in a team. When we were in the English league with Bangor City we spent hours together on a bus travelling away to places like Sunderland, Leeds and Birmingham just to name a few.

These girls have become lifelong friends and I thank football for that.

Have you ever considered entering management or coaching? or have you already done this?

Iona with children Mollie and Tobi

I have done a bit of coaching in my time. I completed my C Licence a good few years ago now.

The reason I don’t coach now is I don’t have the time. I work full time as a Sports Development Manager for Bangor University and I have 2 young kids.

If I had the time I would still play, I don’t think I’m quite over the hill yet.

My seven-year-old daughter has no interest in football but my son, who is 3, is football mad. When he joins a club of course I’ll be involved.

Copyright Dave Jones © All rights reserved. CoverNews by AF themes.
%d bloggers like this: