15 Welsh Premier stars who progressed to the English Football League

Rhys Healey (left) was named Welsh Premier League Player of the Month for November 2012. He was 18 years old at the time and making a dynamic impact up front for Connah’s Quay Nomads. He soon landed a move to Cardiff City. Picture: Nomads website

Defender Priestley Farquharson has just become the latest player to be signed by a Football League club after making a big impression in the Cymru Premier.

The 23-year-old joined Newport County yesterday for an undisclosed fee after a sparkling 2019-20 season at Connah’s Quay Nomads where he won the JD Cymru Premier title, Nathaniel MG League Cup and CPL Young Player of the Year award.

Across its 29 years of existence the Welsh Premier has come under a fair amount of criticism over its standard of play and quality of players it produces.

While a few famous names such as Neville Southall, Clayton Blackmore and Gary Taylor-Fletcher have graced our national league, their appearances came towards the end of their playing careers.

However, a fair few have gone the other way – started off in the Cymru Premier or ended up there before being snapped up by Football League clubs after which they enjoyed varying degrees of success.

Grassroots North Wales takes a look at a few stars who played in the Cymru Premier before reaching the EFL……

Rhys Healey

Started his career at Connah’s Quay Nomads and after scoring 12 league goals for the club during the first half of the 2012-13 season, he spent time on trial with Stoke City and Manchester City.
On January 28, 2013, the then 18-year-old signed for Cardiff City. On 11 May 2014, he made his first-team debut, on the last day of the season, in a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea as a substitute in place of Craig Bellamy. The Bluebirds were relegated from the Premier League under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
Healey remained tied to Cardiff for six years, but was released on loan to Colchester United, Dundee, Newport County, Torquay United and MK Dons, before his allegiance with the latter became permanent in 2019-20 and he notched 11 goals in 19 League One outings.
This season he is banging the goals in for French Ligue 2 side Toulouse.

Jake Cassidy

After scoring 28 goals in 32 matches for Llandudno Junction of the Welsh Alliance in 2009-10, Cassidy was signed by Welsh Premier club Airbus UK Broughton in summer 2010, but his pre-season appearances were so impressive, Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers signed him immediately on a two-year deal.
He spent five years at Wolves, featuring in 20 league games, and also had spells on loan at League One Tranmere Rovers and Notts County, as well as Southend United of League Two.
In June 2015, he agreed a two-year deal with Oldham Athletic of League One, but the contract was mutually terminated after a year.
Cassidy then dropped into the National League, turning out for Guiseley, Hartlepool United, Maidstone United and Maidenhead United before returning to the Football League with Stevenage in 2019-20. He was released at the end of the season and signed for York City in August 2020.
Capped for Wales at under-19 and under-21 level, Cassidy has made 138 Football League appearances and scored 21 goals.

Ryan Hedges

Ryan Hedges in action for Wales. Picture courtesy of FAW

Former Hawarden High School pupil who spent seven years at Everton before impressing for Flint Town United in the Cymru Alliance in 2012-13.
Although he did not play in the Cymru Premier he has to be worth a big mention.
Hedges spent four years at Swansea City from 2013-17 but did not make a first-team appearance. However, he did have impressive loan spells at Leyton Orient, Stevenage and Yeovil Town which led to a permanent two-year deal at Championship club Barnsley in 2017.
He was offered a new contract at Oakwell at the end of 2018-19, but instead made a three-year commitment to Scottish Premiership club Aberdeen.
On 27 August 2020, he scored a hat-trick as The Dons won 6–0 at home against NSÍ Runavík in the Europa League first qualifying round, having only come on as a half-time substitute.
A former Welsh Schools under-18 captain, Hedges has also represented his country at U-19 and U-21 level, then made his debut for the senior side in November 2017 as a substitute during a 1-1 draw with Panama.

Steve Evans

Three-time Welsh Premier title winner with Total Network Solutions before joining Wrexham in 2006-07 and spent almost three seasons with the Football League Division Two club.
Left the Dragons, by then relegated to the Conference National, in 2008/09 and returned to TNS where he has remained ever since – winning a host of trophies – apart from a loan spell at gap Connah’s Quay.
This commanding centre-half won seven full caps for Wales while at Wrexham.

Gary Roberts

Midfielder who had brief spells at Denbigh Town and Rhyl, then short stays with Bangor City and Welshpool Town in the Welsh Premier before signing for Accrington Stanley, who went on to land the 2005/06 Conference National championship.
Roberts, 36, has gone on to play in all three divisions of the Football League, wearing the colours of Ipswich Town, Crewe Alexandra, Huddersfield Town, Swindon Town, Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic.
He joined Bala Town last November, but returned to Accrington in January 2021.
Roberts has played in 531 Football League matches and netted 99 goals.

Andy Cooke

Netted 35 goals in 80 appearances for Newtown prior to a rewarding run in the Football League, firstly with Burnley between 1995-2000, bagging 51 goals in 172 league outings.
In December 2003, Cooke was captured by Stoke City for £300,000 pocketing 23 goals in 102 appearances.
Later featured for Bradford City, Darlington and Shrewsbury Town.

Adebayo Akinfenwa

Striker who scored six goals in eight games for Barry Town before embarking on a long Football League career which includes stints with Swansea City, Torquay, Northampton, Gillingham, AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers, who he has played for since 2016 and shared in a journey from League Two to the Championship.
Has featured in more than 600 Football League matches and collected 189 goals.

Mark Delaney

When he made his full Wales debut in 1999, Delaney became the first Welsh Premier League player to progress to the national side.
Haverfordwest-born right-back Delaney spent two seasons with Carmarthen Town before Cardiff City snapped him up on a free transfer in 1998.
Eight months later Delaney was purchased for £500,000 by Premier League outfit Aston Villa, going on to play 158 matches for the Villains and winning 36 caps for Wales.

Christian Doidge

Made a big impression with Carmarthen Town in 2013/14, netting 17 Welsh Premier goals which led to a two-year stint at League Two Dagenham and Redbridge.
After an injury-ridden first season, which included a spell on loan at Dartford, Doidge returned to Daggers and ended up top-scorer in his second campaign, although the club was relegated from the Football League.
In 2016/17 Doidge joined Forest Green Rovers and his 21 goals helped the club claim a place in the Football League for the first time in their history. He went on to score 59 goals in 108 outings for the club before landing a loan move to Championship club Bolton Wanderers in 2018-19.
Now a regular marksman in the Scottish Premiership for Hibernian.

Jimmy McNulty

Left Wrexham to join Bangor City before a move to Caernarfon Town, where he was club captain, and stayed between 2004-06.
The Runcorn-born defender has gone on to develop a solid Football League career with the likes of Macclesfield Town, Stockport County, Brighton and Hove Albion, Scunthorpe United, Barnsley, Tranmere Rovers, Bury and current club Rochdale, where he is in his sixth season.

Alan Goodall

Outstanding left-back who spent three seasons at Bangor City, representing the club in Europe, before joining Rochdale in 2004.
Went on to perform in more than 300 Football League matches for the likes of Luton, Chesterfield, Fleetwood and Morecambe.

Owain Tudur Jones

Midfielder who started off with Porthmadog and then Bangor City, where he stayed for four seasons before League One Swansea City signed him for £5,000 before the 2005/06 campaign.
After four seasons at the Vetch, Jones had brief stays at Swindon Town, Norwich City, Yeovil Town and Brentford before spells in Scottish football with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Hibernian and Falkirk.
He was forced to retire through injuries in 2015 having won seven full Wales caps.

Craig Jones

One of the finest flying wingers to feature in the Welsh Premier, Jones won league titles with both Rhyl and The New Saints before joining Bury in August 2012.
Spent six seasons with the then League One club, making more than 150 appearances for the Shakers.
Returned to the Welsh Premier with Connah’s Quay Nomads for a short time in 2018-19. Won nine Wales semi-pro caps.

Lee Trundle

Lee Trundle, Wrexham (Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Played for a number of non-league clubs in the English pyramid before joining Rhyl in 2000.
Scored 15 goals in 18 appearances for the Lilywhites before a stunning hat-trick in a friendly against Wrexham led to then Dragons manager Brian Flynn attracting him to the Racecourse for a five-figure fee.
Played 78 games (+24) and scored 30 goals in a little over two years at Wrexham, then in summer 2003, received a free transfer and moved south to link up with Flynn again at Swansea City.
Scored 78 goals in 146 appearances during a four-year spell with the Swans before a £1 million move to Bristol City in 2007. Unable to command a regular first team place, he was loaned to Swansea and Leeds United, before returning to the domestic league with Neath in 2010.
After Neath were liquidated in 2012, Trundle returned to the Football League for a short spell with Preston North End. Stints with Chester and Marine precluded a move to Welsh League Division Two club Llanelli Town, where he amassed 86 goals in 59 appearances during back-to-back promotions.
Has since played for South Wales clubs Haverfordwest County, Trefelin BGC and Ammanford, scoring plenty of goals for each and is currently a Sky Sports football pundit.

Eifion Williams

Bagged 131 goals in 130 Welsh Premier starts over four prolific seasons split between Caernarfon Town and Barry Town before making his mark in the Football League with Torquay United and Hartlepool United.
Torquay paid £70,000 for his services in 1999.
He pocketed a hat-trick on his debut for the Gulls and stayed with the club for three years, scoring 24 times in 107 games.
In 2002 he joined Hartlepool United for £30,000 and grabbed 50 goals in 204 matches for the club.
Signed for Wrexham in June 2007 but decided to retire during the 2007/08 campaign.

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