Gail Naylor Jones is a true pioneer of women’s football in North Wales.
Back when she was 16, she played men’s Sunday football in the area – something that up to then was unheard of.
Over the years, she progressed into a top class performer for teams like Colwyn Bay and Llandudno Junction ladies, picking up many a trophy along the way.
She is one of the nicest people you could come across – passionate about her sport, especially where there is a Welsh connection.
Gail is the fifth player featured in our series of North Wales Greats.
What is your fondest early memory of playing football?
Being captain of the Ysgol Capelulo, Dwygyfylchi, football team at the age of 10.
Was it easy to find girls football teams in your area as a youngster?
There were no female teams at all locally in my younger days.
I played for a men’s pub team at the age of 16 (Dwygyfylchi Hotel – then known by her maiden name Gail Evans).
I used to get a kicking now and again from the men who didn’t like me beating them to the ball etc but I could hold my own .
Where have been your happiest times playing football?
I was at my happiest playing at Colwyn Bay ladies, we had a superb squad and our pitch and club house were lush.
We won the North Wales Cup against the mighty Pwllheli Ladies, there was always a real battle between both teams…both consisted of quality players.
My late husband Maurice Naylor and our new coach Karl Rigby started up the Junction Ladies team in 2005. Again we had a really good squad with some fantastic players.
Maurice scouted and encouraged a lot of players to join us.
Karl Rigby was my favourite coach. He was focused and direct and he made fitness a top of priority.
We qualified to play in the Welsh Premier League with Junction. Our biggest game was making the Welsh Cup quarter-finals against Cardiff City ladies in 2011/12. We lost just 1-0. The Cardiff team consisted of 9 internationals on the day and so we felt extremely proud.
Most memorable game?
Winning my late husband’s memorial trophy ‘The Maurice Naylor Shield’ in 2012 with our Junction ladies team.
We had been runners-up the previous seasons.
What were your main strengths and weaknesses as a player?
The best qualities to my game were my strength, pace and first touch…my main weakness was that I didn’t accept losing too well!
Yet, I coached junior and youth boys and girls teams for many, many years alongside playing myself and would always stress to them that it was imperative to accept losing as well as winning matches.
How do you feel the women’s game has progressed in recent years?
The women’s game is huge today and rightly so. There are some truly awesome players/athletes in Wales. The coverage and support for women in the game has come a long way. Clubs now receive a lot of funding to encourage girls teams …it’s all good!
Best player played alongside?
The best player I have ever played with is Rhiannon Mahoney (Noni). She was a natural on the ball with superb pace and unbelievable trickery. I played at Colwyn Bay and Junction with Noni.
The toughest opponent I ever played against was Erica Jones (Pwllheli). She was as hard as nails and her timing in the tackle was immaculate.
Your top 5 all-time North Wales players faced?
Shan Jones (Caernarfon Town), Ashleigh Hayes (Wrecsam – now AFC Fylde, previously Stoke City), Alison Mummery (Caernarfon) Katie Williams (Caernarfon), Erica Jones (Pwllheli).
What involvement (if any) do you have in football nowadays?
The only involvement I have in football now is as a supporter of one of my sons when he plays and as a supporter of my young grandson who plays at the Wrecsam Academy….oh and also of my beloved Arsenal 😉