Gary Powell will always be remembered as one of the standout players from Rhyl FC’s golden era under John Hulse.
The former Everton and Wigan Athletic forward turns 52 today, having been born in Hoylake, Wirral, on April 2, 1969.
Gary had three spells at Belle Vue, the third of which between 2002-09 was by far the most successful.
He began his senior career at Everton before embarking on a tour of the lower divisions of the Football League.
Short stints at Lincoln City and Scunthorpe United led to a two-year stay with Wigan Athletic between 1991-93.
Bury and Macclesfield Town were his next stops before signing for Altrincham in December 1993.
It was not long before Gary began a close relationship Welsh soccer which included brief spells at Bangor City (1994), Rhyl (1995), Flint Town United (1996), Rhyl again (1996) and Conwy United (1997) before he finally settled at TNS Llansantffraid, where he helped the club land their first Welsh Premier title in 1999-2000.
He remained with the Saints until 2002, when he returned to Rhyl for a third time with new manager John Hulse in charge.
This was to be a highly successful period in the Lilywhites’ history, beginning in 2002-03 with the lifting of the Welsh Premier League Cup.
In 2003-04 Rhyl hit new heights as they claimed an unprecedented quadruple of Welsh Premier League title, Welsh Cup, League Cup and NWCFA Challenge Cup, and reached the prestigious FAW Premier Cup final, where they lost to Wrexham after knocking out Swansea City in the semis.
Gary scored 14 goals in that season, including the winner over Newport County in the Premier Cup, and a hat-trick in the 6-1 Challenge Cup final beating of Halkyn United.
As a result of their successes, Rhyl qualified for the Uefa Champions League and Gary netted the club’s first-ever goal in Europe in a 3-1 home loss to Skonto Riga of Latvia (they were beaten 7-1 on aggregate).
In 2005/06, Rhyl became at the time only the second Welsh Premier club to win a tie in Europe when they triumphed on away goals against FK Atlantas of Lithuania after a 4-4 overall outcome.
The Lilies won the home leg 2-1 and despite losing 3-2 away that was enough to send them through. Gary scored a cracker in Lithuania to ensure the Welsh side’s passage.
He was also in the squad which won the 2005/06 Welsh Cup, beating Bangor 2-0 at Wrexham, although he did not make the final cut on the day.
After John Hulse stepped down in 2008, Gary stayed on at Belle Vue as assistant-manager.
He left the club in 2009, having made 220 competitive appearances and scoring 45 goals, and in June 2010 joined Chester, where he was first-team coach to Neil Young before departing in January 2014.
Gary later became first team coach at Stockport County.
Always popular with fans because of his friendly and bubbly personality, Gary enjoyed a great relationship with Rhyl supporters in particular.
Happy birthday mate – your name will always be treasured among Rhyl FC fans of the Hulse era and before and beyond.
Gary Powell’s Rhyl FC playing record (subject to confirmation)
1994/95: Appearances 18 (1) Goals 5
1995/96: Appearances 31 (1) Goals 5
1996/97: Appearances 10 Goals 4
2002/03: Appearances 30 (21) Goals 12
2003/04: Appearances 30 (15) Goals 14
2004/05: Appearances 7 (29) Goals 2
2005/06: Appearances 6 (15) Goals 3
2007/08: Appearances 0 (3) Goals 0
2008/09: Appearances 1 (1) Goals 0
2009/10: Appearances 0 (1) Goals 0
Competitive Appearances: 133 (plus 87 as sub = 220 matches)
Welsh Premier appearances: 147
Welsh Premier Goals: 29