It was a season where ‘Golden Oldies’ most certainly proved their worth in the Cymru Premier

The evergreen George Horan. Picture: NIK MESNEY, NCM MEDIA

And they claim it’s a young man’s game….

Consider this. Three of the very best players in the Cymru Premier League last season were aged 39, 37 and 35 respectively.

And many other star performers in the 2020-21 campaign were well beyond the 30 mark.

It used to be said by some in football that 30 was ‘getting on’ and 35 was ‘past it’.

Not a chance.

Connah’s Quay Nomads captain George Horan was 39 in February yet he remains one of the best centre backs in the league.

Not only that, he is – and continues to be – arguably the finest goal scoring defender the league has seen, alongside the likes of Tim Edwards and Steve Evans.

Mike Wilde, second top-scorer in the league in 2020-21, made it back-to-back titles for Nomads and plundered the all-important hat-trick which went a long way towards securing the championship in a 4-1 win over The New Saints.

The 37-year-old was in a different class that day at Park Hall, unplayable.

And the overall leading marksman in the CPL was 35-year-old Chris Venables of Bala Town, who scooped the Golden Boot for a fifth time.

Unkind pessimists may argue the league has players like Horan, Wilde and Venables as its shining lights because they are too advanced in age to stand out anywhere else.

After all, the CPL still has a pretty low coefficient in Europe, so is it perhaps a glorified old folks home?

However, another way of looking at it is managers like Andy Morrison and Colin Caton have an uncanny knack of extending the careers of these evergreen icons through the right training methods.

I have little doubt that the aforementioned trio could still do a job in the National League or even (perhaps this is pushing it a little) League Two.

These guys have looked after themselves and finish games as strongly as lads much younger.

In recent discussions on the 10th anniversary of the 12-team Cymru Premier, one of the most popular comments was standards have risen.

Results in Europe have improved considerably and the CPL is no longer a one-team league.

For the past two seasons, Connah’s Quay Nomads have knocked full-timers TNS off their perch, which is extremely healthy for the league.

For evidence on how good our product now is, just look back on last Saturday’s Euro Play-Off Final.

Caernarfon Town 3 Newtown 5 was an absolute stormer of a game, the match of the season. Okay, at times the defending left a lot to be desired, but the attacking play of both teams was scintillating.

And there were plenty of experienced heads involved in that game too, who lasted the pace as well as anyone.

Caernarfon’s Gareth Edwards is 37, the majestic Darren Thomas 34 and Town’s talented striker Michael Hayes is 33.

Of course the league has produced or nurtured plenty of young talent too, lads who have gone on to bigger things.

Priestley Farquharson, Rhys Healey and Ben Cabango to name just three.

Yes, there is scope for plenty of improvement. The league could be much better, but when it comes to making the best of what we have, we’ve never had it so good.

Let’s celebrate a few ‘Golden Oldies’

George Horan
Born: February 17, 1982 (age 39)

George Horan lifts the league championship trophy with Nomads. Pic: NIK MESNEY, NCM MEDIA

With well over 400 Cymru Premier appearances to his name and approaching 50 goals, George was as brilliant as usual in 2020-21.
His attacking danger from set pieces was awesome and he remained as strong as ever at the back. It will be a sad day for the league when he finally hangs up his boots.

Mike Wilde
Born: August 27, 1983 (age 37)

Wilde celebrates another goal at TNS. Pic: NIK MESNEY, NCM MEDIA

Mike targeted 200 Cymru Premier goals at the start of the season and made it in style.
His target-man play was magnificent, especially when he destroyed old club TNS with a first-half hat-trick in a pivotal 4-1 victory.

Chris Venables
Born: July 23, 1985 (age 35)

The 35-year-old attacking midfielder made it back-to-back Cymru Premier top scorer titles after heading the 2020-21 chart with 24 goals.
It was his fifth Golden Boot in all and second in succession in a Bala shirt. He also passed 200 career goals in the league.
Venners was as razor sharp as he’s been in 2020-21, fit as a fiddle and displaying tremendous finishing.

Mike Hayes
Born: November 21, 1987 (age 33)

Breathed new life into his career with a sensational season for Caernarfon, ending up the team’s top scorer whose general all-round forward play was outstanding.
Never better than when he scored twice in the Euro Play-Off semi-final in the Canaries’ 3-1 win over Barry Town United.

Darren Thomas
Born: January 20, 1987 (age 34)

The Cofi Messi delighted everyone associated with the club when he signed a new two-year deal before the Euro Play-Off semi-final victory against Barry.
In an ideal world, his wonderful finish in the final against Newtown, which put Town 3-2 up in the 73rd minute, would have secured the Canaries a place in Europe.
But the Robins had other ideas.
Nonetheless, fantastic news that Caernarfon have retained the services of a club legend with 125 goals in 255 appearances on his slate until the end of 2022-23.

Antony Kay
Born: October 21, 1982 (age 38)

Picture: Bala Town FC

Former Barnsley and Huddersfield Town defender/midfielder had a great season for Bala, helping them secure yet another venture into Europe.
Popped up with useful goals alongside his fine general play.

David Cotterill
Born: December 4, 1987 (age 33)

Absolute class for a Barry side he helped get to the Euro Play-Off semis after finishing fifth in the CPL.
The former Wales winger, who played in the Premier League for Wigan Athletic, was a star turn for Barry, his dead-ball deliveries among the very best in the CPL.

Gareth Edwards
Born: July 20, 1983 (age 37)

Still as solid and reliable as ever at the back for Caernarfon, where he often had to take responsibility for guiding the talents of younger defenders alongside.
Heartbreaking for the skipper to miss out on Europe, but yet another fine season for this North Wales football stalwart.

Danny Harrison
Born: November 4, 1982 (age 38)

Midfield ace proved his worth during a season where he passed 200 appearances for the Nomads.
Former Tranmere Rovers and Rotherham United regular joined the Quay in 2015 and typifies the sort of spirit Andy Morrison has instilled in the squad.

Aeron Edwards
Born: February 16, 1988

Strange to be putting this midfield maestro into a ‘veterans’ category as he still looks so young.
But Aeron is 33 now yet proved he still has so much to offer following his transfer this season from The New Saints.
Now has 10 Cymru Premier title-winning medals in his locker and playing as well as ever, his goal clinching the 2-0 win against Penybont which ensured the Quay finished as champions.

Will they all be around next season in the Cymru Premier? Let’s hope they are!

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