Happy 60th birthday to North Wales women’s football ground-breaker Gail Naylor–Jones.
It seems strange declaring that age because the evergreen sports-lover looks nowhere near it.
Born Gail Evans on November 9, 1961, it didn’t take the youngster long to develop an interest in the beautiful game.
She was captain of the Ysgol Capelulo, Dwygyfylchi, football team at the age of 10, and in 1977 made more waves when a local newspaper wrote about her representing the otherwise all-male Dwygyfylchi Hotel side in the Sunday league.
Opportunities for female footballers were very scarce then – nothing like the buzzing scene we know today.
Gail later made her mark with the excellent Colwyn Bay Ladies side before becoming part of the Junction women’s team formed in 2005 by her late husband Maurice and Karl Rigby.
This Junction squad developed the talents of numerous future local star players, including twins Sarah and Claire Colville, Rhiannon Mahoney, Sarah Lawson, Stacey Tradewell and Sofie Owen.
Gail continued to represent the side after Junction joined a fully-national Welsh Premier Women’s League in 2012-13 and was a regular in the team until the age of 52.
As for her playing skills, defender Gail told Grassroots North Wales earlier this year: “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.”
Gail regards winger Rhiannon (Noni) Mahoney as the finest player she played alongside and rates Pwllheli defender Erica Jones as her toughest opponent.
She says winning the Maurice Naylor Cup – named after her late husband – in 2012 with Junction was the highlight of her career.
One of the nicest people you could wish to meet, proud mum and grandmother Gail still retains her love of sport through following the Wales rugby union team, her beloved Arsenal and the local football scene, male and female.
Let’s close on a message from two of Gail’s best friends from her playing days, twins Sarah and Claire Colville. Sarah now manages Llandudno Ladies, while Claire remains part of the playing squad.
“Happy 60th Birthday Fossil.
“Back in the day, Gail was the first person to welcome myself and Claire to the team as we walked up the Hotpoint Club path! “Oh wow, here’s the Colville twins, now there are the players you need to watch”
“Great memories! A legend to the game! Enjoy your time celebrating!”