End of season chat with Holywell Town Reserves title-winning manager Karl Bacon

Holywell Town’s first team have enjoyed plenty of success in recent seasons and now their reserves are in the news as well!

Holywell Town Reserves are the first winners of the FAW Reserve North West League, having won 19 and lost just one of their 22 games in 2021-22.

Grassroots North Wales interviewed Wellmen Reserves manager KARL BACON about the team’s tremendous campaign.

ALL FANTASTIC PHOTOS COURTESY OF LEE PAUL DOUGLAS

Grassroots North Wales

How does it feel to be the first-ever FAW Cymru Reserves North West champions?

Karl Bacon

It feels great and it’s thoroughly deserved. All the hard work has all been worth it and paid off. All the homework and travelling to watch other teams in our league on week nights and our weekends off have all paid off. It’s the players I’m happy for, nobody deserves it more than those lads.

GNW

What targets did you set at the start of the season and have you achieved them all?

KB

Initially in the early weeks of taking over we set a target of building a squad we felt was good enough to compete week in week out in the league. We kept the players we wanted to keep and recruited players we felt would improve and strengthen not just the starting eleven but the squad as a whole.
I do feel that the recruitment and signings have played a big part in our success along with the depth we have in our squad, for every position we have at least two options.

Once we were happy with the squad we had assembled we only set ourselves one target…..Win the league! At the start of the season myself and my assistants made it clear to all the players that we have one aim, and that was to win the league. We weren’t taking part just to make up the numbers.

GNW

One of the main aims/functions of a reserve side is to produce players good enough for the first team, have there been examples of this happening in 2021-22?

KB

100%! I feel we have 100% “produced players good enough for the first team”. You only have to look at the stats Sam Edwards has produced this season, those kinds of stats should be impossible to look past.

Kyle Wilkes has had a period in the season where he was on 10 goals in 9 games, again very hard to look past that kind of form.

Then there’s Connor Massey who’s had 8 clean sheets this season and has made saves which have been just as if not more important than the goals at times.

There’s also Aidan Bell who at times has been the main driving force behind the team, the engine if you like. He hasn’t put the stats on the board that he would maybe have wanted himself but I know myself and my assistants are extremely happy with his footballing performances on the pitch.

What he’s offered to us this season nobody else can replicate, when he was serving a ban it stood out that he wasn’t there in the middle of the park.

Over the season we’ve had lads training with the first team regularly, on occasions lads have been called up to the first team match day squad for league games.

Owen Hallmark, Joe Jones and Sam Edwards have been called up to first team squads this season. Jay Norbury has got 23 minutes in five call ups for the firsts. You don’t win a reserve league if you don’t have players good enough to be competing for first team opportunities.

So yeah I’d say we have 100% produced players good enough for the first team. On the other hand, though, and on a more selfish note personally, I could say it’s a blessing in disguise that we haven’t lost these players to the first team because we may not have achieved what we did without them.

It’s a goal for Holywell Town Reserves! Kyle Wilkes almost bursts the net!

GNW

What has been the secret of your success this season?

KB

Not getting ahead of ourselves. At the end of every game we rarely got carried away with the celebrations as we instantly looked ahead to the next game and the next challenge. We constantly told the lads “Small steps” and “One week at a time”. We always stayed grounded.

GNW

Who have been your toughest opponents? Ruthin were the only team to beat you in the league and they finished second. How good a team are they?

KB

Toughest opponents I have to say were Llandudno. In both games against them, they pushed us and made us think more tactically. Their movement off the ball was sublime and caused us real problems when we played them away.

Ruthin are clearly a good side as they came second, I think they could have pushed us all the way to the final week if they really wanted to.

(Manager) Jamie’s like us, he has brought a first team standard to a reserve team, which sets the foundations up to be built on.

Once you get the foundations right the only way is up hence both clubs finishing first and second. Again like us they did some good business in the January transfer window, they brought in 2 or 3 lads who really added some quality and depth to their squad.

They pushed us all the way week after week until they lost 3-0 to Nantlle Vale, but prior to that they were “hot on our heels” and they were definitely a reason why we kept on going and going and winning and winning.

There was a good turnout for Holywell Town Reserves’ game at Mostyn against Porthmadog Reserves where they celebrated their title success

GNW

Have your matches been well supported generally?

KB

Every home game we have had 90+, away games we’ve had a regular following of 30+. When we lifted the cup there had to be a couple of hundred there.

The support we have had hasn’t gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated by myself and everyone at the reserves. For a reserve team the support we’ve had has been special so thank you to all the fans.

Holywell’s Mayor Cllr Ted Palmer and Reserves captain Ashley Davies

GNW

With there not being a promotion path for the reserves, is your aim to repeat all this again next season and possibly better it?

KB

That’s one of the negative things about this league and the structure. Once you’ve won it there’s nowhere to go, you’ve done it, you’ve won it but there’s nowhere to go afterwards to test yourselves further as a league winning side.

Of course the aim is always to defend what you’ve won and do what’s needed to retain that champion’s title. Everyone raises their game against the top team, everyone has that extra 20% in the tank when they play against you, everyone digs that bit deeper when they play against you. As champions you become the number one team everyone wants to beat.

Holywell Reserves did not receive a trophy from the FAW on the night for winning the league, but made the most of it by buying their own and adding in an inflatable Champions League effort!

GNW

How has the new league worked for you in general? The reviews have been mixed as to how the new pyramid has worked.

KB

My opinions of the league are mixed to be honest. The amount of teams that pull out of games last minute or postpone games due to not having enough players is ridiculous and I feel the punishments should be harder to try and prevent this from happening as much as it did this season.

This is exactly why we signed a full squad with depth and quality throughout. Not to mention that no FAW representative came to personally present the league cup and that the FAW didn’t provide any medals, we had to go out and buy our own league winners medals.

One huge positive about this league though is that you know every game is at a quality ground on quality surfaces, and that only builds towards the atmosphere, the professionalism and the standard of football being played.

Celebration time for the management of Holywell Reserves. Manager Karl Bacon is second left (green shorts)

GNW

How have you found this season as a manager?

KB

Considering I initially only took it on until someone else was found to take the reins, I have to say on the pitch I’ve loved every second of it.

The squad we built and the mixture of characters and personalities are what’s made it such an enjoyable experience.

I have to say I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my assistants Chris Foster and Geraint Rowlands along with goalkeeper coach Jamie Sharp.

As much as the players are a team, we’re the team behind the team, as a management team we have all complimented each other perfectly and that has got the best out of the players on the pitch which has resulted in us winning the league.

GNW

What are your future ambitions within football?

KB

I haven’t looked that far ahead, we played our last game of the season yesterday and we’ve only ever looked ahead towards the next game.

I haven’t let anything else distract myself or the team from anything else but our next challenge.

Now the season’s finished I will have a few weeks away from football to reflect and relax.

From a personal perspective I love playing ice hockey and with the new season fastly approaching, the reopening of Deeside ice rink and the return of the Deeside Dragons ice hockey club I will get myself into the gym and back onto the ice asap in preparation for the upcoming trials.

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