Gresford Athletic Reserves title-winning manager Paul Gray steps down on a high

Celebration time for the Gresford Reserves players and management after clinching the league title. Picture: RHYS JONES OF GRESFORD ATHLETIC

One of the most impressive league title winners this season so far has to be Gresford Athletic Reserves.

Paul Gray’s side produced a magnificent effort to finish top of the FAW Reserve League North East table on goal difference from The New Saints Reserves.

With Gresford’s first team having a more than respectable campaign in the Tier 2 Cymru North, the Clappers Lane club can feel very proud of their achievements.

It was a far from easy season for the club, who had to spend time away from playing at their ground due to Covid restrictions and deal with incidents of mindless vandalism which undermines all the hard work going on there.

But Gresford Athletic rose above it to produce a fine season – and that reward for the Reserves was the icing on the cake.

Grassroots North Wales spoke to Gresford Reserves manager Paul Gray about the season gone by.

Sadly, this may well be Paul’s last interview as manager as he has decided to step down from the role. We wish you well Paul and you’ve certainly gone out on a high!

Grassroots North Wales

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

Paul Gray

It feels great to win the title after a long season.

GNW

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

PG

With it being a new league and looking at the new sides like TNS, Connah’s Quay Nomads and Airbus, a top three finish was the target so winning the league exceeded all expectations..

GNW

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

PG

Yes, I think the remit for a reserve team manager is to develop players good enough for the first team. With the first team losing a number of players during the second half of the season there have been five or six players that have stepped up and have been instrumental in the first team picking up the points to lift them clear of the Cymru North relegation zone.

GNW

What has been the secret of your success this season?

PG

I think the secret has been the togetherness of the group and instilling a winning mentality.

Gresford’s Will Roberts (left) challenges for the ball. Picture: RHYS JONES OF GRESFORD ATHLETIC

GNW

How does it feel to finish above The New Saints? They are such a dominant force at all levels, so it must be a big boost for Gresford Athletic Reserves to achieve what you have
Who have been your toughest opponents this season?

PG

Credit must go to TNS in being relentless in the chase for the title.
With the league being a mix of some teams having a good level of technical ability and others that make it a more physical challenge I think out toughest opponents have been Connah’s Quay Nomads due to the technical and tactical challenge they pose to you.

GNW

Have your matches been well supported generally?

PG

Yes as the season has progressed we have gained more support.

GNW

Do you have a close relationship with the Gresford first team?

PG

The relationship with the first team only really developed with players moving up to play in the first team in the second half of the season.

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?

PG

There is a real possibility with no pathway for promotion that the same teams will be challenging for the title again next season.

Cavan Daley (left) chases the ball for Gresford. Picture: RHYS JONES OF GRESFORD ATHLETIC

GNW

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

PG

With it being a new league, I think there was always likely to be some teething problems. The shortage of referees has been a big problem but that is not isolated to the FAW Reserve League. To win the league title the very last game of the season and having no representation or presentation of a trophy by the FAW was extremely disappointing and I think devalued the league.

GNW

How have you found this season as a manager? What are your future ambitions?

PG

Regarding my future ambitions. I have decided to step down from my role as Gresford Reserves team manager.

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