This year, the Welsh Premier League starts its 20th season and whilst it’s had its difficulties, it’s critics and it’s doubters, the fact that Wales has its own national football league is undoubtedly a good thing.
We might not play in the league, our fans may even be amongst its most hardened naysayers and whilst our club has never been one to trawl the league for young talent, that possibly says more about us than it does the league.
Rather than belittling the league at every turn, we should be embracing it and scouring it for talent.
As Craig Jones (Bury) and Rhys Griffiths (Plymouth Argyle) become the latest in an ever growing line of players to have graduated from the Welsh Premier League to the Football League we have to start scratching our heads to remember the last signings we made from the pool of talent on our own doorstep.
Steve Evans from TNS was an excellent acquisition. A no nonsense centre half who did exactly what was required of him and even popped up with the odd goal or two, but before Evans, we have to go back as far as Lee Trundle and Paul Roberts.
Trundle, like him or loathe him, was a huge success after joining us from Rhyl as his 30 goals in 70-odd matches prove. Ironically enough we could have done the double this summer and signed him again as he left Neath and the Welsh Premier League to join Preston North End!
Of course, those who say we shouldn’t be looking to the Welsh Prem for talent use Paul Roberts as their yardstick. The £10,000 signing from Porthmadog was one of Brian Flynn’s few transfer dead ducks.
Rumour has it that Wrexham were torn between Roberts and Eifion Williams who was, at the time, banging in the goals for Caernarfon Town with Flynn plumping for Roberts.
Williams later moved to Barry Town for £25,000 before graduating to the Football League with Torquay, Hartlepool and then finished his career with us … literally … the injury he suffered whilst scoring his only goal in a red shirt against Bury meant he never played again!
The club certainly uses the Welsh Prem to test its young players. Obi Anouro, Max Penk and Nick Rushton have all spent season long loans at Newtown whilst Anthony Stephens is currently at Prestatyn and Steve Tomasen is at Airbus.
Jamie Reed spent time on loan at Aberystwyth before being released by Wrexham. Having played for Rhyl and Bangor City, Reed now finds himself back in the Football League with York City.
The path between Wrexham and the Welsh Premier League is a well-trodden one … however it does seem to be one-way traffic.
But if Plymouth and Bury can see the talent under our noses, perhaps it’s time to take a look at that path once more.