Welshman Damon Searle has high hopes for three of his former clubs – Cardiff City, Newport County and Barry Town United.
He believes his beloved Bluebirds will stay in the Championship, County can still retain their Football League status and when I asked about Barry’s bid for promotion to the Welsh Premier, Sparkle says: “Why not? Why shouldn’t we have a right go at it over the rest of this season?”
Defender Searle, 45, made more than 650 first team appearances during his full-time career. He earned promotion with the Bluebirds in 1993 when Eddie May was managed, while he played 72 matches for Newport over two years from 2006 and helped them win the FAW Trophy.
He has also had major roles at Barry Town United as a player and coach, helping the former Welsh Premier League champions re-establish their reputation as a high calibre, successful club.
Today, Searle works closely with manager Gavin Chesterfield and coach Mike Coslett at Barry Town.
They were once the most powerful club in Welsh domestic football and won a unique trophy quadruple of League title, League Cup, FAW Trophy and Welsh Cup, beating Cardiff City in from of 16,000 spectators at the old National Stadium in 1993.
Two decades later, in 2013, Barry were withdrawn from the Welsh League by then owner Stuart Lovering, but club fans and officials refused to let that happen without a fight.
They now stand within reach of promotion back to the top flight of domestic football in Wales, lying second in Division One of the Welsh League. They are two points behind leaders Goytre FC with a game in hand.
Only one team can be promoted to the Welsh Premier League, but Barry have launched a powerful challenge.
Searle says . . . . on Barry Town United, who play Caldicott away this Saturday:
“We reached the Nathaniel MG Cup final against TNS and even though we lost that was a massive evening for our club.
“Players and fans did Barry proud against a TNS team who had earned 27 wins and a draw in their previous 28 fixtures.
“Saints scored four goals in the end and won the trophy, but final was a testament to how far we have come as a club over three or four years.
“We have 14 League fixtures left now – and every one will be a cup final for us. Why can’t Barry Town be a Welsh Premier League club again?
“The infrastructure is in place. We have Academy kids coming through all all set to go, the pitch at Jenner Park is spot on and everybody is pulling together for our club.
“The next step, of course, would be to go up, but there are a lot of teams vying for promotion.
“Cardiff Met have proved it can be done. They earned a place in the Welsh Premier and are in the top half of the table.
“They’ve done a great job, but we need another Southern team at the top level. I’d like to think that could be Barry Town.
“Everybody in the town seems to be behind us and together we can achieve an awful lot.”
On Newport County, who are bottom of League Two and take on leaders Doncaster Rovers at Rodney Parade this Friday:
“I always check out County’s results and would love to see them stay up this season.
“They have a chance, of course, and I’d be delighted if they achieve that. Let’s hope they don’t leave it as late as we did at Carlisle United when goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored an 95th minute winner against Plymouth Argyle at Brunton Park to keep us up in 1999.
“Newport fans were always good to me over the two seasons I was there, I have find memories of playing for County.
“It would be great if they can stay in the Football League.”
On Cardiff City, where Searle works full-time as a commercial sales executive:
“The manager (Neil Warnock) is a highly experienced manager and we are making solid progress on the pitch. It would be good if City can move up the table, ensure they finish well away from trouble and build for next season.”