By Mackenzie Thomas
Former Wales international Gavin Williams has stepped down from his role as manager of Merthyr Town – who have replaced him with Dean Clarke.
Former West Ham, Ipswich and Yeovil playmaker Williams is taking a break from football in order to re-assess his options, at least temporarily, after Merthyr took the decision to suspend playing until the start of next season because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Williams, also a former youth team player at Cardiff City, has resigned after four-and-a-half years in charge.
Known for his refined, attacking, possession-based style of play, he led the Martyrs to the Southern play-off semi-finals in his first season in charge in 2017, before mid-table finishes over the last two seasons.
Despite financial problems at Merthyr since his appointment, Williams has continued to drive the club forward on one of the smallest budgets in the Southern League Premier South Division.
Taking on that challenge now in the Penydarren Park hot-seat is Clarke, a former player for Hereford, Cheltenham, Newport County, Bath and Barry Town United.
Clarke joined the Martyrs as a player in the summer of 1998 and is well known for his contribution to Merthyr’s promotion fight during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, as well as enjoying success when the club won the Toolstation Western League after their reformation in 2010/11.
The 43-year-old originally joined the backroom staff in 2016, alongside Ashely Thomas and Williams, after the departure of former Huddersfield Town and Wales international, Steve Jenkins.
Clarke told the club’s website: “It’s an absolute privilege to manage this football club. After being a player, an assistant manager, and now a manager, I look forward to the journey ahead and hopefully we can have a successful period.
“I would personally like to thank Gav for bringing me to the club in first place as his assistant. I’ve learnt a lot from him which will only benefit me going forward.
“He has been a great servant to the club over the years and has been a pleasure to work with.”
Merthyr – who mothballed their operations last summer – paid tribute to Williams’ time in charge and said in a statement, “We are grateful to Gavin for what he has achieved in his time as first team manager of the Martyrs.
“After the first season ended in play-off heartbreak, losing out to Hitchin in the semi-finals on penalties, Gavin committed his future to the club.
“The following seasons introduced some challenges with off-field issues impacting directly on the first team squad.
“Gavin continued his positivity and productive work, including key recruitment. The last two seasons began to take its toll, with small squads travelling away from home and, the loss of 10 first team players at the end of the 2019/20 season, and the suspension of football in 2020/21.
“His dedication, time and service will always be remembered, and endlessly thanked by everyone at Merthyr Town Football Club. We wish Gavin all the very best for the future. “
Despite their current season being shelved back in September, an agreement was made between the league and Merthyr to retain their league status for the upcoming campaign and are set to compete in their sixth consecutive season in the seventh tier of English Football.