By Terry Phillips
Gavin Williams is planning to lead Merthyr Town on a Southern League promotion mission during 2020-21.
Merthyr-born former Wales International Williams, a lifelong Cardiff City supporter, will again be working with one of the lowest squad budgets in the Southern Premier, but he believes the Martyrs can challenge near the top.
The 2019-20 season was halted early because of the coronavirus pandemic and Williams said: “That was the strangest season I have experienced since I arrived at Merthyr Town six years ago.
“A mid-table finish is not what everybody looks forwards to and Merthyr Town supporters will be disappointed we did not finish close to the play-off positions.
“The players and management share their frustration.
“We appreciate the continued excellent support from fans, especially those who, week after week, make long journeys to support the players. Year after year we have what must be the best away support at this level of football.
“Our aim is to play an entertaining passing game, but the goals did not arrive for us. Frustratingly, we missed half a dozen penalties which, if put away, would have improved our league position.
“On the positive side we had the fourth best defensive record in the league with an average of 1.19 goals conceded per game.”
The Martyrs were hit hard by injuries and over the last four matches played Williams could only name two substitutes.
“Fans may have been bemused that we had a pretty threadbare squad towards the end of the season,” added Williams, a former West Ham, Yeovil and Bristol Rovers midfield player.
“Because we did not have a youth team last season it meant that when injuries built up there were no young players to fill in.
“When the academy is reconstituted in the new season the youth team will operate again, providing a greater choice of players.”
Merthyr are a Welsh team competing in the English pyramid and that means they are unable to sign players on dual contracts with other clubs.
Others in the Southern Premier can do that, but Merthyr, as members of the Football Association of Wales, do not have that option.
The club’s directors are working hard to back Williams, but he fully understands the difficulties faced by the club.
“The board, staff and volunteers are all working to develop the club, which is still recovering from the difficulties of two years ago, and build finances.
“We, as a management team, realise that we have to continue to work with a budget that fits the clubs aim of progress through stability.
“Hopefully, the new season will start on time and we will start, once again, determined to be competitive in league and cup competitions.”
There is one automatic promotion place available from Southern Premier football – Truro City were top of the table when the season ended – with the next four teams qualifying for the play-offs.
Chesham United, Hayes and Yeading, Swindon Supermarine and Tiverton were in those slots when the 2019-20 campaign was abandoned, while the Martyrs were 13th.
“Clubs who were at the top of various leagues at our level will be frustrated that their opportunity for promotion has been snatched from them, but the decision was the least worst option,” added Williams.