By George Willoughby
First-team manager, club secretary and social media manager Ben Murphy has been speaking to Gair Rhydd about his beloved club Ynysddu Welfare FC.
“We were founded in 1915 and through the amalgamation of the leagues we have been playing in the Gwent County league.
“Over the past three, or four years we have been very close to folding and the club has had to re-build from the bottom and we’re starting to reap the rewards of it now.”
Cup success brings excitement, and the Ynysddu manager was quick to point out the magnitude of his player’s achievement.
“The game at Monmouth was probably the biggest game in our history, but of course the game against Cefn Druids in December will comfortably be our biggest game.
It might well be our biggest game in the next 20 or 30 years.”
As well as the Welsh Cup, Ynysddu have been performing well in their respective leagues.
“We’re going through a really good period at the moment, we won the league and cup last year and the feel good factor is flowing around the club definitely.”
Ben Murphy has a long history with Ynysddu Welfare, so for him, this cup run is a proud moment.
“I’ve been involved with the club since I was 16 and was a player for 18 years. I’ve also played once or twice this season.
I took over as manager and now this is my third season.”
With multiple roles within the club, it’s fair to say Ben has a busy schedule.
“I’m flat-out to be fair, I run the social media and the website. I’m very busy but to be honest I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m a bit of a control freak.”
After recovering from on the brink of folding and numerous personnel changes within the club, Ynysddu’s cup run has been nothing short of spectacular. As a former player, and now manager, reaching the third round is special for many reasons.
“It’s two-fold really, from a playing perspective I have always believed that we’re playing a little below the level given some of our players.
In the summer we signed three or four boys who were playing in the Welsh League Two.
We just signed a boy last night who had previously played welsh Premier League.
We’ve got some exceptionally talented players so the fact we have started to show that we can mix it with some better sides and higher standards is great. But, the more important factor is that for a small club financially speaking it’s going to make a huge difference for us.
We want to set ourselves up to get the standard of the Welsh League but that’s going to cost us close to £50,000 to set a ground up from the start.
The financial reward is great, but on a personal achievement I reached the third round as a player, but to do it as a manager just tips it a little bit”.
Cefn Druids play in the top-flight of Welsh football, and they will be a stern test.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge and we’re under no illusion it doesn’t get any tougher.
We will just try and focus on things that will make it difficult for them. It’s the middle of December, they’re going to have a long journey down to the game.
They’ll come down feeling confident, but it’s one of them, nobody wants to draw you because you’re the real underdogs.
We’ll look to take advantage of any little thing we can and who knows on the day we play Cefn Druids, we’re going to need a bit of luck, but we had that against Monmouth.
We’ve got players in our side that are confident of mixing it so we should be competitive, can we win the game? we’re going to give it our very best shot”.
Preparing for the big match is vital, and Ben has a clear vision on how he wants to set his side up.
“To be honest with you, we are going to prepare for it like any other game.
I am a big believer of not really changing it too much to help try and take away the occasion from what we standardly do so I try and keep it the same.
We’ll prepare for it the same way we normally do and of course with them being a Welsh Premier League outfit we can analyse them a little bit.
In the build-up to the game we will drop the publicity but in terms of playing we won’t change anything that we do in any other game”.
Lower league football doesn’t always get the attention that it deserves, but a fairytale story like Ynysddu’s epitomises grassroots football and Ben is a real advocate for keeping lower league football going strong.
“It’s massive, we’ve recently made the headlines with youth football and it was a bit of a stroke of luck really. We got drawn into a competition when we didn’t even have a youth side so we put a team together for that.
A big factor for me is youth involvement. In football these days it is so low so you try and get a feel-good factor from playing senior football.
We had a lad playing for us two years ago, one of the best talents I have ever seen at his age (17). But now he’s just stopped playing football because he just got bored of it.
We had a lad message me who moved down from Gloucester. He hadn’t played for three or four months, seen our story and he asked to come training. So little things like that just to get him playing again.
Premier League football unfortunately goes away from the working class if you like so its becoming an expensive hobby. People need to understand that there are local clubs out there who provide a good standard of football and also enjoyment”.
We’ve got a professional photographer who comes to our games and he also does Newport County.
But he’s been turning down Newport because he enjoys the atmosphere at our games far more”.
As a small club in Wales, Ynysddu struggle for recognition, which is the case for many teams.
“It’s nice to see some good stories about us because unfortunately football does get a bad reputation at times.
Being in Wales, rugby always gets the good publicity but there’re plenty of good of things that go in football that go unnoticed sometimes.
It’s not just about us either, we play in the Gwent County League and Cwmbran made the second round.
Football in the Gwent area is going through a real good period at the moment and I’m just hopeful it can go on for a bit longer”.
When a football club performs well it creates a buzz and excitement around the local area and the people of Ynyssdu have been invested in their teams success.
“To be fair we’ve had some good gates over the year and even last year we tried to get a few games on a Friday night because we were having attendances of 150 to 200.
It’s trying to be more creative and we have a very good social media presence which helps us.
That’s the thing for local clubs you just need to try and do something a little different from the norm because it’s such a big area where they’re so many clubs. When you look at the Newport area and the Cardiff area they’re so many clubs so trying to stand out is something you benefit from.
I’m confident for the Druids game that we will reach 200 people again so for a club at our level in tier five is fantastic and will bring good financial rewards for us”.
Football is all about perspective, and for Ynysddu, a jump from 20 or 30 people watching to 200 makes such a big difference.
“Some of them will never play in a game as big as this and might not play in-front of a crowd like that.
It’s about enjoying the occasion and I’ll make sure the players do enjoy the day but I’m not the type of character to just turn up as I want to win against whoever we’re playing.
I played for 17-years as a player and only got close to the third round once so the likelihood is that some of these players will never do it again either”.