Jones the perfect choice as Welsh Premier goes international

Managers Wales National Team

A feature on the importance of the new Wales ‘C’ team and manager Mark Jones.

Former Port Talbot Town and Carmarthen Town manager Mark Jones has been chosen as the man to lead the new Wales ‘C’ international team ahead of their inaugural match against England in March. Reviving the previous and popular Wales semi-professional side with the focus on highlighting the talent on show in the Welsh domestic game, this is an exciting development for the JD Welsh Premier League.

Although not restricted to players from the domestic top-flight, due to the fact that only players currently competing in the Welsh pyramid system will be eligible for selection, it is inevitable that this is where the majority of the squad will be chosen from. However, there are a number of English players plying their trade at the leading clubs, and Jones may be tempted to bring in a couple of feeder league players with potential too.

A hugely-popular figure with an extensive knowledge of the domestic game in Wales, Jones has been heard more than seen in recent years as he provides the English language commentary on S4/C Sgorio’s live coverage of the Welsh Premier League. An encyclopedic knowledge of the league together with its players and managers, Jones is the perfect choice to take this new team forward.

During his time at Carmarthen Town, Jones made headlines with European progress in 2005, and lifted the JD Welsh Cup with the West Wales club in 2007. During his second spell in charge of Port Talbot Town, he took the side into the UEFA Europa League in 2010, and remains a celebrated figure at both clubs for the success that he brought during his managerial career.

Now with the pick of the Welsh domestic game to choose from, his first squad for the match against England ‘C’ at Jenner Park, Barry on 20th March will be an intriguing one, and there will be plenty of debate over who should and shouldn’t be selected as media interest in the national league continues to increase.

Comprehensive highlights of every Welsh Premier League game are now available online, and while providing Jones with perfect scouting material, this is another step in promoting the Welsh Premier League as the ideal shop window for young players recently released from professional clubs. Cameras at every game are one thing to showcase talent, but now international recognition is also available.

The former Wales semi-professional side lasted for a few years, but slowly evolved into a team based on youth development as age restrictions were introduced and games became few and far between. However, after being recently revamped to offer international honours for players coming through the domestic academy system, this latest team now also offers a unique international pathway.

The Wales U18 academy team was a natural step following increased financial investment into academy football for clubs that achieve a domestic licence, and with qualified coaches now responsible for developing a well-organised academy structure at each club, showcasing the emerging talent on the international stage has become a pinnacle achievement for players at that level.

Managed by Mark Pike, the young players can also turn to senior international experience in the shape of Steve Evans, and having played seven times for his country under John Toshack, the former Wrexham and The New Saints defender is a figure that represents what progress can be made from playing and impressing in the Welsh Premier League.

As the players develop through the system and into the senior side, international ambition can now remain a motivation even if their club careers are to stay in the Welsh domestic game. The new Wales ‘C’ team will offer the best of domestic talent the opportunity to represent their country, and should the fixtures generate the interest they deserve, the rewards could be much greater for all concerned.

Of course, England ‘C’ will be a difficult challenge, as manager Paul Fairclough as the choice of the National League to select his players from, and a team of talented professional players will provide the opposition for Wales when the two sides meet. Fairclough has managed the side since 2003, and his experience, together with their regular programme of games, emphasises what a tough test this will be.

But this is a huge opportunity to show just how far the playing standard of the Welsh Premier League has improved in recent years, and more importantly, what a key role it has to play in the development of the young Welsh players that are emerging through the academy systems at different clubs up and down the country. It seems that another new international dawn has just begun for Wales.