A blog on Adrian Cieslewicz as The New Saints head towards a ninth Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League title.
At the start of the season I used this blog to formally welcome Adrian Cieslewicz to the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League. A former Wrexham favourite who could excite and frustrate in equal measures, the attacking winger emerged in the domestic league with dominant champions The New Saints as a headline signing in August, and is now on the verge of making his UEFA Champions League debut as his club move to within a point of claiming a record ninth title. Although the distance between Wrexham and Oswestry is modest, Cieslewicz arrived in the Welsh Premier League via Kidderminster Harriers and a bizarre spell in the Faroe Islands, and has played a key role in Craig Harrison’s side being on-course to claim their fourth consecutive league title as early as next weekend when Bala Town are the visitors to Park Hall.
A point next Saturday would offer The New Saints another opportunity to compete in the UEFA Champions League, but while Cieslewicz missed the last campaign by a few weeks, he was actually making his own European debut for B36 Torshavn in the UEFA Europa League. It didn’t prove to be particularly memorable campaign for the Faroe Island minnows, as Irish side Linfield knocked them out of the competition in the first qualifying round. Although The New Saints’ UEFA Champions League campaign ended in similar fashion against Slovan Bratislava, the side once again showed that they can compete against sides of a higher financial status on the European stage, and considering the influence that an exciting, attacking and pacey winger like Cieslewicz could have had suggests that he was brought to the club with more than just domestic football in mind. For reference, The New Saints lost 3-0 on aggregate to Bratislava last summer and 4-1 to Legia Warsaw the year before. Last summer, Legia Warsaw beat Celtic 6-1 on aggregate, and the Polish side missed two penalties in the process.
But before focusing on a return to Europe, Cieslewicz and his side must focus on domestic business, and another former Wrexham favourite will be looking to upset the party when Bala Town visit Park Hall looking to become the first side to claim a Welsh Premier League victory there since 2012. The live S4/C cameras will be in attendance for the title party and the stage is set as UEFA Europa League chasing Bala, who currently sit in second place, look to cause a huge upset as they push for an automatic European place themselves. During two spells at Wrexham, Mark Jones made over 150 appearances for the club, scoring 26 goals. Jones’s talents were also acknowledged at international level and he made five appearances for Wales. Now considered as one of the most talented players in the Welsh Premier League after arriving at Maes Tegid in 2010, his influence against the champions next weekend could prove to be crucial.
Nine goals this season for The New Saints has made Cieslewicz an important player, but while some may have expected him to make a bigger impact, his goal return is more to do with the attacking style of play that the side adopt, and the fact that fifteen different players have scored for them in the Welsh Premier League already this season is testament to the fluidity of their system. Dominant in domestic competition, the club must now look to make an impression on the European stage, and recently appointed Wrexham coach Carl Darlington will be all-too familiar with what is required having helped plan and prepare the club for such fixtures over the last few seasons. There is no doubt that Cieslewicz will offer The New Saints a different option when they inevitably return to the UEFA Champions League next season, but only time will tell if his contribution will be enough for the club to make progress.
But there is another reason why Adrian Cieslewicz will be mentioned in dispatches at the Racecourse over the next few weeks. At the end of the month, Wrexham return to Wembley for the FA Trophy final against North Ferriby United. A fantastic occasion that will once again provide the fans that saved the club just a few seasons ago with another opportunity to celebrate what they have collectively achieved on the biggest stage. It is two years since Wrexham lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley with a penalty shoot-out victory over Grimsby, and Cieslewicz’s name is etched in Wrexham quiz history as he scored one of the teams four spot kicks in that famous victory. Although claiming the Welsh Premier League title with The New Saints next weekend may not match the atmosphere of that particular afternoon at Wembley, it marks another triumph in the career of Adrian Cieslewicz, and Wrexham fans will always keep a curious eye out for their former terrace favourite.