Outside of Liverpool the ability of Scousers in the world of football is that of folklore, with the ability of past heroes such as Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney achieving legendary status. However, there exists a breeding ground of talent away from the River Mersey, as Welsh side Bala Town have embraced the Scouse culture with a majority of their talent born in the L4 area.
The club, founded 138 years ago, have enjoyed their most successful two decades to date and finished third and second in the top Welsh division in the last three seasons. This year marked another adventure into European Football. Travelling to the land of San Marino in the hope of advancing in the Europa League, The Lakesiders were drawn against Tre Fiori and whilst the first result went against them (3-1), the return fixture at Rhyl FC’s Belle Vue stadium showcased the fighting and courageous spirit embodied by the players at the club.
With a crowd of over 600, the semi-professional side had a monumental challenge on their hands to score three or more goals to advance and despite dominating the occasion, the performance of their opponents halted any chance of a fightback even with Bala winning the match 1-0. Manager Colin Caton spoke post-match, highlighting his pride in the players following their performance but felt it was just luck that went against them.
He said: “The lads were absolutely fantastic, their work rate, their effort and their endeavour was absolutely second to none. We never get questioned here so It was a great shift that the lads put in and it was unlucky, another night we could have won it [by] four or five but like I say we haven’t lost it tonight – we lost it over there [away fixture].”
Caton was keen to praise his side’s style of football against a side that looked to disrupt a free flowing affair as he said it was ‘frustrating’ to see how their tactics affected the game but there are ‘no excuses’. On his advice for the future now with all eyes on the league the manager said: “We had a great attitude and a great approach from the game, it was a great tie that we should have gone through on, but we have not.”
Sean Smith earned the Man of the Match award for the winning side with the Scouse fullback a constant threat down the left hand side and he felt that his teammates were unlucky to be the losers on this occasion. He said: “Over the two legs we have annihilated them [Tre Fiori], it is a joke that we have not come away with anything else – I cannot believe, that we have battered them at their place, battered them here [but] we have just not had the result.”
Despite being eliminated from the competition, Smith said his side would take every positive element from the victory as they head towards the start of their 2018/19 campaign in the Welsh Premier League. He continued: “We are going to take all of the good things out of the second leg, obviously we have won the game, which is the most important going into the season, so I am proud of the lads.
With the fans travelling in numbers to San Marino and amassing to 610 in the reverse home fixture, Smith was keen to praise the Bala faithful for their vocal support throughout the game. Smith said: “It is a family run club, it is very good, I was on loan here a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it then – that is why I am back here. Even away they [the fans] were there, it is outstanding for them to come all that way for us. We have done them proud I believe, but we could just not get the result over the two legs.”
Images and video courtesy of Rebecca Oliver