Posted: Mon 11th Dec 2023

Ifor Williams Trailers backs Flint Town United’s youth academy

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Dec 11th, 2023

A trailer maker is championing a football youth academy at one of the world’s oldest clubs.

Flint Town United has secured a sponsorship deal with Ifor Williams Trailers (IWT) which has factories in Deeside and Denbighshire.

It sees the famous IWT  logo emblazoned on the back of the Under 12 squad’s black and white vertically striped shirts.

Rhys Davies, site manager at the IWT Deeside plant, visited a training session to see the players in action at the Essity Stadium on Marsh Road, a short walk from historic Flint Castle.

He said: “I’m a big football fan myself and have played for a few local teams. It’s great to be proactive in the community and support these young players at a local level.

“Flint Town United has an enviable reputation for its high standards of training and coaching potential new stars of the game, you only have to look at its past record to see that. So, we are more than pleased to help them achieve future goals on the pitch and off.”

The club was founded more than 130 years ago in 1886 and its president is former Liverpool and Wales dynamo Ian Rush, regarded as one of Anfield’s best strikers of all time.

Flint Town United director Karl Russell coaches the Academy’s Under 12s, assisted by Kristian Harding Pears.

Karl said the IWT sponsorship was a coup for the talented youngsters and for the whole club.

He added they are in good company because the trailer firm are also the shorts sponsor of near neighbours Wrexham AFC, which is co-owned by Hollywood TV and movie legends Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds.

Russell said: “They are in a different league to ourselves but we have close links with Wrexham and good relations with most of the other clubs in North Wales and across the border in the North West.

“Our first team manger is former Wrexham legend and Premier League player turned coach Lee Fowler and back in the 90s we were managed by another Wrexham icon, Dixie McNeill.

“More recently, a number of our players have gone on to bigger clubs, including Curtis Strong and Dylan Evans to Stoke City, Owen Beck to Liverpool, Iestyn Hughes to Manchester United and Zac Williams to Everton.”

The academy banner currently covers 11 teams, ranging in age from Under 7s to Under 19s, all ambitious to make it into the successful adult first team and beyond.

Recent alumni include Iestyn Hughes who was picked up by Manchester United and Owen Beck who moved up the rankings to Liverpool.

This season’s Under 12s team captain Bill Harding Pears,11, recently caught the eye of Everton scouts and has been attending his first training sessions with the Toffees.

He said: “It’s pretty awesome really, everything’s a bit new and I’m still getting to know the ropes there. If it wasn’t for my training with Flint I’d never have had such a fantastic opportunity.”

He and his team mates all dream of becoming professional footballers, but first their sights are firmly set on achieving local goals like winning their FAW Academy North Under 12s league championship this season.

“We’re going to win it for sure,” said Jacob Thompson, 11. “We’re more determined than ever. Bill’s a brilliant captain and we’re a really great team, with good coaches who make sure we all work well together.”

There are currently 18 players in the Under 12s squad, who all have to work hard to earn their place.

Karl added: “It’s not just a case of enjoying the game, they have to be dedicated to the training regime and listen to the coaching advice.

“Not every player is going to get to the stage where football can realistically be their full time career but our academy is now working on setting up an educational arm which can signpost them to career options around the sport and other vocational professions.”

The Academy draws its young players from all across the area, including Deeside and along the coast towards St Asaph.

Russell said: “We’re also very proud that one of our girls from the Under 12s team, striker Mared Lloyd has just been selected to play for Wales Under 12s.”

The club is a not-for-profit organisation which receives an annual financial contribution from the Football Association for Wales. But it also relies heavily on its own fund-raising, and sponsorship deals to survive.

“Budgets across the sport are tight. Our FAW support was recently cut by £50,000 and that is a huge shortfall to make up. That’s why securing sponsorship from businesses like Ifor Williams Trailers is so important to us.

“To be a successful Academy we have to maintain strict standards at the stadium, the price of kits and equipment increases annually and we recently installed an all-weather simulated grass pitch which cost the club £500,000. It is one of only six grounds in the world with shock pads underlay which makes it feel and play even more like natural grass.”

The stadium is also used by neighbouring team Connah’s Quay Nomads.

When not coaching young football stars of the future, Russell runs his own company, Sparks Auto Electrics, in Flint.

He said: “Most of our coaches have other commitments including full time jobs but they put in every spare hour here. There is a real passion at the club, among all our coaches, players and off-pitch volunteers. Flint town United is in our blood.”

His son, Ashton Russell, 16, is in the under 19s squad.

Rhys Davies added “The friendly welcome and the enthusiasm of everyone whether playing, coaching or volunteering on the sidelines, is heartening to see. At Ifor Williams Trailers we have a history of helping local causes and this is among the best I have come across. We are delighted to be contributing to its continued success.”

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