FUTURE football stars in Flintshire now have the help of a Welsh Premier favourite as they look to achieve their dreams on the pitch.
Airbus UK Broughton player-manager Gareth Owen this year took over the post of football development officer for the county that produced Wales legends Ian Rush, Barry Horne and Kevin Ratcliffe, as well as England ace Michael Owen.
And after settling into the first couple of months of his new job, the former Wrexham and Wales Under-21 midfielder is ready to get out into the schools and get the ball rolling.
“My job is about increasing the participation levels of boys and girls and improving the standard at grass-roots level,” said Owen.
“One of my main aims in the job is that I’d like to push infant football and girls’ football. Due to the work of previous football development officers the structures and links are already there.
“Over the last two months I’ve worked mainly on club accreditation, so for the next two months I’m going to be concentrating on the schools as well as getting more involved in disability football.”
Owen got the job in January after predecessor Gus Williams moved to Anglesey to fill a similar role vacated when former Porthmadog boss Osian Roberts stepped up to become technical director for the FA of Wales.
Having joined Wrexham as a trainee in 1990 after moving up through the ranks of junior football while a pupil at Golftyn Primary School and Connah’s Quay High School, Owen says he can give youngsters the benefit of his own experience of progressing in the game.
He said: “I’ve got the relevant professional experience – having gone through the system myself as a player I’m quite clear on the pathways I’m expected to set out as a football development officer, and the links between schools.
“When I was in school I played for Buckley Juniors but there weren’t that many clubs in the Clwyd Junior League at the time.
“Now there are more clubs involved with the schools, for example Connah’s Quay Tigers, which wasn’t there 20 years back when I was in primary school – so you can see how much things have changed due to the structures previous football development officers have put in place.
“My job covers everything from grass roots to Airbus and Connah’s Quay Nomads in the Welsh Premier, feeding clusters through from primary schools and high school through to the junior league and eventually to the Welsh Premier and possibly Wrexham FC.
“Talent identification is something which falls under myself and my coaches locally.
“If there’s anybody in the two academies at Connah’s Quay and Airbus who would benefit from some extra training at Wrexham, with a view to improving and possibly even being offered a contract, then that falls under my remit.”