In May of last year, Europa League play-off winners Bangor City were on the lookout for a new manager at Nantporth.
Step forward the former Derby County, Exeter City and Cardiff City coach and one of the youngest ever coaches to earn the UEFA Pro Licence, Kevin Nicholson.
The 31-year-old was tasked with the job of picking up where caretaker manager Gary Taylor-Fletcher left off after guiding them to play-off final victory over Cardiff Metropolitan University.
“I was approached by the club in May 2017 to see if I would be interested in joining and after positive discussions I decided it was the right opportunity at the right time.
The club were on the lookout for a UEFA Pro Licence holder with coaching and management experience and it was a good opportunity to get back involved in the game after leaving Cardiff City FC and my position as U23 Manager a few months prior to that.”
Since then, Bangor City has given a good account of themselves, winning close to 60% of their matches in all competitions.
The club currently sits in third position in the Welsh Premier League after 22 matches in Phase one. In that period they managed to record victories against the three teams that finished above them last season.
“It is a tough and competitive league. The standard is improving all the time. You only have to look at the recruitment across the league and the league table itself – It’s the tightest it’s been for a number of years.
Every club is striving to become better, every game is a test and every team provides a different challenge in their own way. You must approach each match with the correct mentality and perform well in order to get results.”
Rather than the Welsh Premier League seeing someone depart for English football, it was the opposite when Nicholson joined Bangor City, when the highly regarded coach swapped Cardiff City for Bangor.
At Cardiff City, the emphasis was on the development and progression of younger players and now Nicholson is enhancing his experience by managing at a senior level in the Welsh Premier League.
“Results are always the judge of that for any coach or manager at senior level. In general, we are very pleased with how the team has performed so far this season and our achievements along the way.
The experience I gained as a first-team coach at senior level in my time at Cardiff City has certainly been of benefit with regards to the transition. Other aspects of the role I see as very much the same in terms of coaching and development.”
The Welsh Premier League adopts a specific format. Twenty-two regular season games are played before the twelve teams are split into a top half and bottom half.
The six sides will play each other both home and away, with business tied up at both ends. For Bangor City, they’ll be competing for a highest possible finish with the aim of Europa League qualification.
“It’s an interesting format and a new experience. We were very pleased to have guaranteed top six qualifications with a few matches still to play before the split. It will then become a ’10-game season’ and a final sprint to secure the points required to finish the season in a strong position.”
Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who to some could be seen as a marquee signing for the Welsh Premier League, following his playing career in England works alongside Nicholson. At the age of 36, Taylor-Fletcher is still proving to be a lynchpin for the Citizens.
The former Blackpool man has 6 goals in 17 appearances, with his experience looking to have rubbed off on forward Dean Rittenberg.
“He is a key figure for the club on and off the pitch. On the pitch, his goals, assists and general all-around play is vital. He leads by example and others feed off that. He has been a pleasure to work with.
We have developed an excellent working relationship. We complement each other very well. I respect him for what he has achieved in the game as a player and the way he is as a person.”
In his short time in the JD Welsh Premier League, there are some milestones that Nicholson has already achieved in North Wales. The Citizens inflicted a 5-0 defeat over play-off rivals Bala Town back in November.
As well as that victory, Bangor sent a statement out to the league by recording victory over the Welsh Premier League Champions, The New Saints on the opening day of the season.
“The first league game of the season when we emphatically beat the champions is naturally a stand out moment. Others would include recording the clubs biggest league win for 5 years and the longest unbeaten run for a number of seasons, which were good achievements for all involved.”
As well as team awards, Kevin Nicholson received an individual award for his management. In November, he was announced as the Manager of the Month in the JD Welsh Premier League, alongside in-form striker Dean Rittenberg, who claimed Player of the Month in a double sweep from Bangor City.
“To receive an award such as that is recognition of the hard work of everyone involved at a club. The players should always take the most amount of credit as they are the ones out on the field performing well on a consistent basis.”
Being in a league with a majority of teams operating on a part-time basis. Any time spent with players both on and off the pitch is vital.
“A main part of the role is to improve and prepare players on the training pitch. At this level, we are always aiming to maximise the time spent with the players as well as the potential of the team.” said Nicholson.
Being well prepared, tactically aware and sharp on match day is vitally important as pre-match and half-time are two key moments in the working week. Communicating the relevant messages to the team or individuals in a clear and concise way is crucial in order to make the required impact.”
As well as that, being in a role as manager means questions from both the broadcast and video press, something which Nicholson has learnt along the way.
“The media is another element of the role which is becoming increasingly important nowadays and one that I have become comfortable dealing with.”
(Featured Image: Event Photo Wales)