Fresh from his appointment just over a month ago, Craig Sampson is enjoying his start to life as manager of Division One club Caerau Ely.
Sampson filled in as manager, following the departure of popular manager Nana Baah, who is now part of the management staff at divisional rivals Taffs Well.
But along with Gus Brandon, who has worked closely with Sampson and the Caerau Ely squad, following the clubs backing of the introduction of younger players, Sampson has grown to the role.
“The transition into the management so far has been relatively smooth it wasn’t something I had
planned to do this year but so far I am enjoying it.
I’m sure there will be a few new challenges along the way which I haven’t experienced but with the current support, I’m receiving from the players’ and the people behind the scenes at the club I’m looking forward to taking on those challenges trying to help the club rebuild and move forward.”
This is Sampson’s first job where he is calling the shots, as the clubs senior manager, having previously worked with brother Mark at Bristol Academy, Cardiff Corinthians and Taffs Well.
“I have played and worked under some successful (and some not so), managers in the past, all with different attributes and styles, I keep in regular contact with most of them so I will continue to pull on their knowledge, experiences and guidance as I feel will be vital in making the transition a little easier.”
This coming Saturday will perhaps pose the UEFA B Licence coach his biggest test, as his side host Ton Pentre, who like Caerau Ely are involved in a relegation battle, with both sides tied on five points.
“Every fixture is of equal importance in this league but with the current situation of both clubs I can see
why people outside are highlighting this fixture of maybe being of extra importance.
We won’t let that distract us and will plan and prepare like every other game, focussing on what we need to do to win. Every game gives us an opportunity to gain three points no matter who we are playing.”
The Bulldogs, like Caerau Ely will be up for this one has seen a bit of a fightback in recent weeks. However, Ton Pentre was hit for eight on Saturday in blustery conditions down at Penybont.
“In our last three games at home against Ton we haven’t lost, winning two and drawing one; however we are fully aware that this is a regrouped Ton, with new additions, a new sense of belief and as we all know playing against any Ton Pentre side over the years it will never be easy.
You will come up against fully committed players, staff and fans which we know we will have to be fully prepared for those challenges on Saturday and it will require us to perform at our best to achieve a positive result.”
During his time spent along with brother Mark at Taffs Well, the Wellmen were involved in a relegation battle, in which Mark described as his greatest achievement in keeping them up in his first season.
The game that decided the Wellmen would stay up as when Taffs Well beat Newport YMCA. This game could be similar to the game played on Saturday.
With the experience of being involved in a relegation battle, this could provide just the edge that Caerau Ely may need going into the game.
“We have 15 games to go with 45 points still to play for. The main objective is to stabilise and rebuild the club we
recognise we have had a challenging season and we are currently not in a healthy league position.
It would be ideal if we could maintain status in our current division but we are aware the odds are firmly
stacked against us at the moment. A win Saturday would be a small step in helping us achieve that
but there is a long road ahead.”
Caerau Ely however, faired better than Ton Pentre when they came up against Penybont, restricting them to just the one goal and picking up a point, off of a side that has Welsh Premier League ambitions this season.
It seems the Caerau Ely players are maturing having been thrust into the side, following key departures over the summer, which have seen the 2013/2014 Division One champions look to youth this season.
“Despite only three players in the squad that day being over the age of 21, we showed the character that’s needed to get results at this level.
It was encouraging that the involvement of six current youth team players and with the
primary focus of the club to rebuild and knowing that to remain competitive at this level we have to
provide something different to attract players than what other clubs can provide.
It was rewarding to see some many young players given an opportunity at this level and performing like they did. What we do know is that this league is ruthless and so competitive we would be very naïve to get carried
away with one performance; it has given us a confidence boost but we are fully aware that each week
provides a different test we need to prepare for.”
(Featured Image: SER Images)