When Cardiff City Youth beat their counterparts from Haverfordwest County one of their best players was Dylan Rees, who hails from Tenby, so Bill Carne caught up with Dylan for a chat about his footballing hopes . . .
When Haverfordwest County Youth recently took on their counterparts from Cardiff City in the Welsh Youth Cup, hew of the hardy supporters who braved the cold would have known that the right back for Cardiff City was a Pembrokeshire teenager who played for the County at junior level.
Dylan Rees hails from Tenby and showed his footballing prowess in Cardiff City’s 6-2 win as he covered well at the back but also showed his ability to create space down Haverfordwest’s left flank with his marauding runs that saw crosses into the danger zone, or created space for others as he pulled defenders out of position.
He supplied the cross for Cardiff’s first goal and must have pleased coach Richard Bate with his contribution throughout the full 90 minutes and during extra time, where his team’s greater fitness levels showed and they scored four goals to move into the next round with an away tie at Newtown.
Dylan began this season as the first of a two-year scholarship with the Premier League club and he lives with a family in the Fairwater district of Cardiff as he pursues his dream of being a professional footballer.
The team trains every weekday at the Sports Complex in Treforest and so it involves a train or bus trip each day to receive the expertise of Richard Bate, Kieran Nicholson (who is ex-Derby County) and David Gough. The sessions are broken down into component parts where they practise fitness and skills alongside weights, yoga and technical sessions that go on for most of each day.
“It is hard work,” admitted Dylan, “but really worth it because we are a fit group, as we showed at the Bridge Meadow.”
Dylan and Co play in the Professional Development League against the likes of Queens Park Rangers, Charlton Athletic, Millwall and Crystal Palace, and are currently doing very well as they sit in third place.
“We have a tough challenge when we take on Blackburn Rovers in the FA Youth Cup,” said Dylan, “and we know that we must really play our best to get through there.”
This exciting tussle will take place at the Cardiff City Stadium whilst the majority of their home league games are played on the nearby Leckwith Athletic Stadium.
There was also a treat for Dylan at the start of the campaign when they took on Cardiff City first team in a practice match at the Vale of Glamorgan Sports Complex. His job was to mark when of the best-known Welsh internationals in Craig Bellamy, whose son Ellis plays alongside Dylan in the youth team.
“It was a great experience,” said Dylan, “and although we lost 3-0 we learned a lot, especially in chats with our top players afterwards.”
Dylan’s ambition has long been to play professional football and although he knows how hard the road is he is really up for the challenge.
“I’ve been involved with Cardiff City since I was eight and went to their development centre in Carmarthen, which is run by David Reyson.
“Then I had to get through several one-day trials and as I got older a six-week extended trial for the Academy. It meant my parents had to make a 200-mile round trip at least three times a week for that time, and also for matches that were sometimes as far as London or the Midlands.”
Ask Ryan about family help and he is quick to say that he has had superb support from his parents and both grandfathers and grandmothers, plus his sister Chelsea, who is a good netball player. His father Nicky was a very good rugby player with Tenby United who has since gained a reputation as an ‘Iron Man’ competitor and his mum Alex has also been totally in support as an excellent chauffeur. Then there’s grandparents Pat and Mary Rees who have often taken him off to matches, whilst grandparents Jimmy and Liz Crockford have even loaned Alex their car on occasions so that he wouldn’t miss training!
“I started out playing for Tenby Juniors and the county under 11 team coached by Angie Nicholls which played in the Tom Yeomans Shield. We played some of our matches at the Bridge Meadow Stadium so it was nice to back there and play again. I also knew quite a few of the Haverfordwest County players because I set out with them those few years ago. The crowd was also excellent because they were very appreciative of what we tried to do and several came up to speak afterwards.”
This season has seen Dylan and his team mates not only do well in the Professional Development League but also hope to enjoy a decent run in the Welsh Youth Cup.
“We beat Treowen Stars at the Leckwith Athletics Stadium in the first round and followed up with a cracking 2-1 away win against a strong Newport County Youth team at Spytty Park and now, after winning in Haverfordwest, we are waiting to find out who we meet in the next round.”
We asked Angie Nicholls for her view of Dylan as a younger player and she was full of praise for him.
“Even as a youngster he stood out as a talented defender who was calm and unflappable, and very skilful. He tackled really well and his ball distribution was first class. Most importantly, though, he was a smashing lad who played his part in the team.”
High praise indeed from someone who knows her footballing onions and we could pay Dylan Rees no greater tribute – and we are definitely going to watch his footballing future with great interest!