Teams in positive mood as football club looks forward to new campaign
WELLS City Football Club was founded on May 27, 1890, when a meeting was held at the Star Hotel in Wells. Their first home was Torfurlong, then named Torfairlands.
Success was almost immediate with the club winning the first ever Somerset Senior League title, a feat repeated the very next season. The 1892/93 season saw Wells City enter the first ever Bristol & District League which was the forbearer for today’s Toolstation Western League, of which they are founder members and currently compete in Division 1. It was not until the 1893/94 season that Wells City moved to their present-day ground at Rowdens Road in Wells.
Today’s Wells City FC is far removed from those early days; no train journeys to away games isn’t the only difference. The club now boasts three senior Saturday sides, a midweek floodlight U18s and a Sunday Veterans team along with junior teams in every age group from U7s through to U16s.
Wells City 1st team is now under the managerial stewardship of Nathan Truckle and Tom Clifford-Jones. Along with Steve Baylis as coach, they have assembled a relatively new squad of players to the club as well as a few returning favourites.
“Last season unfortunately saw us relegated into Division 1 of the Western League and as a result we have decided to restructure the coaching set up and completely rebuild the squad which we hope will give us healthy competition and a strength in depth of which we lacked last year,” said Nathan.
There have been a lot of positives in the six pre-season friendlies, starting with the trip to Worle where Wells came out comfortable 5-1 winners. It was a great first team performance with many new faces, and the goal-scorers on that day were James Bayliss (1) and a new signing from the latest crop of Burnham gems Ryan Stiles (4).
Wells then narrowly lost 2-1 to Western Premier League side Bridgwater Town which highlighted areas that need to be worked work on. The goal-scorer was another Burnham signing, centre back Jack Spence.
The third friendly saw Wells deservedly draw 1-1 against Southern League Division One side Larkhall Athletic. The goal-scorer was Ryan Stiles.
The team then entertained local rivals and Western Premier League side Shepton Mallet, where they battled to a 2-1 victory, scoring the winner in the last minute. Goal-scorers were Ryan Stiles and Liam Davies.
The fifth friendly saw Wells play Glastonbury Town, recording a 2-0 win against a well organised young side.
Finally, Wells hosted Vanarama National League side Truro City, where they matched their opponents going in 0-0 at half time, but Truro’s quality showed in the second half as they ran out 4-0 winners.
It is noticeable even with these few games that the atmosphere and performances have vastly improved within the side, and everyone is looking forward to an entertaining and enjoyable season ahead.
Wells City Reserves are also under new management. Chris Apfelstedt has stepped forward and assembled his backroom staff of James Thompson, Steve Apfelstedt and Lui Rolli as physio.
After the restructuring of the Somerset County League, the Reserves found themselves relegated to a newly formed first division which covers the whole of the county. The amalgamation of the old east and west first divisions means that the division is more competitive than ever and will surely not be far off the bottom half of the Somerset Premier Division in which the team competed last year.
“As a reserve team, our primary aim is to support the 1st team in their quest to bounce back from their own relegation,” said Chris.
“However, within that, we are an amateur football team in our own right, playing in a good league, and our secondary aim is to consolidate ourselves within this division and then to compete at the top end of the table beyond that.”
The pre-season saw a mixed set of results but ever improving performances, the highlight being a 3-1 win over a strong Pilton United team where no fewer than four 16-year-olds started the match.
“The young players coming through the club will be both our biggest asset and biggest challenge this season,” said Chris.
“It is my job to try and develop them from talented players at youth team level into players that can compete in senior football, which is a very different setting from the youth team stage requiring a different skill set and mentality. As a result, despite having, at times, in excess of 25 players to choose from, we are always looking to add to the group, particularly with players who have experience of senior football.
“Anybody wishing to get involved with a club which is heading in the right direction should not hesitate to get in touch as new players will always be welcome at training.”
Action from the game between Wells City Reserves and Nailsea & Tickenham Reserves
Wells City A team, who play their home matches at Wells Blue School, were formed back in the early 1990s out of demand and necessity to create a pathway for the junior footballers into the senior sides, and out of the sheer numbers of players at Wells wanting to play Saturday football.
The A’s (as they are known) play in the Mid Somerset League and are managed by James Bevan, Nathan Phillips and Nial Caldwell. As with the Reserves and 1st team, the A’s have seen a large increase in numbers at training, numerous juniors experiencing their first taste of ‘adult’ football and those experienced players just wanting to enjoy their football locally and in an enjoyable and friendly surrounding, although the main aim of the A’s is to supply the Reserves and 1st teams with players ready and capable for senior football and sometimes at a moment’s notice.
Wells City U18s, managed by Tony Crook, Mark Bromham and James Thompson, play in the Somerset Floodlight Youth League (SFYL) Premier Division. This season, with six new clubs joining the SFYL, this will be split into four divisions: Premier, North, Central and South.
Wells City remain in the Premier Division and have been for the last two seasons after winning the South Division in the 2015/16 season. The U18s are the step from youth football into adult football for most young players, and are made up of three age groups, U16, U17 and U18.
The U18s are entered into two cup competitions, the FA Youth Cup and the SFYL Roger Stone Memorial Cup, which they reached the final of in the 2012/13 season, and they were also runners up in the South Division that season.
All four sides generally train together on Tuesday evenings during the early part of the season and until all the leagues get underway or fixtures can be scheduled.
To keep all these four sides operational takes a tremendous amount of work, all carried out by volunteers who generously give their free time to ensure that everything is fit for purpose and everyone can enjoy football at Wells.
“Without these individuals the club could not exist in its current form,” said club chairman Steve Loxton.
“A huge thank you to Pete Deverell our groundsman and his team of assistants, Neil Sheppard and Dave Collins, for the fantastic work they have continued to do not only on the pitch but around the entire ground during the exhausting and draining weather, although their perma-tans have developed greatly from this; Dave Green our club secretary for having been harassed constantly by the managers pre-season and all the work he does in preparation for every match day; and Richard Flenk and Dennis Compton on the gate.
“Lastly and most importantly a huge thank you to all the club’s sponsors: 24/7 Drainage who have once again agreed to sponsor the 1st team – without their support it’s fair to say we might not be in the strong position we find ourselves in; The Swan Hotel and Protec for sponsoring the Reserves and A teams; to all the pitch-side banner and matchday programme sponsors and for this season all those individuals who have sponsored a player, a league match or a football, who buy our 3 and easy match pool lottery every week… thank you. Your support of grassroots football and Wells City FC is greatly appreciated.”
If anyone wishes to add their name to the list of sponsors, and there are various opportunities available, they should contact Steve Loxton on 07837 776160.
• Picture: James Thompson, Chris Apfelstedt, Lui Rolli and Steve Apfelstedt in front of the home dugout before Wells City Reserves’ first home league game of the season against Nailsea & Tickenham Reserves, which they lost 3-1