Rhyl FC believe they have come back to the Welsh Premier League infinitely stronger, having gone back to basics in the three years since being refused a licence for financial reasons.
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Two-time champions Rhyl FC return to the Welsh Premier League after a three-year absence with the same drive and ambition that once made them regular qualifiers for UEFA competition.
Refused a licence to play in the 2010/11 top division for financial reasons, the north Wales club have learned a harsh lesson according to managing director Mike Jones. "The key is living within your means, cutting your cloth accordingly, learning to walk before you can run – they are old clichés but they are true," he told UEFA.com. "Other clubs have taken the gamble of spending money they simply don't have to chase the financial carrot of European football. That is something we will not do."
The 2003/04 and 2008/09 Welsh champions roared back into the top flight, winning the second-division title in 2012/13 without losing a game. "Last season was a fantastic achievement," said Jones. "Being demoted was a blessing in disguise really, as it gave us the opportunity to regroup, reform and re-establish ourselves. Under the guidance of our manager Greg Strong, and our chairman Paul Higginson, we are now ready on and off the field.
"We have a thriving community programme, and the players are also actively involved in this too," added Jones, who has worked his way up from the Belle Vue terraces to the boardroom. "Everyone is a part of this club, and as a result there is a real connection between the fans and the players. We are excited to be back in the Welsh Premier League. There are some great clubs and people involved and, with the strength and talent we have in our current squad, we cannot wait for the new season to start."
Rhyl's last goal in the Welsh Premier League was scored on 24 April 2010; it was their 1,000th in the top flight and earned them a 2-1 victory. The Belle Vue faithful are now looking forward to the 1,001st as Strong's men start their campaign on 24 August against Aberystwyth Town FC. Whatever goals and wins may follow, Jones is adamant they will be shared by everyone at the club – fans as well as players and staff.
"Without the fans there would be no Rhyl FC," he explained. "They volunteer and fund-raise and are willing to help in any way they can. Their reward is to be part of what we are achieving. This football club really is a big part of a lot of people's lives. Our manager Greg Strong likes to say that Rhyl FC really is more than a football club. He's right – it's a family."