Footballers juggle jobs with playing in Europe

A university lecturer is embarking on a footballing adventure this summer after guiding his team into Europe.

Chris Hughes
Chris Hughes

Alongside his role as lecturer in Football, Coaching and Performance Specialist at the Wrexham Glyndwr university, Chris Hughes doubles up as manager of Newtown AFC, in Wales’ domestic league, the JD Cymru Premier.

He and his team of players are now hoping their employers will allow them time off to take part in the European games next month.

At the end of May, Newtown gained qualification to the Europa Conference League, an inaugural UEFA competition launching this summer, after a 5-3 play-off final win at Caernarfon Town.

Chris took charge at Newtown in 2013, and experienced the Europa League qualifying stages in 2015, beating Maltese side Valletta before taking on Danish giants FC Copenhagen and is relishing the opportunity of another European adventure with other clubs involved in the early rounds.

He said: “The draw is on June 15 and the first game will be on July 8 so we’ve got a lot of things to sort out – obviously player medicals, Covid tests, some friendly games to prepare. It’s a busy time.

“We were second from bottom in the table pre-lockdown, so first and foremost the aim when we returned from lockdown in the first week of March was to get out of the bottom two."

He and his players now face the logistical challenge of juggling their day jobs with preparing for a taste of top-level European football, with at least a home leg and away leg to prepare for in the first round next month.

“We’re a part-time club, part-time players, I’ve obviously got the role within the university – where everyone’s been really good.

“Hopefully our players' employers will let them have a couple of days off – we’re not sure yet if it’s going to be July 8 or July 15 when we’re away but it gives us a month to let everyone know.

“Then we have to sort out the schedule and the itinerary."

“I’ve told the players to enjoy every minute because I’ve been involved in football a long time and very rarely do you get a season where you’re winning trophies or playing in Europe.

“We’re not a club with big resources to get into Europe so to do it twice in six years is brilliant. It’s another huge achievement for everyone at our football club.”

For more information about the BSC (Hons) Football Coaching and the Performance Specialist Course at Wrexham Glyndwr University, visit glyndwr.ac.uk/en/Undergraduatecourses/FootballCoachingandthePerformanceSpecialist.

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