Author: Lewis Sharpe
Publisher: Y Clwb Pel-Droed
North-Walian musician Ywain Gwynedd has been at the heart of a rise in popularity in Welsh language music in recent times.
Ywain’s current band, called Yws Gwynedd -named after him- have revolutionised Welsh music, leading the way for other Welsh bands creating similar music.
‘Sebona Fi’, the band’s most famous song, currently has over half a million streams on Spotify and 470,000 views on YouTube.
Whilst playing in his old band called Frizbee, Ywain once performed in front of 5,000 people in France as well as performing in front of upwards of 6,000 at ‘Sesiwn Fawr Dolgellau’.
Gwynedd, an avid football fan, is also known around North Wales for his playing career.
Ywain started his career at Porthmadog before playing for Blaenau Ffestiniog, Llangefni Town and Caernarfon Town.
Gwynedd played under ex-Wales assistant manager, now technical director of the Morocco national team, Osian Roberts.
‘’Ironically, even though I was given my first chances in top-flight Welsh football by Osian Roberts and Viv Williams, my style of play was too unpredictable for Osian,’’ explained Ywain.
‘’To be fair, the team was made up of predominately local players and maybe we were not the best team in the league but Osian, along with his modern coaching approach, managed to make a success of that team.
‘’Within his tactics, most teams he put out were very well organised and difficult to break down and, even though it may have not been exciting to watch, it was effective.
‘’I learnt a lot under him, and the knowledge gained served me well in the rest of my career. Getting to know him more in subsequent years, I understand more of what he believes as a coach, always wanting players to make correct decisions.’’
Many fans believe Roberts was the mastermind behind Wales’ success at Euro 2016.
‘’I could not have predicted his success at national level, but it has highlighted that well executed tactics work as well at grassroots level as they do at elite level,’’ continued Ywain.
‘’Historically Wales have had talented players, but lack of organisation has let us down on many occasions.
‘’Osian also had the benefit of working with the new crop of talented Welsh players from when they were very young in his role as Wales’ Development Coach. Him knowing them combined with them knowing his style of coaching would have helped immensely.
‘’Part of his frustration at Porthmadog was having to coach his method to older players who had already locked in a style of play in their youth.’’
After leaving Porthmadog, Gwynedd played top-flight football again at Llangefni Town, this time playing under former TNS striker and Caernarfon Town manager Addie Jones
‘’I probably found it similar second time around although I was playing as a fully grown adult by that point.
‘’I feel I fitted in better with his [Jones] style of play. He wasn’t so rigid but believed in short sharp fitness. He wasn’t that concerned if you couldn’t run a marathon but insisted that you get to the ball first.
‘’He was sacked midway through the Premier season and it transpired that, if Llangefni had kept him and he picked up the same amount of points in the second half of the season, we would have stayed up.’’
Gwynedd was also a fundamental part of Lee Dixon’s treble-winning Caernarfon Town side in 2012/13.
‘’I played with Lee at Llangefni, then played for him as manager of Llangefni, so was very excited to be able to endorse him for the job at Caernarfon.
‘’The treble season was a long slog and felt like it was the start of something great under Lee.
‘’I would say he was the manager I liked to play for most and got the best out of me in a variety of different positions.
‘’He once played without any strikers on purpose to nullify the other teams tall and strong centre halves – we scored 5 in the first half!’’
In an illustrious career in the top leagues of domestic Welsh football, Gwynedd played with and against an array of quality players.
‘’Darren Thomas is without doubt the most gifted footballer I’ve played with,’’ he explained.
‘’Darren could have played at any level in my opinion and if he had been raised in Liverpool, Manchester or London, would have made the top-flight. He’s the type of player that can win a game for you out of nothing.
‘’I have to mention Graham Austin as a great leader who captained me at Llangefni and Caernarfon.
‘’The best player I’ve played against is probably Steve Evans of TNS at the time who went on to play for Wrexham and Wales. A great organiser and leader and almost impossible to get passed.’’
During his career, Gwynedd had to balance playing football with his music, but now the latter is the most important to him.
Ywain called time on his football career in 2017, winding down his playing career with Porthmadog.
‘’Juggle is the word – definitely,” emphasised the former Caernarfon player.
‘’The music career probably had a detrimental effect on the football unfortunately, sometimes I was too tired to give 100% on the pitch.
‘’One example was playing a gig at Haverfordwest on a Friday night, sleeping in the van and then making a trip to Llanelli the following day – who were the best team in the league at the time.
‘’I was usually a sub in those days but on that day Osian Roberts named me as winger to face former Welsh International Gary Lloyd.
‘’We were winning the game until the 80th minute when we took a short corner, and I lost the ball – they broke away and equalised!
‘’The other way round, going to gigs after a match, was quite fun to be honest.”
Gwynedd also believes that his football career helped him in performing music.
‘’Football and music were different experiences to be honest although being involved in football teaches lessons that help you in later life.
‘’Commitment and teamwork definitely translate over into being in a band.
‘’Playing football in front of a thousand for Llangefni in Farrar road, or two thousand when Caernarfon Town played Caernarfon Wanderers at the Oval was immense and I’d say just edges playing music in front of larger crowds even.
‘’Music is a show you’ve rehearsed tens of times, whereas football is and should be unpredictable and no one knows what anyone’s going to do next.’’
(Featured image: Lewis Sharpe)