Cup triumph, promotions and the best player in the UK; it certainly has been a tremendous year to be a football fan in Wales.
It cannot be argued that 2011 leading into 2012 was a tough time for Welsh football. After an excellent 2011 that saw the Welsh national team fly up the World Rankings the whole football community was sent into shock one Sunday November morning when news broke that Gary Speed, the Welsh national team manager, had died after an apparent suicide.
Welsh football was in a state of mourning and that impact still reverberates today; however 2013 has given Welsh football much to be proud of.
We look back at an absolutely incredible year for the Welsh game.
Swansea City FC
When Brendan Rodgers left South Wales for Liverpool in the summer of 2012 the worst was predicted for the recently promoted Swans. A combination of losing Rodgers, Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson with the dreaded second season sickness about to penetrate their immune system many, including myself, predicted a tough campaign for new gaffer Michael Laudrup.
Instead the club thrashed Bradford City 5-0 in the Carling Cup Final back in February and booked themselves a place in Europe next year after some excellent transfer dealings by the Dane.
Cardiff City FC
After years of trying it turned out that the change to a red kit was certainly lucky as the clubs Malaysian owners had hoped it would be. Returning hero Craig Bellamy helped but it was the manager Malky Mackay who took most the deserved plaudits as The Bluebirds tied up automatic promotion and the Championship title last month.
Two Welsh teams will therefore compete in the top flight of English football for the first time.
Newport County AFC
After 25 years Newport County have returned to the football league after defeating fellow Welsh side Wrexham (we’ll get to them in a minute) in an all-Welsh Wembley final.
It marked a magnificent first season as chairman for EuroMillions winner Les Scadding as they look forward to playing the likes of Portsmouth next season.
It was a bitter-sweet season for Andy Morell’s men at the Racecourse Ground as they made it to Wembley on two occasions; with varying outcomes.
The play-off loss to Newport leaves them in the Conference once again; but after beating Grimsby Town on penalties in the FA Trophy final back in March hope will be high in regards to a return to the big-time this time next year.
Merthyr Town FC
After Merthyr Tydfil went bust in 2010 this phoenix club was formed in the Western Football League for the 2010-11 season. They went on to win two promotions on the bounce and made the play-off final in the Division One South & West division this year. Despite a defeat to Hungerford Town they can still take solace in another great campaign.
No mention of Welsh football in 2013 would be complete without speaking about Bale. The Tottenham Hotspur player is already cementing himself as one of the greatest in the world and his collection of PFA Player, PFA Young Player and Football Writers Player of the Year Awards are testament to that fact.
What do you make of Welsh footballs great year?
image: © joncandy