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BAL acknowledges Cardiff

Thursday 17 September 2009

Cardiff's BAL team's promotion did not go unnoticed and the British League published an interview with successful team manager James Williams. James has been an enthusiastic team leader this year and he and the team deserve their success. By clicking on the more button you can read the whole interview.

By Richard Lewis
When you leave the M4 and follow the route towards Cardiff athletics centre, the sign should now read: "Welcome to the club that is going places".

Having watched their women's team rise through the ranks of the UKA League, it is the men that have taken on the mantle of success in a year where they arrived at their fabulous new arena and with a new team manager too.

If anyone says that guiding a side to promotion has to be based on the growing years and experience of the man in charge, forget that theory in an instant.

James Williams is 27. He is from one of Wales' most famous sporting families. His father JJ is an iconic, rugby legend and his younger brother Rhys is the European 400m hurdles bronze medallist who competes for the club.

But in his first season at the helm, do not expect James to accept the credit for the club's promotion from Division Two of the British Athletics League.

"The secret of my success?," he says. "I am not going to take any of the praise. The boys wanted to compete. We had a good start to the season, people went out of their way in the first match because it was in Cardiff, we won it and it put us in a good position.
"A lot of these guys had never been in the situation where they are pushing for promotion. It has always been either fourth or fifth, or to avoid relegation.

"There has really been a team atmosphere and I would like to think I have played a part in that."

Williams is a distance runner, ranging between 800m and 5000m. He was a team captain and before his appointment as team manager in the spring, he used to select the track athletes in conjunction with Dave Hawthorn who would put the field events together.

When Dave stepped down as team manager and his replacement Peter Stafford left for a senior role at European Athletics in Lausanne, Williams took over.

It was some occasion to start, too.

As he reflects on a season that saw Cardiff win the title, he knows the importance of that first Saturday in June when his club hosted the event at their new arena in one of the most spectacular sporting complexes in the country.

No-one can forget it because of the rain!

But Cardiff won with 343 points from Harrow with 338 and Thames Valley with 273.

Not only did it give Cardiff top spot on a great day of celebration at their new home - which is across the road from the city's football club's new ground and a mile from the cricket venue that staged that amazing first Ashes test this year - but the win gave Williams a great lever to ensure his squad stayed strong.

He said: "After winning the first fixture, I could phone the boys up in the second or third match and say 'Look, we are going for promotion'".

It worked.

Ironically, Cardiff did not win the next two fixtures, finishing fifth and then third, before victory at Kingston in August on the final day of the League season saw them clinch the title on match points from Blackheath & Bromley.

Both clubs ended the season on 26 League points, with Cardiff ending as champions courtesy of 1287 match points to 1250.5.

Christian Malcolm, one of Britain's leading sprinters, was the star of that last show, being named Man of the Match as he won the 200m in 21.01.

But it has been a year where new names have emerged for the club - such as multi-eventer David Guest, who signalled his quality with victory in the 110m hurdles and Long Jump on the opening day.

"He joined us this year from Bridgend and he has been fantastic," said Williams. "He is a superb athlete, he did three fixtures for us, eight events in total and his worst finish was second."

Not that Williams singled out anyone for praise. It is the team ethic which has taken Cardiff a step away from the Premiership in what he sees as a pivotal year for the club.

He said: "It has been the re-birth of Cardiff as an athletics club. We have this fantastic stadium and the one good thing is that it is breath of fresh air - the old stadium was cold and damp and it was really run down.

"They knew they were going to knock it down eventually so they did not invest any money into it. But now if you come down on club night, there are thousands of kids there. It is great to see."

The planning starts for 2010 has begun.

"I have been involved in the BAL for about 10 years and we have never had a recognised hammer thrower," said Williams. "We do need some athletes coming through. We are very fortunate that we do have the university close by, it attracts lot of athletes to Cardiff and if they are not involved with British League teams, hopefully they will come and join us.

"This year we lost a couple of our throwers to Birchfield and we have lost one of our very good jumpers to Enfield.

"We are not one of these clubs that pay our athletes, we are not one of these clubs that offer the world to our athletes, we are just an athletics club.

"We always have to battle against certain athletes wanting to be involved with the bigger teams and wanting to be in the Premiership, but at the same time when we can pick up athletes, we will.

"We were relegated three years ago and it was purely down to the fact that people did not want to compete.

There is probably a different mindset at the club now and they do want to compete. If we can get the nucleus of the team to compete, and we can strengthen, realistically we can look at consolidation in fourth or fifth but we won't be a milllion miles away from pushing from a second spot. But you never know."

Indeed you do not. Success can breed success, and Cardiff are hoping that the good times roll.