One of Cardiff’s key strengths this season has been how level-headed they’ve remained as a club throughout the season. Whether it be the difficult start, the incredible run of form in the early winter, or the more difficult moments since then where they haven’t quite had the rub of the green perhaps, The Students have always remained cool, calm, and worked hard to get to where they are.
Where they are right now, is somewhere quite incredible, as they sit within 180 minutes of Europa League qualification, and The Students’ star goalkeeper reflected on the feat in conversation with WPL.Cymru recently.
‘To be two games away from Europe is amazing, but there's still a lot of work to done and some very strong teams stand in our way. We're confident in our ability and the ability of the staff to set us up with a game plan that gives us the best chance of making it happen and we'll give everything to claim that final European spot.
‘It's brilliant for the club, we knew the importance of reaching the top six both to maintain our status in the league but also to give us the opportunity to exceed all expectations by reaching the playoffs. At the start of the season we set ourselves some targets and having seen the success that Llandudno had in their first year we aimed high.
‘I think our tough start and the time it took us to adjust is well documented but we stuck to our principles and the results that some of those early performances deserved came. As a group and as individuals I think we've matured a lot this season, we've wised up and learnt a lot and at times we've showed we can mix it up a little and handle ourselves physically when needed.’
Phase Two has been a steep learning curve for the Cyncoed Campus outfit, facing The Dafabet Welsh Premier League’s top sides in their final 10 games of the season and, although the results haven’t been what the club would have wanted, there have been positives to take from their experiences since the winter.
‘Phase Two was always going to be difficult, you look at the teams we're sharing the Championship Conference with and there's real quality in the league. There's a full-time team, experienced ex-pros and quality throughout the rest of the division, but we make no excuses, we didn't do ourselves justice by only putting in 60 or 70 minute performances.
‘The game against Carmarthen was a complete performance and the score-line reflected that and whilst the 0-0 game with Connah’s Quay looks like a stalemate on paper, we showed strong resolve for the 90 minutes and dealt with a lot of pressure. We wanted to be in the top six because it meant safety and a chance of European football, but we also wanted to be there as it meant we got to test ourselves against the top teams every week again.
‘As a club we talk about having never arrived, always striving to be better and to achieve more and the only way to do that is to constantly challenge yourself. We've learnt a lot in Phase Two and hopefully that will put us in a good place for the playoffs.’
The Students have had some superb media coverage thanks to their exploits this season, in particular with the likes of The Guardian reporting on the club’s successes, but Fuller insists the club will continue to maintain their composure and level-headedness as they chase what the goalkeeper labels a dream of European football.
‘We'll go about things in the same fashion as always, we prepare for every game in detail, looking at how the opposition will play, how we want play and how we can go about imposing ourselves on the game. There's is a lot at stake but we've got a great group of players who have dealt with promotion pushes and title run-ins before and staff with lots of experience who will be keeping things calm and focused.
‘The club has come so far in the years that I've been here, from Welsh League Division 3 to the top six of the Welsh Premier League and we've also been crowned BUCS Champions this year making us the UK's best university side. It's great that we're starting to turn heads and get a bit of recognition but we can't get carried away. The position we're in now is only possible through the hard work of the staff and all the players that came before the squad we have at the minute and the focus remains on what we can do next as a group to try to create the next piece of history.
‘Survival was always the aim and I think we were right to initially focus on that but to qualify for Europe would be incredible both for the club and personally. We had our own ideas of what we wanted to achieve but to get into Europe would be crazy.
‘Europe would be a great platform to again test ourselves against the best and if we can put in a good performance against Carmarthen we'll be another step closer to making that dream a reality.’
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