Yes, that’s right, in only their second season back at JD Welsh Premier League level, Barry Town United last weekend secured a European adventure for themselves this coming summer as they came from behind to beat Bala and ensure that Gavin Chesterfield’s side would finish third in the standings.
We caught up with the club’s talismanic striker Kayne McLaggon, born and bred a stone’s throw away from Jenner Park, to find out what this milestone means for him.
Read on to find out more in our extended chat with the Barry Town United striker.
“When Gavin and I sat down and I signed for the club back in 2017, our plan was always to try and get the club back into Europe. We didn’t really disclose that, but it was an in-house goal between myself and the manager.
“I think I was one of the first signings in that first summer back in the JD Welsh Premier League as well, and it was definitely one of our goals – I’m not sure if we were that positive it would happen in the first two years, but I knew that the club would get there eventually because this club has so much history at a European level.
“We were always going to get there at some stage, it was just a case of when. To do it in the two years that I initially signed for is huge, a real dream come true. It is just massive for the town, massive for the club, for the supporters, everyone, it’s just really great.
“I’ve got to be honest, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I remember climbing over the fence to get in to a few European ties back in my younger days as a boy growing up in Barry – I probably owe the club some money, to be fair!
“As a kid I lived around the corner from the ground, so I’d walk over and if I couldn’t get in I’d watch the game from behind the fence or try and jump over and get in to see the action!
“I would always do my best to go and watch Barry, I remember them playing against Dynamo Kiev and Aberdeen, a friendly against Manchester United too. This club, and European football at this club has always been a part of me – I could see the ground from where I lived – so it means perhaps more to me than most.
“When I came here I was just hoping I could help bring those days back, you know, and I’m proud to have played some part in doing that.”
The Jenner Park outfit have defied all reasonable expectations this season, one could argue. To be in a three-way title race for an extended period and to secure European football in only their second season back in the JD Welsh Premier League is quite some going by any stretch.
McLaggon elaborates on why aspects of the side’s success this year don’t surprise him, and why some have surpassed even his expectations as someone who says he is the biggest believer in what the team can do.
“If you look at the top four teams in the league from the last few years, Bangor have dropped out of that group so I always felt there was a gap that needed to be filled in this year and I felt from day one of pre-season that there was no reason that couldn’t be us.
“Bangor were always going to be a top four team, but with them dropping out, the end to the season we had last year where we were riding a bit of a wave, I thought going into this season there was a chance.
“In-house I think we all felt we had a chance of top four, to be honest, but nobody will say they were expecting a title race. To be in that title race for as long as we were, I think we deserve huge credit for that.
“What we’ve done this year has completely surpassed what I thought we could do, and I’m the biggest supporter and the biggest believer in what we can do as a team, but to be in a title race for as long as we were was incredible really, and to secure Europe, it’s just fantastic.”
We put it to McLaggon that after everything Barry Town United has been through in recent years, there was no way securing their first trip back to the continent was going to be plain sailing – it had to be dramatic, and Saturday’s game against Bala where European football was clinched certainly ticked that box.
After going 2-0 down early in the second half and looking dead and buried, Barry rallied and scored five goals before the end of the 90 minutes to make it 5-2 overall – not bad going at all, and a fitting way for the club to make it’s return to the European stage, the 28-year-old forward concurred.
“Over the years this club has just continued to prove people wrong and hopefully we can go and do it again in Europe now. I think the game on Saturday epitomises this club’s journey, 100%.
“We’re 2-0 down, even the players and manager might have thought we might be finished here, maybe next time, I don’t know, and that’s where the club found itself some years ago in a similar situation – with that feeling of we might be finished here, and so on.
“2-0 down on the brink of going nowhere, but there’s no giving up from anyone involved in this club. We just never say die, we can’t die, and that’s what we did on Saturday again.
“Even when at times when we haven’t believed in ourselves – I think that’s probably our biggest weakness in that we don’t always believe in what we can do as players – but when we do, like we did on Saturday, we had a period where it looked like nothing was going for us then turned it around really quickly, and that’s what the club is built upon and has done in the last 10 years. Saturday was that journey in a nutshell.
“Within ten minutes of the second half we were nowhere, then 15 minutes later we were winning the game at a canter – it was perfect.”
What a couple of months it has been for Kayne McLaggon, by the way!
With a Wales ‘C’ squad call-up resulting in McLaggon scoring for Mark Jones’s side at Salford City against England ‘C’, followed up by confirmation of this European adventure, it can’t have gone much better, and the forward describes what it has been like for him.
“I have to say, the last two months for me personally have just been an absolute whirlwind in terms of my football career, really.
“I had to wait a bit longer than I would have liked for my Wales ‘C’ cap, after being injured the year before and not being able to take part, and that was so special, but nothing really compares to taking your hometown club back into Europe.
“That’s where it all started for me, my first game was watching Barry in Europe and it’s all come full circle now as I maybe come towards the end of my career, playing in Europe for Barry. This what dreams are made of. I hope it never ends!”
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