Caernarfon Town have hired Allan Bickerstaff as their new first team manager.
In an surprise move, the Canaries announced the arrival of the ex-Rhyl and Connah’s Quay manager on Saturday night, bringing a sudden end to Sean Eardley’s reign after seventeen months in charge.
Eardley, who guided Caernarfon back to the Welsh Premier League – and a top six finish this season – will stay on at The Oval in his former role as assistant manager.
The club says Bickerstaff’s appointment is part of a ”important and long-planned” restructuring at management level. Jamie Crowther, Richard Davies and Mike Innes will continue to form the coaching staff.
It comes ahead of an important week for Caernarfon – with the club set to hear the result of its appeal against the FAW’s decision not to award a UEFA licence for playing in Europe.
Bickerstaff, a former Rhyl player, guided the Lillywhites to their second Welsh Premier title in 2008-09, during his only season in charge at Belle Vue.
After a spell as assistant manager at Llangefni Town, and a brief stint in charge of Llandudno, he joined the Nomads in 2014, initially as head coach.
He ended up taking caretaker charge on Deeside in January 2015 and signed a three year-deal after guiding Connah’s Quay to the play-offs. The following season, Bickerstaff was sacked after just eleven games.
Bickerstaff told Caernarfon Town’s website he believed there was ”enormous potential” for the club to reach new heights: ”I’m delighted to be joining such an important club in Welsh football and, having seen the team this season…I’m very excited at the prospect of pushing the squad, and the club, forward.
”I have to say that Sean has done a fantastic job here and I’m really looking forward to working with him. It is obvious that everyone at the Oval, from the chairman to the players, to the volunteers and the supporters, are all working together as one club and I’ll be doing my very best to push us on to the next level.”
Three and a half years after his departure from Connah’s Quay, Bickerstaff returns to WPL management at a club with a very tough act to follow.
Eardley was promoted to the hotseat upon Iwan Williams’ departure to Llandudno in November 2017. With a renewed ‘Cofi Army’ spirit, the Canaries were crowned Huws Gray Alliance champions with ease and took their place in the top flight of Welsh football after a nine year absence.
With a top six finish already secured, Friday night’s 4-1 win over Newtown guaranteed Caernarfon a home semi final in the Europa League play-offs.
Despite being outseated as first team boss, Eardley insisted he was equally excited about Bickerstaff’s arrival: ”Talks have gone well, and we feel at this crucial time of the season, his expertise will be a massive help to us with the final push of this season and in future seasons to come!”
Bickerstaff is expected to take charge for the first time when Caernarfon visit newly recrowned champions The New Saints next Saturday night (20th April) in their penultimate game of the league campaign.
Before that, the club will find out on Thursday if the UEFA licence appeal has been successful. As a prerequisite for playing in European competition, a second refusal from the FAW would hamper the club’s hopes of reaching the Europa League and effectively end their season.
As for the management restructure at The Oval, chairman Marc Roberts explained on Saturday night: ”Next season marks ten years since the club was taken over and a new direction taken. Over the last decade, we have seen some remarkable developments, and everyone involved, and all our supporters, can feel rightly proud of the position Caernarfon Town is now in.”
”The first ten years has been about consolidation and re-establishing our credentials as a force in Welsh football. The next decade will be about pushing the envelope and taking us to levels this club has never previously experienced.”
On the appointment of the new manager, he added: ”Allan Bickerstaff’s experience, knowledge and array of contacts further strengthens what I believe to be the best management team in the Welsh Premier. What we have achieved this season is nothing less than remarkable.”
”But we cannot rest on our laurels, and we need to continue to chase the glittering prizes and footballing accolades that our fans so rightly deserve.”
”With Allan, Sean and the management team all now on board for the long term I have no doubt that the next decade will bring further success in the league, Welsh Cup glory and of course European forays with the Cofi Army.”