Rhyl are looking for their third manager in less than a year after the sacking of Gareth Owen.
The Lillywhites boss was in charge for just nine months when the club announced on Tuesday evening that he had been let go by mutual consent, along with first team assistant Mark Roberts.
Having only arrived at Belle Vue to take over from Greg Strong last May, he leaves as one of Rhyl’s least successful managers – just three league wins from 24 Welsh Premier games. With eight games of the season to go, the Lillywhites remain five points from safety in the table.
In a short statement, the club said it was a ”difficult decision” prompted by ”disappointing results this season which places Rhyl’s chances of survival” in the WPL under threat. His last game in charge on Friday night – a 1-0 defeat to Aberystwyth Town – continued a winless streak stretching back to October. Rhyl also suffered shock early exits in both the Welsh Cup and the Word Cup.
Owen’s sacking comes as the club prepares for a crunch match with one of their main relegation rivals – away at Port Talbot Town this Saturday. The club have yet to announce who will take charge for that game or the rest of the season, which culminates with a televised clash against Carmarthen Town on Saturday 23rd April. It could also be Rhyl’s last regular TV exposure for the time being, unless results pick up.
Luck has been in short supply at the club this season – one of the most recent blows was striker Jamie Reed’s decision to reject a bid to sign for the Lillywhites and join Llandudno instead. The downturn in fortunes has also hit the club’s gates as even the most faithful supporters have stayed away.
Owen’s managerial style has also been subject to criticism by fans – some went so far as to label his side the worst Belle Vue team in years. He also brought in the likes of veteran Liverpool defender Stephen Wright and appointed ex-Wrexham marksman Dean Keates, but neither have made impact on the pitch.
Owen himself was a Lillywhites hero in his days as a midfielder – he helped guide the club to their last WPL title in 2008-9 and won the league Player of the Year award. That stint marked a surprise comeback as a player – he had spells with Doncaster Rovers and Gap Connah’s Quay after serving out twelve years at Wrexham.
He became player-manager at Airbus UK in 2005, and returned to the Airfield as head coach in 2011, but left within five months. Since then, he has continued to work for the Welsh Football Trust.
Upon his return to Rhyl, managing director Mike Jones said he fitted into ”the whole ethos of the club. He has the ability to inspire and develop players and coaches which will strengthen our football club throughout.”
Less than a year down the line, the club has lost its second manager in a year and faces losing its Welsh Premier status again – and this time, all because of matters on the pitch rather than off it.