Modlen Gwynne: From Aberystwyth Town mascot to first team player in eight years

On International Women’s Day, Impetus announced its sponsorship of Aberystwyth Town starlet Modlen Gwynne and Ella Thomas. To launch our sponsorship of Modlen, the youngster answered Ben Gilby‘s questions (16/3/23).

Above: Modlen Gwynne, Impetus’ newest sponsored player. Photo: Aberystwyth Town Women.

Modlen Gwynne is one of a talented crop of young locally produced players at Adran Premier side Aberystwyth Town who have been handed an opportunity to experience first-team football in the top tier of the Welsh club game this season.

Despite being just 15 years of age, Modlen has had the football bug for as long as she can remember, as she explained to Impetus.

“I’ve always loved football from a very young age and was drawn to play with the boys every lunchtime in primary school and every night in my back garden. I started training and playing for Y Celtiaid Juniors in 2014 (under eights) and played every Saturday in the Aberystwyth Junior Football League.

“I continued to play for Y Celtiaid for the U9s, U10s, and U11s. By then I was the only girl on the team. I then joined Celtiaid Ystwyth and then moved to Llanilar Sharks for the 2019-20 season that was cut short due to Covid-19. From an early age, I was also a member of the Aberystwyth Girls Development and Centre of Wales Excellence which I really enjoyed, it gave me the opportunity to learn the more tactical side of football and helped me develop my skills.”

At this stage, Modlen began to receive recognition for her huge potential as a footballer. “In 2019 I won the Under 12s Player of the Season 2018-19 in the Aberystwyth Junior League. It was the first time ever in the history of the league that two girls, myself and Elan Jones who I am currently playing with now for the U19 and Seniors, were nominated in the top two spots. It was an extremely proud moment for us both!”

Describing herself as “a player that’s committed to the game and willing to learn from my mistakes,” Modlen thoroughly enjoys the tactical side of the game “just as much as scoring goals and striving to have a better understanding of the game every day. One of my strengths is my physicality and attitude on the pitch. I am a strong team player, and I feel that I can read games well.”

Above: Modlen Gwynne (left) with Ella Thomas (right), who Impetus also sponsors. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Aberystwyth Town Women.

Impetus’ newest sponsored player has also experienced some real setbacks in her embryonic career that she has had to bounce back from.

“In October 2020 I took a break from football as I suffered a form of kidney failure. It took me some time to get over, but I decided to try and return and I began training and playing for Aberystwyth U16 Development squad while continuing with Llanilar Sharks, unfortunately, I found it difficult to love football again and reach the form I was in before and decided to stop playing in winter 2021.

During the summer of 2022, I watched the women’s Euros and it inspired me to come back and play again. I returned to Aberystwyth U16 Development squad in September 2022, and although it was difficult as I had not played consistent football since before covid, I worked hard to improve my fitness levels and improve my game.

“In February this year, I attended the FAW Centre at Colliers Park Wrexham to be assessed so that I could play senior football. I passed and subsequently signed for Aberystwyth Town at the age of 15. This also allowed me to play in the Genero Adran South U19 league for Aberystwyth Town and I have found myself improving every game, scoring five times in the last four games and we are having a successful run of five games unbeaten (one draw and four wins).

“I made my first seniors start for Aberystwyth Town in the Genero Adran Trophy semi-final against Cardiff Met in February 2023. I played nearly 60 minutes, and although we lost 3-0, it was an absolutely amazing experience, one I will never forget. Since then, I have made appearances against Pontypridd United in a disappointing 2-1 defeat and against Barry Town United in an excellent 3-0 win, and I am eager and excited to make many more appearances in the future.”

Modlen has sport in her blood and was inspired by her father’s achievements in rugby union. “He was a great rugby player, he played for Aberystwyth RFC and Llandovery RFC. In 2007 he won Man of the Match at the Millennium Stadium in the Konica Minolta Cup Final against the Cardiff Blues. He would take me to rugby and football training, to play cricket, and to cross-country competitions every week.

“He inspired me to become a better athlete and gave me the mindset to reach my potential. Mum would say “try your best”, and Dad would say “you can beat them.” He died suddenly in 2016, but I know he would be so proud of my hard work, my achievements, and the journey that I’m on.”

The youngster also has had the hugely important role model of an excellent female coach in her early days – something that Modlen greatly appreciates.

Above: Modlen Gwynne in action for Aberystwyth Town against Pontypridd United on her Adran Premier debut for the club. Photo: Steve Williams. Supplied to Impetus by: Aberystwyth Town Women.

“Menna Williams, Celtiaid Juniors coach was the one that encouraged me to join Y Celtiaid at seven years old. I remember the day she asked me. She was so inspirational as a coach, it was great as a young girl to have a woman train us, as the only girl in the team, she really motivated me. In my early days at the Aberystwyth Girls Development Centre, Bryn McGilligan Oliver helped me a lot to develop my foundational football skills, he opened my eyes to the potential I had and showed me what would be possible.”

Modlen also appreciates the influences of the club’s U19 manager in her development. “Roy Tourle has also helped me immensely as a player and encouraged me so much along my journey. He is always so positive and tells me I have the potential to go a long way and has been there since my time with Y Celtiaid and with Aberystwyth U16 development. I have a lot to thank him for, his encouragement gave me the confidence to take the opportunity to train with the U19s and to move up to the Seniors. He has been crucial in my development and journey and has allowed me to reach my current form.

“In 2014, when I was in the Girls Development Centre, at seven years old I had the opportunity to be a mascot and now I’m playing with them, it’s a dream come true!

“The senior players have welcomed us into the squad and have inspired and motivated us to play and keep on improving. This has been especially true for me as I have looked up to them since being a seven-year-old mascot and wanting to be like them. And now I’m here, playing with them, I feel grateful for this opportunity.”

For Modlen to be playing first-team football in Wales’ highest league at the age of 15 is something special. To be doing it just a matter of months after returning to the sport after a spell away only highlights the scale of what the youngster has achieved.

“As this is my first full season back in a very long time, it feels like everything has been moving so fast. I now feel settled in and enjoying my football with the U19s, however, senior football wasn’t entirely on my radar. But, the opportunity came, and I took it with both hands, and with that came a lot of pressure and nervous emotion.

“I think that was one of the biggest step-ups, the difference in mentality and physicality of playing for the first team comes with a lot of challenges, but I think I do quite well to handle them, and not let them get the best of me. This is mainly because I always tell myself on the pitch that it’s no different to playing in my back garden, the park, at school, or in a training session.

“As long as I’m enjoying it, I’ll be fine. The game is also at a much faster pace and the players are much stronger as they’re older. I’m currently working on improving my fitness which will, in the long run, improve my game.”

Above: Modlen Gwynne warming up ahead of her first-team league debut. Photo: Steve Williams. Supplied to Impetus by: Aberystwyth Town Women.

As well as coming to terms with senior football, Modlen is also approaching her GCSE exams – providing her with yet more hurdles to overcome. “The main challenge is finding the time to revise as I want to prioritise football in every situation, but unfortunately can’t do that as although my mum is extremely supportive, she would not be too happy!

“As I’m training twice a week and playing games for the U19 and seniors weekly finding time in between all of that can be challenging but it is manageable so far as I’m two or three months away from our final exams. I’m extremely excited for a more flexible academic timetable next year that allows me to combine my studies with my football endeavours.”

The Aberystwyth Town starlet is hugely grateful to Impetus for sponsoring her and highlighted the positive impact it will have on her. “It’s really exciting to have my first sponsor! I’m really grateful to Impetus for their interest and support which means I can work hard on my game as well as my school studies and not need to pay for anything football-related. I’m looking forward to next season already.”

However, there are still a few games of this season remaining, and Modlen has set some goals to achieve before 2022/23 comes to an end.

“I hope to keep on scoring goals and winning games with the U19 squad as we are aiming high. As well as playing weekly for the U19s, I’m of course aiming for many more appearances with the first team and to keep on improving as a player so I can secure my place in future seasons.

“I would love to keep on improving as a player and become the best that I can be, to go as far as I can, to make Aberystwyth proud.”

One thing is sure, everyone at Impetus is extremely proud of Modlen Gwynne already and we can’t wait to join her journey at Aberystwyth Town.

Artwork: Steven Brookes. Supplied to Impetus by: Aberystwyth Town Women.

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