GARETH Owen is dreaming of leading Airbus UK Broughton into Europe after returning to the club as head coach.
The vastly-experienced former Wrexham midfielder replaces Darren Ryan, who quit the Wingmakers at the start of the month to become manager of Newtown.
Owen, who had a three-year spell as player-boss at Airbus from 2005 to 2008, is returning to his Flintshire roots following a successful three-year stint with Rhyl.
He will renew his partnership with director of football Craig Harrison and, crucially, his appointment means Airbus once again meet the Welsh Premier League’s licensing criteria as Owen is a fully-qualified UEFA coach.
The 39-year-old from Connah’s Quay said: “I’ve enjoyed three years at Rhyl and now look forward to the challenge of working in the WPL again with a club that’s challenging for Europe.
“I had a great working relationship with the club and Craig previously and aim to build on that.
“It was difficult to turn down the chance of European football three years ago with Rhyl as a player. Now with Airbus as head coach, hopefully European football will be at the Airfield in the not too distant future.”
Wingmakers chairman Paul McKinlay said: “We are delighted that Gareth has agreed to return to the club.
“He brings a wealth of invaluable coaching knowledge and experience with him and, of course, his ability and experience as a player will be there to be called upon too.”
Owen, who made more than 400 appearances for Wrexham from 1990-2001, has also turned out for Doncaster Rovers, Northwich Victoria and hometown club Connah’s Quay.
Owen, who combined his playing duties at Rhyl last season with coaching under boss Greg Strong, is the football development officer for Flintshire County Council and is regarded as one of the top coaches in the country.
It was Owen who first brought former Middlesbrough star Harrison to the club as his assistant manager.
Harrison said: “We really enjoyed working together three years ago and since then Gareth has gained great experience at this level with Rhyl, which will only benefit Airbus longer term.”
Owen’s arrival means Roger Preece has left the club.
Andrew Thomas remains at the Wingmakers as assistant coach.
McKinlay added: “I would like to thank Roger for his tremendous efforts last season. He is a seasoned professional in all that he does and we wish him well in his next role.”