In the final of our season previews, we take a look at the four sides who represented the JD Welsh Premier League in European action this past summer.
Whilst their European fortunes varied, it is fair to say that all of these sides have had very strong summers in many respects, with The New Saints – even on the eve of the new domestic season kicking off – still representing Wales in the UEFA Europa League, and all sides having made some great acquisitions.
Transfers in: Dean Rittenberg, Jordan Evans, Alex Hall, Ryan Kershaw
This time last year the Ancients were being talked about in some circles (not this one!) as potential relegation candidates, and here we are now, one of the many talking about them as one of the frontrunners following a very strong summer – what a 12 months this side has had.
One thing is for certain, however – Huw Griffiths will not be allowing his side to rest on the laurels of last season for a single second throughout this upcoming campaign, which will arguably be even tougher than the two which have preceded it, given how this is a side that has continually raised it’s bar over the past two seasons.
Facing a side who will be hoping to emulate their success in the coming seasons, Druids face a tough task travelling to Caernarfon for the opening day of the season in what will be Sgorio’s first live broadcast of the term, too.
It will be a very interesting season at the Rock. Expectations will be huge after last season, no doubt, and nobody will be surprised by what they come up against any more. The squad has only improved over the summer, they’ve got some European experience under their belts, and morale is undoubtedly very high – can they match or improve on last season’s output?
Transfers in: Sean Smith, Danny Gosset, Anthony Miley, Steve Tames, Vaughn Charles, Henry Jones, Joe Edwards, Charlie Williams.
Transfer out: Anthony Stephens, Lee Owens, Les Davies, David Thompson, Jordan Evans, Glenn Rule, Craig Vernon, John Disney, Lewis Short.
Whilst their European exit may have come about quicker than fans, players and all involved with the Maes Tegid club would have liked, this hasn’t been a bad summer in other respects for the club – look at those signings, for starters!
Colin Caton’s side have secured significant additions all over the pitch, as they look to chase down Connah’s Quay Nomads and The New Saints in the standings, following a fourth-placed finish for the Lakesiders last term.
Recruiting well from both within the JDWPL and beyond, Caton’s side is massively strengthened this term, with the signings of Miley, Gosset and Jones in particular indicating major improvements to the spine of a side that the manager clearly felt needed refreshing, given the number of players that have left Maes Tegid over the summer months.
Another hugely unpredictable season is undoubtedly ahead of us, but with the acquisitions made by Bala is it possible to predict they might be closing the gap to The New Saints at the top of the standings with this present squad?
Transfers in: John Disney, Lewis Short, Danny Holmes, Lawrence Wilson, Noah Edwards, Mike Parker, Jack Kenny
Transfer out: Kai Edwards, Mike Pearson
The Nomads had one of the meanest teams in the league last year, but somehow they’ve managed to take themselves to another level over the summer with some superb business in the transfer market.
Resigning John Disney and Lewis Short, as well as adding Danny Holmes, Lawrence Wilson, Noah Edwards and Mike Parker makes up for the loss of Kai Edwards and Mike Pearson, certainly, and they new players have settled in remarkably well.
Holmes and Wilson were outstanding in the Europa League for Quay, who were knocked out by Shakhtyor Soligorsk by way of a comfortable aggregate win for the Belarusians, however the scoresheet in neither leg went any way to reflecting the performance of Andy Morrison’s side in the tie, in which Parker impressed too and Edwards made his European debut, with Short and Disney slotting into their former roles seamlessly.
Once again, Nomads have looked to raise the bar over the summer as they set their sights on toppling The New Saints at the top of the standings. It will be an enormous challenge to close that gap, but Morrison will have his side as ready as possible to embark on that adventure.
Transfers in: Josh Nembhard, Kane Lewis, Kurtis Byrne, Connor Roberts, Josh Hmami, Danny Redmond, Ben Cabango (Loan).
Transfers out: Jacob Farleigh, Wes Fletcher, Aaron Jones, Aron Hughes Jones, Robbie Parry, Ryan Pryce, Connell Rawlinson, Steve Saunders, Andy Wycherley.
It would be very difficult for any side to replace the names that have walked out of the Park Hall doors over the summer, but Scott Ruscoe and Steve Evans have done superbly well in their summer business to make such additions to the squad.
Ben Cabango looks a future star in the making, Kane Lewis has performed superbly in place of Simon Spender at right-back in the European campaign, but again the champions have strengthened all over the pitch and throughout the season there is no doubt we’ll see even more from the numerous stars added to the ranks at Park all over the last few weeks.
They’re the favourites to secure the title again, however with their European journey still ongoing and a difficult start to come with Barry Town United at home and Connah’s Quay Nomads away coming directly after European games, could that hinder the league campaign for the champions and give their rivals an edge in the early stages?
Certainly with the business and the strides forwards taken by their nearest competitors, Bala and Connah’s Quay have done everything they can to close the gap, and soon enough we’ll find out how The New Saints will react to that challenge – Colin Caton and Andy Morrison’s sides won’t be going away without a fight, that’s for sure.
The new season: it begins tonight!
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