This weekend the 2018/19 JD Welsh Premier League season gets underway, and what a year it is sure to be.
Below, we take a look at three of the league’s ‘towns’ for the year, in Caernarfon, Llanelli, and Carmarthen, as well as Llandudno. Two of these sides are returning to the top flight, and the other two are hoping to improve on their performance last year.
Transfers in: Ross Stephens, Ben Maher, Sion Bradley, Cai Jones.
Transfers out: Shaun Cavanagh, Kevin Lloyd.
They’re back! The Cofis will return to JDWPL action this weekend in the first live S4C fixture of the season against Cefn Druids.
This time a year ago, many were talking of the Ancients as relegation candidates, but those people were proved drastically wrong as Druids stormed into Europe after a phenomenal season under the 2017/18 Manager of the Season, Huw Griffiths.
Sean Eardley and the team at the Oval will surely be hoping for similar fortunes this term. Cofi fans will undoubtedly have their sights set as high up the table as possible, and why not, but the more realistic aim this season has to be to survive in the league and build for future years – much like Druids have done in their latest JDWPL stint, actually – and it has to be said that Caernarfon have the potential to do just that.
Cynics will point out that strong cup performances against JDWPL sides in recent years are just that – one-off performances – and that more consistent excellence will be harder to come by, and it undoubtedly will be, but there will be a huge sense of optimism about the Oval as the season commences. If they can get off to a good start then who knows where they might end up in the standings come January.
Transfers in:Mark Jones, Resat Islam Khaton, Scott Tancock, Jamie Owen, Tristan Jenkins, Lenny Evans, Iwan McNab, James Parry, Oliver Davies, Anthony Nelson, Cairan Smith
Transfers out:Lee Trundle, Liam Samuel, Craig Morris, Antonio Faccuito, Lee Bevan, Jordan Vickers
Another former giant returning to the JDWPL stage, Llanelli Town are back and will make it four southern sides in the top flight for the coming season.
It has been an incredible rise for Andy Hill’s side through the divisions over the last couple of years, and whilst Lee Trundle, who was at the heart of a lot of that success, has since left the club and signed for Haverfordwest County, there is plenty of talent within this squad that is sure to send Llanelli into the upcoming season with a bang.
Their opening gambit back at this level couldn’t be much more difficult, in truth, with Connah’s Quay Nomads the visitors to Stebonheath Park, however with the emotions and excitement of returning to such a high level of football at its pinnacle, could that inspire such a performance that would see the Nomads come unstuck in their first outing of the season?
It would be quite the story of success from a team who has written many incredible stories over the past few seasons in particular as they’ve vaulted up the pyramid. Keep an eye on these guys throughout the season: they could very well be the third successive side from the south to be promoted and have an instant impact.
Transfers in:Lewis Baldwin, Declan Carroll, Jordan Vickers, Greg Walters, Tyrrell Webbe, Jay Woodford
Transfers out:Kyle Bassett, Tyler Brock, Dwayne Coultress, Clayton Green, Mark Jones, Resat Islam Khaton, Kieran Lewis, Dan Sheehan, Liam Walsh
2018 has been very fortuitous to Carmarthen Town. They’ve been on a fantastic run of results since Neil Smothers took to the hot seat at Richmond Park, secured survival at the very end of the season, and have made some fantastic acquisitions over the summer months.
With five of their eight wins in 2017/18 coming after the split, the Old Gold finished the season very strongly and found themselves amongst the top sides in terms of the form guide in Phase Two, and they’ll be desperate to keep that form going into the beginning of the 2018/19 season and beyond.
Town head to Maes Tegid to face Bala Town in their opening fixture of the season, and the challenges just keep coming from there on in with Llandudno at home followed by TNS away and a two home games against Cardiff Met and Newtown.
That being said, it is surely preferable to six straight away games, which is how the Old Gold began the 2017/18 term, with one win from those opening six outings.
Transfers in: Shaun Pearson, Ieuan Hewitt, Zebb Edwards, Mike Pearson, Ant Marshall, Kai Edwards, John Owen, George Harry, Steve Thomas, Sean Thomas, Alun Webb, Cai Owen, Telor Williams, Mark Connolly, Zyaac Edwards, Osian Jones
Transfers out: Jay Gibbs, Alex Lynch, James Joyce, Danny Shaw, Wes Baynes, Lee Thomas, Marc Williams, Ryan Edwards, Patrick Rutter, Sam Hard, Mike Williams, Tom Dix.
It may be a bit much to say it is now or never for Iwan Williams, but to be fair when you look at the turnover there as been with this Llandudno squad over the summer, it is certainly the manager’s team now and it will be his responsibility to extract the absolute maximum from them at all times throughout the very testing season that lays ahead.
A 10th-placed finish will have massively disappointed everyone at the club last season, hence the overhaul, and after winning only five games outside the opening five fixtures of the season (of which the Seasiders won four) five wins out of 27 matches is not the return anyone wanted – especially when the aim was to be challenging for Europe.
Within the squad that has been assembled, however, there are plenty of young players in there, plenty of faces who have been wanting to test themselves consistently at JDWPL level, as well as some experienced heads – not to mention four Wales C Internationals!
All of the ingredients are there for Williams and his side to improve massively on what was a disappointing 2017/18 campaign, and it will certainly be very exciting to see how this new-look side, both personnel-wise and tactically, take to the 2018/19 season.
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