Who is each clubs key man in the Welsh Premier League this season?
AS the Welsh Premier League kicks-off on Friday night, fans of the league are eagerly anticipating what could turn out to be one of the best seasons ever as the competition gets better and better.
These men are the men capable of winning games for their respective sides on their own and each club will hope they can get the very best out of their star men.
With that said, I felt that now might be a good time to highlight each team’s danger men, so here goes…
Aberystwyth Town – Geoff Kelloway
Veteran winger Kelloway is considered by Aber fans to be a club legend by now, having spent two separate spells at the club.
He first arrived at Park Avenue in the 2003/04 season and stayed until 2011/12 before moving on to Llanelli Town and Carmarthen Town, as well as spending some time playing in Australia
He moved back to Aber in 2013 and has remained at the club since, making 250 appearances. Voted into the WPL Team of the Season in 2009/10, the 31-year-old is still going strong to this day and is Aberystwyth’s main weapon on the attack.
Last season he netted eight goals for the black & greens and I have no doubts that he will once again prove vital to his side as they look forward to a new regime under recently appointed boss, Nev Powell.
Other stars to watch for Aberystwyth will be new signing Chris Langos, who will use his rapid pace to his advantage and young defender Ryan Wollacott, who impressed in his debut campaign last year.
Bala Town – Chris Venables
Whilst it is most likely to be striker Mike Hayes who will provide the majority of goals for the Lakesiders this season, it will be Chris Venables who runs the show entirely from the midfield.
The 32-year-old is a sensational player, having played in the Welsh Premier League since 2003-04 with Caersws, Aberystwyth, Welshpool, Llanelli and now Bala Town. During his time in Wales’ top flight, he’s racked up 350 appearances and is widely considered to be one of the best players to have played in the league.
Whilst at Aberystwyth, Venables won two consecutive Golden Boot awards, in both 2014 and 2015 and was also voted as the WPL’s Player of the Season in both those years.
Since moving to Bala for a five figure fee in July of last year, he has become a fans favourite and continues to prove just how good he is. Last season, he scored eight goals and was instrumental in helping the club qualify for Europe. I expect him to be their main man again this season.
I’d also advise keeping an eye on legendary WPL striker Les Davies who has signed for Bala this summer, as he will no doubt bring something special to their side.
Bangor City – Danny Gosset
The Citizens are full of hope and expectation heading into this new campaign and their is growing optimism, particularly amongst the fans, that they can mount a serious title challenge this year.
For me, Danny Gosset will have a huge role to play in that midfield this year and he has already shown signs of what he can do with his passing skills and his ability to dictate play in the centre of the park.
In the absence of Henry Jones, who has moved on to National League side AFC Fylde, Bangor need somebody who can pull the strings in midfield and the 22-year-old local lad is just that.
He became a fans favourite (especially because he speaks Welsh!) during his debut campaign at Bangor last season and I think he’ll go on to even better things this year. He’s likely to partner up with new signing Steven Hewitt in the heart of the midfield and I think if they can get a good partnership going then it could turn out to be a great season for City.
There will be a whole host of new signings to keep and eye on at Bangor this season, as well as veteran stars Dan Nardiello and Gary Taylor-Fletcher. There is also great expectation on the shoulders of young forward Dean Rittenberg who is heading into his first full season at Nantporth and Connor Roberts will be looking to once again prove why he is one of the best goalkeepers in the WPL.
Barry Town United – Kanye McLaggon
Former Southampton youth player McLaggon returned to his boyhood club this season and I think he’ll do really well in the Welsh Prem.
Having signed on from Merthyr Town, the 26 year old will be looking to spearhead Barry Town’s attack this season as they make their eagerly anticipated return to Wales top flight.
The 26-year-old’s rapid pace and movement allows him to break free from defenders and I think we’ll see that happen quite often during 2017/18. He will most certainly be their main attacking star.
Fellow strikers, TJ Nagi and Drew Fahiya are also ones to watch though and either one of those could end up forming a deadly partnership with McLaggon this year in my opinion.
Cardiff Met Uni – Adam Roscrow
Cardiff Met enjoyed a unexpected but nevertheless formidable campaign during 2016/17 and Roscrow played a huge role in that.
The Archers narrowly missed out on a place in Europe thanks to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Bangor in the play-off final. This time around they’ll be looking to go one step further in my opinion.
22-year-old winger Roscrow finished last season as their joint-top scorer (along with Eliot Evans) on six goals and the way he ran at and past defenders made him a joy to watch for not only the clubs fans but fans of the WPL in general. You could see that he really enjoyed playing for the club and much like everyone involved there, he gave his all.
The sense of team spirit at Met seems to be incredibly high after the success of last season and so there will be plenty of players to watch for them, such as Jordan Lam, Charlie Corsby and Emlyn Lewis. However, I do think that Roscrow will be centre of attention once again.
Carmarthen Town – Liam Thomas
When you think of goal scoring midfielders in the English Premier League you’d think of Steven Gerrard of Frank Lampard. In the Welsh Premier League we have Chris Venables and indeed Liam Thomas.
His scoring record from the midfield is quite simply, brilliant. On his debut season with the Old Gold in 2012/13 (after previous experiences with Neath and Afan Lido), he scored 13 goals in 27 appearances. He has since followed that up with 10 in 30, 9 in 28, 12 in 32 and 13 in 32 just last season.
Thomas has well and truly become Carmarthen’s main man in midfield and despite only being 25 years old, he’s just shy of making 200 WPL appearances, which is pretty impressive.
The club will most likely be pushing for a place in that top six again this year and I do believe that Thomas’ role in the matter will be crucial.
Goalkeeper Lee Idzi is always one to watch as well as he is one of the most experienced players in the WPL right now.
Cefn Druids – Ashley Ruane
In a season where it looks as though Cefn Druids will be fighting to stay up again, goals will be crucial to helping them achieve that target.
That’s where striker Ashley Ruane comes in handy as he’s turning out to be quite the handyman in front of goal for the Ancients. Last season, he scored 11 goals in 21 matches and helped them avoid relegation.
He seems to know where to be at the right time to get the goals and I think he should have no problem hitting double figures again during 2017/18.
Another one to watch for Cenf Druids is fellow striker, Mike Pritchard, who himself grabbed eight goals for the club last year. New signing Neil Ashton will also bring some much needed experience to the defensive side of their game, having spent time at Wrexham, Chester and Macclesfield in the past.
Connah’s Quay – Mike Wilde
The Nomads enjoyed their highest ever Welsh Premier League finish last season when they ended the season as runners-up and I think that this season they should be able to at least replicate that success.
Les Davies, who was the clubs top scorer last year has moved on to rivals Bala Town and so they will need someone who can take his place as their main goalscorer this season. Despite not having the best of seasons during 2016/17, I’m backing veteran forward Mike Wilde to be their star striker.
The 34-year-old managed just three goals in his 20 appearances for Quay last season, but there’s no doubting that he has ability to be much better than that and I think this season he’ll prove that he’s still got it.
154 goals in just over 300 appearances in the Welsh Prem (mainly for TNS) has put him in the league’s history books as one of the best strikers of all time, so Connah’s Quay will need to do all they can to get the best out of him as his legs begin to tire with age.
His strike partner Matty Williams will also be looking to improve his tally of six goals from the last campaign too.
Llandudno – Marc Williams
In Llandudno’s debut season in 2015/16, Williams was voted as the WPL’s Player of the Season in an incredible campaign that saw the club finish in third place and qualify for Europe.
Last season, things were much tougher for the Seasiders as they finished the campaign in the bottom six. Despite the misery of that and many an injury, talismanic forward Williams still managed to finish as the club’s top scorer with a mere six goals.
I have no doubts that if he’s fully fit this season, he’ll smash that record, as he’s a real fox in the box and knows how to score vital goals for his side.
The former Wrexham man has become the focal point of Alan Morgan’s side and they have done well to keep him at Maesdu amid interest from other clubs.
Llandudno have a whole range of players that will stand out during the campaign. Captain Tom Dix is a talent, whilst Danny Hughes works his socks off in every game and Marc’s brother, Mike is solid at the back.
Newtown – Jamie Reed
With the departure of Newtown and the WPL’s top scorer, Jason Oswell, to Stockport this summer, new signing Reed has the almost impossible task of trying to replace him.
The good news is though that Reed does have bags of experience of not only playing in Wales, but in Australia and England too. In terms of the WPL, he’s a three time winner of the title, having won it with Rhyl, Bangor City and TNS.
The 29-year-old has had something of a journeyman career in Wales, having played for Aberystwyth (two separate spells), Rhyl, Bangor City (two separate spells), The New Saints and Llandudno before arriving at Newtown this summer.
It can be said though that wherever he goes, he scores goals. 81 in 166 appearances in Wales’ top flight to be precise.
A natural target man, Reed uses his physical stature to shake defenders off the ball and holds the ball up well for his team mates too. He might not be as effective as Oswell was but one things for certain, he’ll do his best and he will guarantee you goals.
Fellow striker, Nicky Rushton will also be one to watch for the Robins as he’s another man who knows exactly where the goal is.
Prestatyn Town – Jack Kenny
Prestatyn are the bookies favourites to finish at the foot of the WPL table come the end of the season. However, they did dominate the Huws Gray Alliance last year, winning the title by 16 points in the end and so I think it’s a little unfair to write them off so early.
Their top scorer last season was Jordan Davies, but he has now left the club and so it will be down to their second top scorer of last year, Jack Kenny to provide the goals for the Seasiders.
Kenny has had previous Welsh Prem experience with Rhyl (where in the 2014/15 season he actually scored a last minute winner against Prestayn!) so he will be no stranger to playing in the top flight.
He scored 19 goals for Prestatyn last season and so he should be their main threat this year in the absence of Davies.
The trio of brothers who are at the club, Noah, Zebb and Zyaac Edwards could be ones to watch too as they give us a rare family affair in the top flight!
The New Saints – Greg Draper
I could probably list of whole host of players to watch in TNS squad to be fair, but I think Draper has been the stand out striker at the club for a good few years now as he truly is prolific.
The New Zealand international has played for the Welsh champs since 2011-12, during which time they have won the league on each occasion, so he doesn’t know what it’s like to not be a champion in the WPL!
Since his introduction to Welsh football, Draper has scored 84 goals in just under 150 matches for his side. His best tally came in his debut season when he scored 22 goals in 29 matches. Incredibly, despite his great record, he has never managed to win the Golden Boot award!
At 6ft 3′ he’s great in the air, but he’s also a calm finisher too and I think in fairness if he really wanted to he could most certainly play at a higher level.
Last season, the 27-year-old finished as the Saints’ joint top scorer alongside Alex Darlington on 15 goals a piece and I expect that those two will battle it out to be the club’s top scorer again this year. I’m going with Draper for the win though.
Fellow striker Scott Quigley will also be one to look out for this year after his goal scoring antics in the Champions League qualifiers. Adrian Cieslewicz will also be a threat from out wide and will definitely score a couple of goals.
(Featured Image: Naomi Jones of Bala Town FC)