Who is each clubs key man in the 2018/2019 Welsh Premier League season?

Welsh Premier League football returns on Friday night with a triple doubleheader, including Bala Town hosting Carmarthen Town on Facebook Live.

The league once more boasts some top quality talent within each team. The goalkeepers who are expected to keep the clean-sheets and pull off the crucial saves.

Defenders who protect their own net whilst being a threat
to the opposition’s, midfielders who pull the strings whilst supporting both the back-line and
the frontmen and finally the attackers who are the firepower for each side, providing the
an outlet for the majority of teams

With this in mind, here are the key players for each side that can consistently perform at the
highest of standard for their respective sides; whilst being a potential match winner for any

Aberystwyth Town- Declan Walker

The attacking right-back was an inspired signing by manager Nev Powell prior to the 2017/18 season; having previously played under Powell at Bangor City. The risk paid off, as, after a year and a half on the sideline, the full-back finished the season as Aberystwyth’s top scorer in the league after scoring eleven goals (fourteen in all competitions).

A particular highlight for the twenty-six-year-old being the month of February where the former Republic of Ireland under 19’s international scored five in four games including a hat-trick against Carmarthen Town- which, alongside his defensive solidity, rightfully earned him the JD WPL player of the month.

Despite a career blighted with injuries, Walker managed to play thirty-one out of the possible thirty-two: with only ‘keeper Chris Mullock and midfielder Ashley Young playing more minutes.

The Seasiders’ fans will be once more hoping for this level of consistency from their star right back if they wish to push on from their tenth place finish last season.

Bala Town FC- Andy Mangan

Bala’s qualification for the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds caused a summer of spending from manager Colin Caton- with seven signings already coming through. However, arguably the most impressive was the acquisition of striker Andy Mangan- formerly of League Two sides Shrewsbury United and Bury (amongst others).

Mangan’s finest season came in 2008 when he joined Forest Green Rovers. The now thirty-one-year-old scored twenty-six goals in forty-one games, which resulted in him being the top scorer in the Conference Premier League that year.

Unsurprisingly, the striker was voted the club’s player of the season.

Having bounced around clubs in the higher echelons of the non-league English pyramid as well as League Two, the English frontman can offer a wealth of experience for the Maes Tegid side. Mangan has already proven he can score with the supply from Bala’s creative outlets like Chris Venables, having scored against Hyde United and registering an assist against WPL League winners TNS (both in preseason wins).

If Mangan can remain fit and committed, there is no doubt he can provide an attacking outlet which will trouble any team in the league for Bala Town.

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Barry Town United FC- Kayne McLaggon

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Last summer, McLaggon was on this list as a key man for Barry Town. This year it is no different with the twenty-seven-year-old proving his worth after joining prior to the 2017-18 season. With twelve goals in the league, McLaggon finished fourth in the top scorer’s chart- the only player in the top five to play for a team outside of the top six.

The former Southampton academy graduate has proven to be a lethal finisher as shown in recent seasons; finishing top scorer for Merthyr Town FC before arriving at Jenner Park.

Forming a dynamic strike partnership alongside Jordon Cotterill- with nineteen goals between the pair- McLaggon will hope to replicate his form in his second season with his hometown club.

Caernarfon Town- Darren Thomas

The champions of the Cymru Alliance League know they will have to work hard to ensure they remain in the JD WPL- whilst hoping the club’s two top scorers Jamie Breese and Darren Thomas from last season can continue firing in this campaign.

With forty-one goals in forty-eight games between the two, either could have made the list. However, Thomas beats Breese to the spot just based on what he offers in comparison.

The thirty-one-year-old has shown himself to be able to score in the top tier of Welsh football, having scored thirteen in thirty-one appearances in his previous seasons in the top flight (which included two hat-tricks).

This is a useful assist to the newly promoted side, alongside his trickery from the wing and partnership with Breese.

The number ten will push to secure safety with his local club and if he can provide the scoring touch like last year, there is no doubt Thomas can be a challenge for any side in the league.

Cardiff Metropolitan University- Eliot Evans

Two consecutive top half finishes following their promotion in 2016 have been undoubtedly due to Cardiff’s star players; Adam Roscrow’s goals and trickery from the wing, the consistency and defensive strength of Kyle McCarthy and the finishing ability of Eliot Evans. The latter gets the nod on this list purely because of his goal tally from last season.

An emphasis of Evans’ impact on the side is that from the last campaign he scored 30% of all of Cardiff’s goals (14/46). The twenty-six-year-old was bettered by only Greg Draper of TNS but did achieve his best scoring rate in the league- which is undoubtedly a tally he wishes to better next season.

If Evans remains fit and firing next season, he could be challenging for the Golden Boot against the league’s best.

Carmarthen Town AFC- Liam Thomas

Despite the goals being spread out amongst the squad, midfielder Thomas once more demonstrated his goal-scoring knack for The Old Gold.

Nine goals in thirty-two games put him at the top of the club’s scoring list last season, which further illustrates the consistency Thomas possesses- with sixty-five goals in one hundred and sixty-four games over the past six seasons.

The Swansea born attacking-midfielder can provide a deadly final pass to the attackers too. At just twenty-six, Thomas is seventh in Carmarthen Town’s all-time appearance list with arguably some of his best years ahead of him.

If Thomas remains loyal to The Old Gold for another few years, he would, without doubt, go down as a club legend and possibly, the record appearance maker for Carmarthen. His goals could be once more what helps Carmarthen stay in the league for another season.

Cefn Druids- Nathan Peate

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The Druids finished in a remarkable fifth in the league after finishing eighth in their return to the top flight.

Qualification for the Europa League through the playoffs was the icing on the cake for last season. Defender Nathan Peate played in every single game barring one in his first season at The Rock.

The number six was an ever-present, whilst also providing a threat in the opposition’s box- scoring three last season.

Peate’s time at Welsh clubs includes Gresford Athletic, Flint Town United and Denbigh Town in the Cymru Alliance League as well as Llandudno FC in the WPL before joining Cefn Druids. Unlike his prior spell with Llandudno, Peate remained fit and injury-free which was rewarded by manager Huw Griffiths with a consistent spot in his first eleven.

A rock at the back, Griffiths would hope the Welshman can replicate his form from the season just gone to gain a similar position in the league this term.

Connah’s Quay Nomads- Jon Danby

The only ‘keeper on this list, Danby is rightfully regarded as one of, if not the, best shot stopper in the league. The back-to-back team of the season places, the least amount of goals conceded as well as most clean-sheets in both prior seasons, there is little doubt Danby is a fine goalkeeper.

The veteran Englishman managed thirteen shutouts in thirty-two games in the league; despite being two less than the previous campaign, it is still an outstanding feat.

With over three years at The Nomads, Danby has had many memorable matches- such as two clean-sheets in the Europa League qualification against Stabaek- but another qualification for Europe will be the main target for the six foot two goalkeeper alongside his teammates.

With the defence in front being one that he is familiar with, keep an eye out for Danby’s saves and clean-sheets throughout this season and expect him to be high on the least goals conceded tally once more.

Llandudno FC- John Owen

With the club’s thirtieth anniversary being this year, Llandudno’s players will wish to make it a season to remember for everyone involved with the club- by perhaps pushing for Europe like their first season back in the top tier of Welsh football back in 2015-16.

With two of their three joint top scorers being released (Danny Shaw and Marc Williams) manager Iwan Williams has had to dip into the transfer market heavily; with one of those players brought in being twenty-six-year-old John Owen.

In his second stint at the club, Owen has played for multiple Welsh sides such as Aberystwyth Town, Bangor, Rhyl, Porthmadog and Caersws.

At Rhyl, in particular, he showed his scoring qualities, with nine goals in thirty games. Owen, who can play as an out and out striker or as a centre-forward, will wish to provide a greater impact for ‘Dudno come the start of the season to his prior spell- having netted three in twenty-one.

Owen has thus something to prove, meaning he will wish to repay the trust of the manager and fans alike.

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Llanelli AFC- Scott Tancock

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As run-away winners of the Welsh Football League Division One with fifteen points, Llanelli will wish to avoid relegation as soon as coming up to the WPL, likewise to Caernarfon. Llanelli will hope that the star players who helped gain promotion can continue their form into the top division but the signing of Swansea City graduate Scott Tancock shows a statement of intent.

Having played for Merthyr Town for three years, Tancock can play in the centre of defence or on the left side of it. The Swansea born twenty-five-year-old has also played for Newport County and Wrexham back in 2014 on two separate loan spells.

With the experience of English league football and the then Premier League academy of Swansea, Tancock can offer defensive strength at the back for Llanelli whilst being a prospect for the future- with his best years still to come. The manager Andy Hill will be hoping Tancock can help to keep his side in the WPL.

Newtown AFC- Luke Boundford

Quoted as being “The most versatile player at the club”, Boundford is exactly that. Primarily playing as a striker/attacking midfielder, the ex-Newbridge player has played in defence and even in goals when ‘keeper Dave Jones was sent off.

Despite his multiple positions, Boundford was second in Newtown’s scoring charts with seven (two behind striker Nick Rushton).  In his seventh season with The Robins, Boundford has consistently been scoring; with a goal every four games on average.

A near ever-present with thirty-one games last season- joint most for the club- the thirty-year-old will provide Newtown with a steady head wherever he is played to help push them into the top six for the season ahead.   

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The New Saints- Greg Draper

The record champions could have numerous players pushing for this spot, with quality present across the whole pitch. However, New-Zealander Greg Draper is once more a class above the rest.

The WPL 2016/17 season’s second top scorer went one better last season, scoring twenty-one in thirty-one games. He beat Eliot Evans to the Golden Boot by seven goals; demonstrating why he is up there with the best frontmen in the league. You see why he is possibly the best after hearing his record: scoring one hundred and five in one hundred and eighty-three for TNS!

With aerial prowess and an ice-cool finish, Draper will be calling Park Hall home for what will be his eighth season (which could potentially result in his eighth league title in a row!).

A new strike partner in Kevin Kauber- who himself has hit the ground running with a couple of preseason goals- as well as the support from midfield playmakers like Ryan Brobbel and Christian Seargeant, another prolific season could be on the cards for the twenty-seven-year-old.

(Featured Image: Matthew Lofthouse)

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