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Dafabet Welsh Premier Review…..

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A round-up of the close season news from the Welsh Premier, including how the teams did in the Champions League and Europa League this week.

Aberystwyth Town lost their manager Tony Pennock earlier this month.

He has left Wales to take up the role of first-team coach at Sky Bet Championship side Hull City.

Bala Town boss Colin Caton has delved into the English Pyramid to sign 24-year-old Eddie Toner from Evo-Stik League Premier outfit Marine AFC.

The midfielder has played previously for Barrow AFC, Northwich Victoria, Stafford Rangers, AFC Telford United, Stalybridge Celtic, Burscough and Ashton United.

Toner follows Caton`s first new signing, Les Davies, who joined from Connah’s Quay.

The 32-year-old Welshman hails from Bangor but he started his career at Caernarfon Town before being snapped up by his home-town club.

He had a brief spell at Porthmadog before re-signing for City where he made a name for himself as a three-time Welsh Cup winner and a Welsh Premier winner. He was also named in UEFA’s prestigious 32-man Best Player in Europe shortlist in 2012.

Also capped at Wales under-21 level and appeared for Wales semi-pros in 2006.

He has 122 goals in 367 appearances to date.

Bala have started their season already in the first round of the Europa League where they lost 2-1 to Vaduz of Liechtenstein at Belle Vue in the first leg on Thursday night.

Bangor City were also in Europa League action on Thursday, as they gave themselves a real chance of progression after only losing 1-0 in Denmark against Lyngby BK.

The Citizens lost the Welsh Premier`s young player of the season, Henry Jones, who moved to Vanarama National League newcomers AFC Fylde recently.

However, moving in the opposite direction is vastly experienced defender Tom Kennedy.

The 31-year-old has represented several different teams at Football League level, making more than 100 appearances for both Bury and Rochdale respectively.

He moved to then-Championship club Leicester City in June 2010, but with first-team opportunities limited, he spent periods on loan at Rochdale and Peterborough United and was eventually snapped up by Barnsley in 2012 and made a further sixty-eight appearances for the Yorkshire club during a two-year stint at Oakwell.

Kennedy re-united with former manager Keith Hill at Rochdale for the 2014/15 season, making forty-one appearances over two seasons plus additional loan spells at both Bury and Blackpool.

Upon his release by Rochdale in the summer of 2016, Kennedy was snapped up by ambitious AFC Fylde and was a mainstay of their National League North championship-winning side last season.

Kennedy followed Bangor`s earlier permanent signing of Brayden Shaw from League Two side Accrington Stanley for an undisclosed, but record fee

Twenty-year old midfielder Shaw progressed through the youth ranks at Bury before signing professional terms with The Shakers in June 2015.

A further move to Accrington followed in January 2016 as they just missed out on promotion via the League Two play-offs.

Bangor then secured a loan deal for the services of Shaw during the first phase of the 2016/17 Dafabet WPL season, where he made eighteen league appearances and scored 3 goals in the process.

Winger Luke Wall and striker Sam Henry are also new Citizens for 2017/18.

Twenty-year old Wall is a former Blackburn Rovers trainee, rising through the youth ranks at Ewood Park before signing a one-year professional deal with the Lancashire club ahead of the 2015/16 season.

Upon his release from Blackburn Rovers, the 5’ 11” Liverpool-born youngster signed for Accrington Stanley in July 2016.

With opportunities limited at the Wham Stadium, Wall gained invaluable experience in loan spells with Skelmersdale United, Clitheroe and Marine in the Northern Premier League during the 2016/17 season.

Henry arrives at the Bangor University Stadium with a reputation as a prolific goalscorer in the West Cheshire League with Blacon Youth and Blacon Thistle.

The former Manchester City triallist claimed the top goalscorer prize in three successive seasons before a leg-break sidelined him for eighteen months.

He returned to action with Welsh National League outfit Brickfield Rangers in 2016/17 before returning to Blacon Youth and netting 31 goals from just fourteen appearances during the latter part of the season.

Connah’s Quay led the way though in the Europa League with a shock 1-0 home win over HJK Helsinki at Nantporth.

The Nomads` goal came on 40 minutes when a cross from Nathan Woolfe eluded everyone in the box to find the back of the net.

Callum Morris went close to a second for the hosts just after the break, but it took a fingertip save from John Danby to keep out a shot from the visitors and the Nomads were forced to soak-up considerable pressure from the Finns to preserve their lead going into the second leg.

In terms of player recruitment, it`s been more about departures than arrives for Nomads, with Wes Baynes, John Disney, Lewis Short, Tom Field, Shelton Payne and Nick Rushton all been leaving the club.

Probably the most disappointing European result for Welsh Premier sides though was The New Saints` 2-1 home defeat to Gibraltar side Europa FC in the qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.

Considering the Saints` build-up to the game, which included a 1-1 draw against a very strong Glasgow Rangers side including the likes of Kenny Miller, Nico Kranjcar and Lee Wallace, it was a very poor outcome for the Welsh Premier champions.

TNS added 20-year-old central midfield player Tom Holland from Premier League side Swansea City to their squad in the summer.

Yorkshireman Holland also spent five years at Manchester City, after a period as an academy player at his home-town club, Leeds United.

The Saints also signed big defender Blaine Hudson.

But the biggest news to come out of Park Hall was the surprise departure of manager Craig Harrison to take charge of National League newcomers Hartlepool United.

Scott Ruscoe has stepped up from the assistant-manager`s role to take charge along with Steve Evans.

A towering 6′ 4″ centre-half, Hudson began his career with Norwich City in his native Norfolk. Following a move to Cambridge United and a number of loan deals, he then switched to Wrexham.

Seventy-three appearances and 7 goals later, a short move along the A483 saw his services secured by Chester FC.

Llandudno`s first summer recruit was Bangor City forward Shaun Cavanagh.

The young forward has represented Wales at under-18 Schools, under-18, and under-19 Welsh Colleges level, and was a prolific goalscorer in the Welsh Premier development squad before making the step up to senior football last season, where he scored the winner against Llandudno at The Bangor University Stadium.

Former TNS midfielder Ryan Edwards and Toby Jones have also penned Llandudno deals.

Ryan Edwards

Twenty-three-year-old Edwards has already experienced life in the Welsh Premier with GAP Connah’s Quay, TNS, Cefn Druids, Bala Town, and most recently Airbus UK so brings a wealth of experience with him.

Jones has re-joined the club from Rhyl.

Jones` previous spell saw him greatly assist in the club`s triumph in the Huws Gray Alliance which saw Llandudno promoted the Welsh Premier in 2015.

He brings with him a wealth of experience from his times with Airbus UK Broughton, Neath, Caernarfon, Conwy United and more recently having an outstanding season at Rhyl.

Llandudno have also secured the services again of Dave Roberts, Tom Williams, Patrik Rutter and Sean McCaffery for the 2017/18 Season.

Cefn Druids have been relatively quiet in pre-season.

Striker Lewis Buckley has joined from Llandudno.

The club also announced the re-signing of Ashley Ruane, Ellis Healing, club captain Stuart Cook and centre-back Matthew Eckersley.

Newtown have been one of the busiest clubs in pre-season.

Top of the list of newcomers is Jay Denny.

Denny joins from NPL Premier side Halesowen Town.

The 31-year-old was born in the USA, and was capped by the county’s under-17 and 20 sides and captained them at both levels.

He signed a professional contract at Stoke City, before departing for Shrewsbury Town in 2005, where he made eighteen League appearances, scoring 2 goals.

Following his spell with the Shrews, he began a successful career in non-League football, turning out for Brackley Town and Nuneaton Town, before his first spell with Halesowen in 2007, where he played just under 100 times.

After a brief spell with Leamington, he re-signed for Halesowen before going on to make over 100 appearances for Hednesford Town.

He had a long spell with Solihull Moors, before returning to Halesowen in 2015 and becoming captain of the side.

Leon Clowes has been added to Newtown boss Chris Hughes` defensive ranks.

Clowes, 25, has joined the Robins after spending the second half of last season with relegated Airbus.

A former youth and reserve team captain at Wrexham, Clowes was offered a short-term deal at the Dragons in 2014.

However, he opted for the Welsh Premier and signed for Bangor.

He spent two and a half seasons at Nantporth, and then in January, he signed for Airbus, where he had spent time on loan while at Wrexham.

Hughes bagged a proven goal-getter when Jamie Reed arrived at Latham Park.

Reed began his career with Wrexham and has played for a range of clubs, including Glentoran and Colwyn Bay before spending time plying his trade in Australia.

His first spell in the Welsh Premier came with Bangor before playing in the English Pyramid system with Tamworth and York City, who he gained promotion to League Two with.

Stints at Cambridge United and Chester FC followed, before he returned to the Welsh system with TNS.

In recent season`s he has also turned out for Aberystwyth Town, Llandudno and Bangor, where he spent last season.

Reed will partner Nick Rushton up top after the latter’s loan move to the club was made permanent after a successful spell at Latham Park.

Rushton signed for the club on loan from GAP Connah’s Quay in January, and scored on his debut in an epic 3-3 draw with The New Saints.

Since then he started all eleven games, scoring 8 goals in that time, prompting Hughes to make his move a permanent one.

While a professional at Wrexham he also spent time on loan at Barrow and Airbus, before permanently signing for Airbus in 2015.

He enjoyed a European campaign with Connah’s Quay last summer, before making his loan switch to Latham Park.

Hughes has also snapped up defender Sam Litchfield from Guilsfield.

The 24-year-old joins the Robins after two years with the Huws Gray Alliance side, helping them to a top five finish in his first season at the club.

Litchfield was signed by Guils boss Danny Barton from West Midlands (Regional) League outfit St Martins, and previous to that the centre-half had stints with Shropshire clubs Weston Rhyn and Morda United.

Hughes` first recruit of the summer was Airbus winger James Murphy.

Murphy spent two years in the Airbus first-team, where he scored 4 goals in thirty-five starts and twenty-one substitute appearances.

After graduating from the Airbus academy, he was named the Welsh Premier`s young player of the year for his performances in the 2015/16 season.

In his second season the club were relegated, with Murphy now opting to stay in the division with the Robins.

Prestatyn Town added to their squad by signing brothers Zyaac and Zeb Edwards.

Zyaac re-joins The Seasiders after a season away playing in the Welsh Premier for Rhyl where he made thirteen starts plus seven as a substitute, scoring one goal.

Midfielder Zeb joins The Seasiders from Airbus UK Broughton where he made a dozen appearances last season.


About Author

Former Swansea City and Kettering Town defender who has been managing the likes of Kettering Town u18s, Rothwell Town, Desborough Town and Wellingborough Town for 33 years as well as being technical director at AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Began in non-League journalism as editor of Team Talk magazine back in the early 1990s and then as editor of Non-League Daily, joining Pitchero to set up Pitchero Non-League in January 2011. Also works for the National League.

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