WELSH PREMIER FOOTBALL

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PRICED-up at 4/11 by bookmakers Corbett Sports, The New Saints look nailed-on for another title, boosted by the best part of £1 million from their Champions League exploits.
For the first time in many years, the league has a new look with two new entrants, Haverfordwest County returning after four years and Llandudno making their debut.
Ahead of Friday night's curtain raiser between old rivals Rhyl and Bangor, we take a look at the chances of the runners and riders for 2015/16.

Aberystwyth Town Chris VenablesABERYSTWYTH TOWN 40/1
Just missed-out on Europe last season but will be expected to make another strong challenge for the top three, despite the loss of marksman Mark Jones to Carmarthen. He has been replaced by Rhys Griffiths who has found goals difficult to come by in recent times, but Golden Boot winner for the past two season. Chris Venables, can be expected to weight in with plenty of goals, while Lee Surman (from Port Talbot) should help shore-up the defence.
STAR MAN (pictured) Chris Venables
KEY SIGNINGS Rhys Griffiths, Lee Surman, Darren Thomas
KEY DEPARTURE Mark Jones
MANAGER Ian Hughes LAST SEASON 4th PREDICTION 4th
FIRST FIXTURES: Llandudno (A), Rhyl (H)

Airbus UK BroughtonTony GrayAIRBUS UK BROUGHTON 5/2
A measly 5/2 to beat TNS to the title, the Wingmakers could mount a stronger challenge than last year if new signing Tony Gray can continue his previous goal scoring exploits and become the marksman that Airbus have missed for the past two seasons. But the departure of influential midfielder Glenn Rule to Stockport County is a serious blow and, with no direct replacement, Europa League qualification is probably the best that Andy Preece can hope for.
STAR MAN (pictured) Tony Gray.
KEY SIGNINGS Ryan Fraughan, Tony Gray.
KEY DEPARTURE Glenn Rule.
DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL Andy Preece LAST SEASON 3rd PREDICTION 2nd
FIRST FIXTURES: Carmarthen Town (H), Bala Town (A)

Bala TownMark JonesBALA TOWN 28/1
Priced-up at a surprisingly long 28/1 after finishing second last season, the Lakesiders have looked strong in pre-season and were seconds from progressing in Europe. So a strong challenge for the runners-up spot looks on the cards again with much the same squad as last season.
STAR MAN (pictured) Mark Jones. Well worth an each-way bet for a second-place finish at these odds.
KEY SIGNINGS Anthony Stephens, Sean Smith, Dave Thompson.
KEY DEPARTURES None.
MANAGER Colin Caton LAST SEASON 2nd PREDICTION 3rd
FIRST FIXTURES: Port Talbot Town (A). Airbus UK Broughton (H)
Bangor CitySion EdwardsBANGOR CITY 66/1
Last season was the worst in living memory for Citizens' supporters and the summer has brought no relief with the departure of talismanic striker Les Davies to Gap Connah's Quay leaving fans wondering what the new campaign will bring. The loss of defender Michael Johnston, to Llandudno, and midfielder Callum Morris to Nomads are further blows and, while boss Nev Powell has brought in several new faces, the new campaign looks like it is going to be difficult for the Nantporth faithful.
STAR MAN (pictured) Sion Edwards.
KEY SIGNINGS Rio Ahmadi, Adam Cummins, Christian Langos, Matty Woodward.
KEY DEPARTURES Les Davies, Michael Johnston, Callum Morris.
MANAGER New Powell LAST SEASON 10th PREDICTION Bottom six
FIRST FIXTURES: Rhyl FC (A). Port Talbot Town (H)
Carmarthen TownMark JonesCARMARTHEN TOWN 100/1
The Old Gold disappointed last season, defying our prediction of a top six finish and it is difficult to foresee what the new campaign holds for Mark Aizelwood's men. On the plus side, the arrival of defender Carl Evans and frontman Mark Jones should prove beneficial, but the departure of the versatile and experienced Cortez Belle and powerful midfielder Paul Fowler to south Wales rivals Port Talbot is a blow.
STAR MAN (pictured) Mark Jones
KEY SIGNINGS Carl Evans, Mark Jones, Keiran Lewis.
KEY DEPARTUES Cortez Belle, Paul Fowler
MANAGER Mark Aizlewood LAST SEASON 9th PREDICTION Bottom six
FIRST FIXTURES: Airbus UK (A), Gap Connah's Quay (H)
Gap Connah's QuayGeorge HoranGAP CONNAH'S QUAY 33/1
A big-spending year that started in January and continued over the summer has seen a host of new arrivals at the Deeside Stadium but it remains to be seen whether manager Allan Bickerstaff can mould them into a cohesive unit that can mount a serious challenge. On paper, one of the strongest sides in the Welsh Premier with Les Davies from Bangor a serious catch, but will money buy success for the Nomads and their enthusiastic backers, gap Personnel?
KEY PLAYER (pictured) Sean Miller
KEY SIGNINGS John Danby, Les Davies, Paul Linwood, Dave Mannix, Callum Morris, Ashley Ruane, Nicky Rushton.
KEY DEPARTURES Alan Bull, Steve Evans (loan).
MANAGER Allan Bickerstaff LAST SEASON 7th PREDICTION 5th
FIRST FIXTURES: Newtown (H), Carmarthen Town (A)
Haverfordwest CountyJack ChristopherHAVERFORDWEST COUNTY 100/1
It's great to see the Bluebirds back in the WPL, but bridging the gap between the Welsh League and the top flight is going to be a very tough ask for Wayne Jones and his men. Strikers Jack Christopher and Jordan Follows have a proved scoring record at this level, but the midfield and defence look weak and a quick return to the second tier could well be on the cards.
KEY PLAYER (pictured) Jack Christopher
KEY SIGNINGS Ryan Batley, Jack Christopher, Scott James, Craig Moses.
KEY DEPARTURES N/A
MANAGER Wayne Jones LAST SEASON N/A PREDICTION 12th
FIRST FIXTURES: TNS (H), Newtown (A)
LlandudnoMarc WilliamsLLANDUDNO FC 33/1
The new boys' manager Alan Morgan knows his way round the Welsh Premier and has signed some useful players over the summer. none more so than the Williams brothers Marc and Mike and ex-Bangor defender Michael Johnston. But the bulk of the squad could find the step from Cymru Alliance to the WPL a bridge too far and, while they could be the surprise package, a fight for seventh place looks like their most realistic option and they have a tough start.
KEY PLAYER (pictured) Marc Williams
KEY SIGNINGS Alan Bull, Michael Johnston, Marc Williams, Mike Williams.
KEY DEPARTURES N/A
MANAGER Alan Morgan LAST SEASON N/A PREDICTION Bottom six
FIRST FIXTURES: Aberystwyth (H), TNS (A)
Newtown AFCJason OswellNEWTOWN AFC 66/1
We continue to write-off Newtown's chances at our peril and the Robins defied the odds once again last term to win a European tie. The prudent board have not splashed any of the cash on players so can Chris Hughes and his squad continue to be better the apparent sum of their parts and finish in the top six? Don't bet against it!
KEY PLAYER (pictured) Jason Oswell
KEY SIGNINGS Mark Griffiths
KEY DEPARTURES None
MANAGER Chris Hughes LAST SEASON 6th PREDICTION Bottom six
FIRST FIXTURES: Gap Connah's Quay (A), Haverfordwest County (H)
Port Talbot TownCortex BellePORT TALBOT TOWN 100/1
Many changes this summer with long-serving duo Rhys Griffiths and Lee Surman leaving for Aberystwyth while defender Carl Evans and midfielder Keiran Lewis have opted for Carmarthen. Many of the new squad are unknown quantities but, with the return of Cortez Belle and the GenQuip Stadium always a tough place to visit, Andy Dyer's Steelmen could just sneak into the top six, especially with the late arrival of Kaid Mohamed.
KEY PLAYER (pictured) Cortez Belle
KEY SIGNINGS Paul Fowler, Jonathan Hood, Kurtis March, Kaid Mohamed.
KEY DEPARTURES Carl Evans, Rhys Griffiths, Keiran Lewis, Lee Surman.
MANAGER Andy Dyer LAST SEASON 5th PREDICTION 6th
FIRST FIXTURES: Bala Town (H), Bangor City (A)
Prestatyn TownPaul McManusRHYL FC 66/1
Finished in eighth spot last season and don't look equipped to do any better this time around after the departure of manager Greg Strong and several key players. Derek Taylor (from Druids) is the pick of Gareth Owen's new signings but it could be a long and hard winter for the Belle Vue faithful.
KEY PLAYER Ipictured) Paul McManus
KEY SIGNINGS Connor Bell, Phil Clarke, Tom Donegan, Jake Eyre, Dean Keates, Ben Maher, Terry McCormick, John Owen, Derek Taylor
KEY DEPARTURES Jack Kenny, Carl Lamb, Ashley Ruane, Dave Thompson.
MANAGER Gareth Owen LAST SEASON 8th PREDICTION 11th
FIRST FIXTURES: Bangor City (H), Aberystwyth Town (A)
The New SaintsAdrian CieslewiczTHE NEW SAINTS 4/11
Will be expected to march to yet another title win as the rest of the league struggles to compete with the regular influx of Champions League cash into Park Hall and the considerable advantage of full-time status. Yet, TNS have lost probably their most influential player in midfielder Sam Finley, who made a surprise move to AFC Fylde, while Ryan Fraughan has gone to Airbus. Expect some signings before the deadline closes to ensure there is no chink in the business model.
KEY PLAYER (pictured) Adrian Cieslewicz
KEY SIGNINGS None
KEY DEPARTURES Ryan Fraughan, Sam Finley
DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL Craig Harrison LAST SEASON 1st PREDICTION 1st
FIRST FIXTURES: Haverfordwest (A), Llandudno (H)

* Betting odds from Corbett Sports.

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24 August 2017

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