CARMARTHEN Town manager Mark Aizlewood has looked at the forthcoming season with both delight and a little trepidation as so many clubs have found new finance to further their European ambitions.
I look at the league and can draw the following conclusions.
Any team that finishes above TNS, Bangor and Llanelli will qualify for Europe that is certain. The top three will consist of these teams.
Llanelli have had a well documented budget cut from their heyday of nearly £10k per week but their current budget is still the envy of a club like Carmarthen so I see them as a top three team.
The fight for places four, five and six then comes down to these main contenders.
Bala: They have got a big budget which is on a par with the very best in the League and they could be the one team with the best chance of breaking into the top three. If they are unable to achieve a 1st 2nd or 3rd finish they must at least gain a top six finish.
Airbus UK: Again a very ambitious club with a budget that is the envy of many plus the other benefits they can offer players, the key for them is how well their players who have played all their careers in the English system adapt to the Welsh Premier League.
If their players perform to the best of their ability then certainly 4th, 5th or 6th is their realistic ambition.
Port Talbot: Quite simply the surprise package of the summer, the signing of Rhys Griffiths as their chairman stated is a ‘statement of intent’ and therefore a top six finish is an absolute must for them. The chairman has certainly backed Scott Young in his first appointment in the Welsh Premier not only with finance but also in allowing him to bring in his own coach in Mark Cahill who works with Scott at Cardiff City and will take all training I believe.
The players they have signed are first class but also the players they tried to sign reads like a who’s who of the Welsh Premier League. The pressure is certainly on the management team to produce this year as the people running the club are very ambitious.
Aberystwyth: Again a surprise package financially that has allowed them to sign people of the calibre of Stuart Jones from Llanelli. I would say a top six finish is a must for them as they are one of the biggest clubs in the league in my opinion and have struggled at the wrong end of the table for too long.
I have named four clubs above who I believe are fighting for three places in the top six and the people running these clubs will expect a top six finish.
You then have a cluster of other clubs who will HOPE for top six finish but not EXPECT it.
Newtown: No big new signings but the re-signing of Shane Sutton is perhaps the most significant thing to happen to them this year, their young players have another year of Welsh Premier League experience behind them which could be a key factor in where they finish.
Connah’s Quay: Totally unknown package that will work in their favour but, historically, their home form is very good and could be the basis of any success they achieve
Prestatyn: I am told they have lost their main sponsor which may or may not adversely affect the team but again their home form is the basis of their success and will be a key factor again this season.
Afan Lido: Paul Reid has perhaps the toughest of all jobs and a realistic ambition of the club is surely to attempt to remain in the league next year.
Carmarthen Town: We scored the fewest goals in the whole league, had the least draws in the whole league, conceded over 60 goals and had the most defeats of anybody.
However, whilst we have not got the signature signings or the big sponsor to find these we remain ambitious and believe that the squad we have assembled will hopefully ensure that we are not in a relegation battle next year.
We will have to rely on organisation, discipline, team spirit, character and all the other attributes you can instill into a squad of players that do not rely on a big budget. Only time will tell how far up the league these can take you!
One thing that Carmarthen have in our favour is the professionalism and reliability of the people who run the football club which you must never under- estimate.
These are my personal thoughts for the forthcoming season, no doubt some clubs will leave me with egg on my face and some managers may even use these thoughts as motivation but, whatever happens, I wish everybody success except when they play Carmarthen of course.