The New Saints on course for another Welsh Premier title

Welsh Premier
Welsh Premier

After the euphoria of the Olympics over the past three weeks, the Welsh Premier League begins its 21st campaign on Friday night - and what a way to increase its popularity by having Ronnie Corbett as the main man during this week's launch.

I must say it was a tactical masterstroke by new WPL secretary Gwyn Derfel and I look forward to seeing what more tricks he has up his sleeve during the course of the season.

During the summer, two key players who have featured consistently in the WPL have moved on to pastures new.

Rhys Griffiths, who has been the league's leading marksman over the past seven seasons, left Port Talbot and has signed for League Two side Plymouth Argyle, while Craig Jones has left The New Saints to sign for League One side Bury.

To compensate for Jones' departure, The New Saints have made some key signings to bolster their squad. Chris Jones and Kai Edwards have joined the club from Neath, with Chris King and Michael Wilde returning to Park Hall to add strength in depth to Craig Harrison's side.

Airbus have been one of the busiest teams in the summer transfer market.

Manager Andy Preece has returned to his old club, Northwich Victoria, to strengthen his squad with no fewer than eight players. Airbus, as many of other WPL clubs, have also benefited from Neath's demise in capturing the signatures of exciting winger Toby Jones and Wales under-23 left back Jack Lewis.

Airbus will be a force to be reckoned with this year and along with Llanelli, will be pushing last year's top two, The New Saints and Bangor City.

Andy Legg at Llanelli has made some astute signings in replacing the prolific Rhys Griffiths with Luke Bowen and Martin Rose.

Griffiths, 32, had rejoined Port Talbot after six years at Llanelli in the Welsh Premier League before departing for Plymouth Argyle.

Both new Llanelli strikers, along with Craig Moses, will be chomping at the bit to take on Griffiths' mantle as Llanelli's top scorer and the league's number one marksman.

Aberystwyth finished the season strongly last year to snatch the last play-off spot and will be hoping to break into the top six this season. They underperformed for a majority of last season and Tomi Morgan, who took over in February from Alan Morgan, will be keen for his team to get off to a good start.

Play-off finalists Bala will be looking to continue the improvements made under Colin Caton to go one step further this season and secure a place in the Europa League.

Port Talbot were left licking their wounds when Rhys Griffiths, who had been a headline signing, moved to Plymouth.

That disappointment, alongside the departure of Martin Rose to Llanelli, has left their forward line bare. With little time to find an adequate replacement they may struggle to get enough goals, which could leave them hard-pressed for a top six finish.

This season will see Connah's Quay Nomads enter the WPL under the current format, having lost their place in the league when it was reduced in 2010. The Nomads were unlucky not to gain promotion last year when they failed to meet the domestic licence criteria, and will do well to stay up this year.

Although a majority of Nomads' players are experienced in the WPL, other teams in the league have strengthened and they will be fighting along with Afan Lido, Prestatyn and Newtown to avoid the drop.

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