Date: Mon 08 Aug 2016

2016/17 Season Preview

Things rarely stay the same in football, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Dafabet Welsh Premier League says Marc Webber.

After an exciting season which saw Llandudno come from nowhere and a late surge by Gap Connah’s Quay, you can be guaranteed that the new managers players and even owners will ensure that the forthcoming season is even more exciting and certainly more unpredictable.

So, settle down and have a read of my synopsis of what state each club finds itself in as we get ready for the big kick off. There are also the latest Dafabet odds on that club winning the WPL or finding themselves in the bottom two come the end of the season.

Aberystwyth Town

“We’re quite happy being the unknown quantity” new boss Matthew Bishop told me in the summer.

And Aber are quite the enigma this season, aren’t they? You read about all the players that have left like Chris Venables, and the fact there’s been a management change, and you wonder if their tepid performance from last season will continue - or worse.

But it is easy to fall into that trap. The club is investing heavily in 3G and want to be challenging for Europe again.

In Bishop, they have a proven winner who has just taken new club Hereford to Wembley.

Top four may be beyond them this time. But I think they will be the right side of the split.

Odds to win WPL: 66/1
Odds to be bottom two: 11/4

First Game: Away at The New Saints, Sunday 14th Kick off 3pm.

Airbus UK Broughton

They are saving their pennies at Airbus these days. Not so flashy with the cash. As a result, some players have been tempted away from Broughton and the club has worked late to get some replacements. But the young Wingmen did them proud last season and when you have the talent like James Murphy on your books coupled with the veteran Tony Gray, why would you worry about bringing outside talent in?

It is going to be a tough fight, but I still think they could find themselves in the top six when phase two starts.

Odds to win WPL:12/1
Odds to be bottom two: 50/1

First Game: Home to Cardiff Met FC, Sunday 14th Kick off 3pm.

Bala Town

I said on twitter that signing Chris Venables was a statement of intent from the Lakesiders. Needless to say, Colin Caton played down my hype when I suggested that to him. But Bala have strengthened, not weakened in the off-season. Two potential banana skins may be how they cope with three away games in a row at the start of their season and how they take to their new 3G surface when they finally play at Maes Tegid later this month.

Odds to win WPL: 7/1
Odds to be bottom two: 33/1

First Game: Away at Newtown, Saturday 13th Kick off 230pm.

Bangor

As enigmas go, this one is pretty huge. New owners, new players and a manager that only came in two weeks before the season starts. Andy Legg has set himself a low-key target of top six this season. He’s either realistic that his new players need to bed in, or he is bluffing and Bangor are going back to the glory days pretty damn quick.

The fixture gods have been kind to him, as the Citizens have FIVE home encounters in a row. But three are real acid tests in Gap, Bala and Newtown. However, I think we have to wait until September to see how Bangor have changed home and away.

Odds to win WPL: 20/1
Odds to be bottom two: 20/1

First Game: Home to Cefn Druids, Friday 12th Kick off 7.45pm.

Carmarthen Town

The first month starts fairly evenly for the Old Gold with two home, two away games and two games they feel they could win and two which would be more of a challenge.

With a new, experienced captain in Lee Surman leading some promising young talent, there is a glint of excitement in the eyes of fans that a top six spot could be banked.

If they beat Newtown and Airbus in the first month and draw with Nomads or Bala, then that could signal a strong performance which will lead them back to the top 6.

Odds to win WPL: 200/1
Odds to be bottom two: 2/1

First Game: Home to Gap Connah’s Quay, Saturday 13th Kick off 515pm. (Watch on S4C Sgorio)

Cardiff Met

The Capital club has been the talk of the town ever since their arrival into the League has been confirmed.

They fought hard in the Welsh League to see off Barry Town United and win promotion after the heartache of missing out on the last day the season before. Under the tutelage of ex-Swan Dr Christian Edwards, the Met has a reputation for developing quality footballers in fantastic facilities.

But, whilst some players have been with the team for a while, it is the nature of a Uni team that new faces come in every year. It is the unknown of who those players will be that is the only caution you would strike on Met being a top 6 challenger in their first season.

Odds to win WPL: 100/1
Odds to be bottom two: 7/4

First Game: Away at Airbus, Sunday 14th Kick off 3pm.

Cefn Druids

The Druids have shown some wisdom gleaned from their previous appearances in the top flight. The talented group which got them promotion has been shored up with some wise heads from the WPL, like Matty Cook. But the league may have strengthened a bit too much since they were last in it and the bookies have them as favourites to be bottom two. And the bookies rarely get it wrong.

Odds to win WPL: 200/1
Odds to be bottom two: 4/5 fav

First Game: Away at Bangor, Friday 12th Kick off 745pm.

gap Connah's Quay

Their turnaround in fortunes last season was only overshadowed by a rising newcomer and a treble-winning team. This time Nomads will be out to grab the headlines for themselves. The resilience Andy Morrison has instilled in the team has made it easy for him to attract other talented players from good teams to add to his squad.

This will probably be pinned to all other team dressing room walls this season. But for me, Gap are the team to beat. They are the most likely to unseat TNS as champions. Top 3 is a given. Top 1 is possible.

Odds to win WPL: 20/1
Odds to be bottom two: 25/1

First Game: Away at Carmarthen, Saturday 13th Kick off 515pm. (LIVE ON S4C)

Newtown AFC

One man should not make a team, but when Shane Sutton has both legs intact and is scoring the type of goals he scores, Newtown are firing on all cylinders.

Don’t get me wrong, there are other great players there too. But Shane typifies Newtown for me and if he is performing, Newtown have a chance to be top 6 and back fighting for Europe.

Odds to win WPL: 50/1
Odds to be bottom two: 12/1

First Game: Home to Bala, Saturday 13th Kick off 230pm.

Llandudno FC

So, are the Tudno going to succumb to Second Season Syndrome? They still have Player of the Year Marc Williams and have brought in ex-Rhyl man John Owen along with a gaggle of ex Tranmere youth players.

The new faces seem to have fitted in well and there is nothing to suggest NPD will not be a banker for top 6. But with Nomads and Bala looking so strong, will they have to settle for 4th this time?

Odds to win WPL: 20/1
Odds to be bottom two: 16/1

First Game: Away at Rhyl, Sunday 14th Kick off 3pm.

Rhyl FC

The joke going around is that Rhyl have made so many changes that fans were offered a copy of Guess Who? before they played their first friendly.

Wholesale change has seen 17 players leave and a raft of hungry talent with a local passion come in. The gamble is that by building a tight squad that is proud to play for Rhyl, they will move away from the drop zone.

From the new players I have spoken to, there is no doubt they want to form a side Rhyl can be proud of.

It has ‘Escape to Victory’ written all over it. This is either going to be the story of the season or the same old relegated Rhyl.

Odds to win WPL: 100/1
Odds to be bottom two: 11/8

First Game: Away at Llandudno, Sunday 14th Kick off 3pm.

The New Saints

And last, but not least, to the flag bearers. The club that anyone proud of the WPL looks up to and says ‘we want to be like them’. Professional, clinical, multiple title winners.

Are they going to be the same this season? Absolutely.

So, what could go wrong? Well, the mantle was challenged by some pretty determined rivals last season. Defeats and draws meant the Coronation was later than normal.

Those that took points off them last season look no less efficient this season. In fact, for the first time, some look as professional and clinical as TNS.

TNS have to be comprehensive and clinical from day one this time around. A strong lead by Christmas may be the psychological boost they need to ensure the treble they crave.

Odds to win WPL: 1/5 fav
Odds to be bottom two: 500/1

First Game: Home to Aberystwyth, Sunday 14th Kick off 3pm.


Listen to the pre-season interviews with all 12 Dafabet WPL clubs on #WPLRADIO


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