WPL 2017/18 PREVIEW: Newtown
AFTER LOSING KEY PLAYERS, CAN NEWTOWN REBUILD AND CHALLENGE FOR EUROPE?
The biggest news of the summer regarding Newtown, has to be the sale of a number of key players, with top scorer Jason Oswell and captain Shane Sutton among the players departing.
Newtown were the comeback kings last season, finishing the first half of the season teetering on the edge of relegation, before a resurgence which saw them power through to the European Play-Offs, losing out to Bangor City in the Semi Finals. However, many are fearing that a tumultuous summer may have undone some of the great work in the second half of the 2016/17 season.
Top scorer Jason Oswell has left to join National League North side Stockport County, striker Alex Fletcher has joined Southport, and captain Shane Sutton has departed to join Telford United, with all 3 being key members of the Robins lineup in recent seasons. Also departing the club are midfielder Ross Stephens (joined Caersws) and defenders Stefan Edwards (joined Airbus UK), Andy Jones (Released), Gavin Cadwallader (Released) and Jordan Wells (joined Church Stretton). With all the departures, it has led the Robins to be the most active in the transfer window, signing 7 players to replace the 8 who have departed. Joining the club are experienced defender Leon Clowes from Airbus UK, defender Sam Litchfield from Guilsfield, midfielder Jojo Harries from Caersws, 2015/16 ‘Young Player of the Season’ James Murphy from Airbus UK, experienced midfielder Jay Denny from Halesowen, and forwards Jamie Reed from Llandudno and Nick Rushton from Connah’s Quay Nomads. The worry for many is, with such a high turnover of players this summer, will the team struggle to gel, and will they find themselves facing a similar start to the season as the 2016/17 campaign.
However, if there’s one thing Welsh football fans will know, is that they cannot discount the Robins just yet, as they are particularly dangerous whenever they’re underestimated. Really, Newtown are the toughest team to analyse, as they’ve brought in good players, but it all depends on how quickly the new players can gel with one another.
Preseason preparations have gone well for the Robins, with the side winning 6 of the 7 games played. They beat Berriew, Guilsfield, Shrewsbury Town, Market Drayton Town, Haughmond, and Newcastle Town. The Robins lost 1 match, which was a close encounter against Rushall Olympics, who sealed a 3-2 victory against the Welsh Premier League side.
Manager Chris Hughes has been at the helm since 2014, and is considered one of the brightest young managers in the league. Having started off as assistant to Neil Gibson at Prestatyn Town, he joined the Robins, and has shown great ability to lead the Robins ever since. Last season was a worrying time for the club after a poor start to the season, yet under his guidance, the club were able to turn it around, becoming the first team to take points off The New Saints in the 2016/17 season when they drew against the Champions, before going from strength to strength in the second half of the season, ending up in the European Play-Offs. It’s was an incredible turnaround, and an exceptional achievement not only for the manager, but for everyone at the club. Their belief, hardwork and tenacity make them hard to beat, no matter who plays for them this season, and it will be really interesting to see where the Robins finish. One thing that’s for certain though, is that they can never be counted out!
Leon Clowes-Airbus UK Broughton
James Murphy-Airbus UK Broughton
Nick Rushton-Connah’s Quay Nomads
Shane Sutton-Telford United
Jason Oswell-Stockport County
Stefan Edwards-Airbus UK Broughton
Jordan Wells-Church Stretton
Andy Jones, Gavin Cadwallader-Both Released
‘Top scorer Jason Oswell is one of a number of key players to have departed, how will the Robins cope without them?’
Photo Credit: Welsh Premier League
Photo available from: http://www.welshpremier.co.uk/news/Oswell-to-miss-the-Play-Offs/107128/