FOLLOWING on from AFEFootballNews’ focus on the English Premier League clubs transfer activities during the January window, it’s now time for the Welsh equivalent.
Here, reporter Arron Evans brings you his opinion on all the big signings made by the JD Welsh Premier League sides and who could make the difference for each side.
Cardiff Met University are the exception in this case of course, as they are a student club and therefore do not sign players. Nevertheless, here’s how the rest of the clubs performed during the window …
IN: Tom Owens and Kurt Sherlock (Radcliffe FC), Craig Rogers (Bergsoy-Idrettslag) Adam Walters (Aberystwyth University) and Damien Allen (Bangor City)
OUT: John McKenna (released) and Johnny Spittle (Connah’s Quay)
Aber look as though they have made some decent signings during the January transfer window.
They have brought in defender Craig Rogers, who has no doubt earned some valuable experience after spending some time playing in both Norway and Iceland. He will provide some decent cover in the absence of Johnny Spittle who has left for Connah’s Quay.
The biggest news for the Black & Green’s however was the fact that they had managed to bring in Bangor City star Damien Allen. Having spent seven years with the Citizens, the midfielder has moved on to pastures new and will without a doubt add some quality to Nev Powell’s side.
31-year-old Allen has made nearly 150 Welsh Premier League appearances and his experience will be key to this Aber side in their quest to avoid relegation this season.
IN: Yves Zama (Ramsbottom United), Alieu Sheriff (Free agent), Joel Bembo-Leta (Witton Albion) and Alex Darlington (TNS)
OUT: James Demetriou (Barry Town), Anderson Cayola (released) and Damien Allen (Aberystwyth Town)
The Citizens have been very busy during the window, despite reported “problems” behind the scenes and have brought in some promising players.
With the aforementioned Allen departing Nanporth they needed someone in his place and signed the versatile Joel Bembo-Leta, who can play in a number of positions in defence and midfield. The 25-year-old, who is Congolese-born, has previously played for Stalybridge Celtic, Curzon Ashton, Colwyn Bay, Marine, Buxton, Droylsden and Altrincham before moving to Witton Albion in December.
Fellow new signing Yves Zama, 23, is a striker who also has plenty of experience of playing in England’s lower realms. Both Zama and Bembo-Leta impressed on their deubts last month, scoring in a 3-2 win against Llanrhaeadr in the Welsh Cup.
The biggest signing of them all though was long-serving TNS’ hitman Alex Darlington. Just as the news of James Demetriou’s departure to Barry Town broke, the Citizens followed it up with the signing of “Darlo” who scored 94 goals in his 234 WPL appearances during his decade with the Saints.
Having a player of his quality will most certainly boost Bangor’s hopes of finishing high up in the table this season. He’s a quality player who will fit in effortlessly at Nantporth.
City were boosted even further by the news that Luke Wall has signed a new contract with the club. The winger has been lively throughout his debut campaign in the WPL, scoring five goals so far.
IN: Kieran Smith and Rob Pearson (Tasman United), John Disney and Lewis Short (Altrincham)
OUT: Will Bell (Rhyl)
The Lakesiders have brought back Kieran Smith and Rob Pearson during the January window.
The pair left to play for sides in New Zealand but have decided to come back to Wales and help Bala push for yet another European adventure next season. They have also signed John Disney and Lewis Short, who have both also played in the Welsh Premier League before.
Colin Caton has clearly decided to go for players who are used to playing in the league and that could prove to be a very good deal for Bala. Whilst new signings at other clubs adapt to their new surroundings, the Bala manager can have faith in the fact that his new quadruplet will know how to handle themselves in the Welsh Prem.
BARRY TOWN UNITED
IN: James Demetriou (Bangor City), Jonathan Hood (Port Talbot Town) and Joaquin Estirado Rivera.
OUT: Elliot Scotcher (Haverfordwest).
Like many other clubs, Barry Town have also been busy bringing some talent in at Jenner Park.
The signing of 26-year-old midfielder Jonathan Hood is perhaps the most exciting. Hood is a prolific goalscorer who has previously made more than 50 appearances in the JD Welsh Premier League, appearing for three different clubs.
Last season, he was influential for Port Talbot, scoring 17 times in 18 matches, before moving to Iceland for a very brief spell. He will added some attacking prowess to this Barry side who already have one of the league’s best strikers on their books in the form of Kayne McLaggon.
Former Nottingham Forest and Swansea City man James Demetriou, signed from Bangor, will also add something different to their front line with his physical presence.
Elsewhere, the Dragons have also signed Spanish midfielder Joaquin Estirado Rivera. He will be the first Spaniard to play for Barry since Isadora Lafita and Jose Arriola in the 1960’s.
There were plenty of contract extensions handed out at Jenner Park during January too with both Luke Cooper and manager Gavin Chesterfield being just two of the names to sign on for a longer period.
IN: Lewis Thomas (Swansea City, loan), Mark Jones (Afan Lido), Luke Bowen (Port Talbot Town), Aiden O’Kelly (Basingstoke), Reasat Islam (Free agent), Clayton Green (Australia) and Steven Hall (Taffs Well)
Naturally, being bottom of the league, Carmarthen will have felt no choice but to go all out during the window – and they’ve kept themselves busy with a total of SEVEN senior players coming into their side.
The Old Gold have endured a really tough season this year, claiming just 15 points, but have now leapfrogged Prestatyn to move off the bottom of the table thanks to a recent stint of good form.
The club has managed to re-sign Mark Jones, who will return to Richmond Park after a successful start to his season at Afan Lido, where he scored 21 goals. They have also swooped into sign in-form forward Luke Bowen, who had an impressive first half of the season at Port Talbot Town, where he became the first player in the Welsh Football League pyramid system to reach the 20 league goal mark.
Both of these players (who were the two top scorers in Welsh League Division One) could have a significant impact on where Carmarthen end up come the end of the season and whether or not they will be in the Welsh Premier League next year.
However, the biggest news for the club came off the field. Manager Mark Aizlewood was found guilty of fraud and the club has since terminated his contract with Neil Smothers coming in as interim manager for the foreseeable future.
IN: Matty Owen (Connah’s Quay), Alun Morris (Oswestry Town), Iwan Cartwright (Newtown)
The Ancients have certainly had a season to remember – a historical one in fact – as they finished in the top six for the first time in the club’s very long history.
Huw Griffiths’ side have certainly exceeded expectations and have spent their January window adding a few names to their roster.
Matty Owen is returning to The Rock and will add quality to Druids’ midfield. Defender Alun Morris has been brought in from Oswestry Town to provide cover for Adam Hesp, who picked up a broken ankle over the Christmas period. Finally, right back Iwan Cartwright completes the trio of signings made by the club in the window.
Having secured their top six finish, Cefn Druids will now be looking to really test the “big boys” of the league and will no doubt hope to push them all the way for a European spot too.
IN: Rob Hughes (Goulbourn Valley Suns), Johnny Spittle (Aberystwyth Town) and Andy Owens (Skelmersdale United)
OUT: Matty Owen (Cefn Druids), Ian Kearney, John Oyenuga, Mathias Bakare and Melford Simpson (all released)
As in recent seasons, the Nomads are once again challenging up the top half of the table this season and have strengthened somewhat during the transfer window.
Defender Johnny Spittle will provide a very good defensive option to Andy Morrison’s side and will no doubt compete for a starting place, having impressed during his time at Aberystwyth.
Midfielder Rob Hughes also arrives at the club, having spent some time playing in Australia, where he scored 12 times in 25 appearances for Goulbourn Valley Suns. The 25-year-old has previously played in the WPL with Rhyl and Prestatyn and will be a useful player to call upon when needed.
Finally, another former Rhyl man – Andy Owens – has also been brought in. The experienced forward started out as a youth player at Liverpool and has played in the English Football League for Accrington Stanley. He will provide stern competition for Mike Wilde up top.
IN: Jay Gibbs (Caernarfon Town), Alex Lynch (Chester), Wes Baynes (Airbus UK), Matty Williams (Connah’s Quay), Robbie Parry (TNS) and Marc Evans
OUT: Dave Roberts (Airbus UK), Danny Taylor (released), Aaron Hassall (Denbigh Town), Shaun Cavanagh (Caernarfon Town) and Owain Jones (released)
Llandudno have completed some of the best deals during the January transfer window in my opinion.
Manager Iwan Williams has reunited himself with midfielder Jay Gibbs, who he managed during his time at Caernarfon Town. He will bring some creativity to the Seasiders attacking game and will fit in well in my opinion.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Dave Roberts has departed Maesdu Park, but talented shot-stopper Alex Lynch comes in in his place. Having played for a host of clubs in England, most recently for Chester, the 22-year-old is not short of some experience and having played against him myself at youth level (seriously) I can tell you that he is top class and could really build a name for himself at Llandudno.
Winger Robbie Parry, who is a handful out wide and prolific striker Marc Evans make their returns to the club whilst the experience of Matty Williams and Wes Baynes will also prove to be very useful for Iwan Williams’ side.
They may have narrowly finished in the bottom half of the table this season, but I think if they can keep the same squad together next year, this Llandudno side could go on to great things.
IN: Ethan Jones (Halesowen Town), Alex Fletcher (Southport)
OUT: Iwan Cartwright (Cefn Druids)
It was a fairly quiet window for the Robins, who will be disappointed by the fact that they have ended up in the bottom half heading into phase two.
The club has signed 19-year-old forward Ethan Jones, who is a product of the Shrewsbury Town academy. Prior to that he was among the youth system at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Jones was handed a professional contract in 2015, and made a handful of appearances for the Shrews first team, before short spells on loan at Tranmere Rovers and Stourbridge. He could end up being quite the signing in the WPL, as he certainly as some good qualities about him, but time will tell.
In other news, Alex Fletcher has returned to the club. The midfielder first signed for the Robins in the summer of 2016, went on to score four times in 30 appearances and then departed to join National League North side Southport.
The club has been boosted further by the news that they have reached an agreement with Shrewsbury Town to extend the loan deal for Ryan Sears. The defender has been a mainstay in the starting eleven so far this season, making 21 appearances and his presence will be vital in phase two.
IN: Louis Irvine (Guislfield), Warren Adam (Conwy Borough) and Ole Buckley (Rhyl)
OUT: Jack Kenny (released)
The Seasiders are currently sitting bottom of the Premier League table and it looks as though they will now be one of the favourites to down this year.
Having been promoted to the Welsh Premier League as champions last summer, they have had some fairly decent results at times, but just haven’t got any rich vein of form going.
The loss of striker Jack Kenny, who has decided to move to a club closer to his home in Greater Manchester, will be a big one for Prestatyn, but they have brought in some promising talents.
Louis Irvine in particular could be a great signing. The 24-year-old has been a massive hit for Guilsfield since joining in 2016 and had played in all 19 of their games so far this season. Fans of Prestatyn will be expecting him to make an instant impact in their bid to avoid the drop.
The signings of Warren Adam and Ole Buckley also show that the club want to head in the right direction, as they are two great additions to the side.
In other news at Prestatyn – Gareth Wilson has replaced Neil Gibson as manager and the latter will now face the difficult task of keeping the club in the top flight.
THE NEW SAINTS OF OSWESTRY TOWN
IN: Dean Ebbe (Inverness), Kevin Kauber (FC Levadia)
OUT: Alex Darlington (Bangor City)
It’s no secret that TNS probably didn’t need to strengthen their side all that much, but nevertheless, they have gone out and made two promising signings.
The double signing of Dean Ebbe and Kevin Kauber is an exciting one for the club with the former scoring twice on his debut in the Welsh Cup against Caernarfon Town in January.
Ebbe is a 23-year-old striker who began his career at Shamrock Rovers. Playing for a number of teams in his native Ireland – Longford Town, Athlone Town, Cabinteely and Bluebell United – the 6′ 2″ striker then moved across the water to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2017.
Kauber is a 22-year-old Estonian who has represented his country at U16/17/19/21 and 23 levels. He also made the bench twice for the national senior side.
Having played in Finland, Latvia and Slovenia as well as his native Estonia, the forward spent the first half of last season in Latvia with the aforementioned Jelgava before moving to Estonia’s FC Levadia, where he score eight goals in 16 matches.
Both signings will add a wealth of experience to Scott Ruscoe’s side who already have a whole host of talent available to them.
The important trio of Chris Seargeant, Blaine Hudson and Jamie Mullan have also extended their contracts at Park Hall.
So, who’s been your favourite WPL signing? Who do you think will have the most impact for their side? Let AFEFootballNews know in the comments section below …