PICTURE by Bala Town FC.
FOR MOST clubs across Wales, the transfers are yet to start ahead of the 2020/21 campaign (particularly as we’re not yet sure when that season will kick off). However, the ins and outs are well and truly underway at Bala Town’s Maes Tegid ground.
With the club preparing to return to the Europa League next season, after a year out, a number of changes have been made already (and there will no doubt be a few more too). Here, I take a look at what’s happened so far …
THOSE WHO ARE STAYING PUT
Undoubtedly the most important player to re-sign for Colin Caton’s side for next season is captain Chris Venables (above). The highly-experienced midfielder/attacker was the league’s top scorer in 2019/20, having scored 22 goals in just 26 matches for The Lakesiders.
This was the fourth time that Venables, 34, has won the ‘Golden Boot’, having previously scooped the prize on three occasions whilst playing for Aberystwyth Town between 2013-14 and 2015-16, netting 24, 28 and 20 goals to top the list. By now, Venables, who is heading into his 18th season in Wales’ top-flight, has made more than 400 appearances in that division, scoring nearly 200 goals. He has also been named WPL (now JD Cymru Premier) Player of the Season in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
His contribution to Bala since joining the club in 2016 has been unrivalled and news of him signing on with the club for another season will be very welcome news indeed.
Also staying put is talented midfielder Henry Jones (above). The midfielder, who is a product of the Swansea City youth academy, first impressed in the Cymru Premier after signing for Bangor City in July 2016, going on to have a fantastic debut season which saw him win the WPL Young Player of the Year prize and named in the WPL Team of the Year.
In his debut season for Bala two years later (after a brief stint in the National League with AFC Fylde), he scored 15 goals in 32 games and provided 15 assists and also made an appearance for the Wales C squad.
He’s one of the best midfielders to watch in the league, as he has so much natural talent.
As reported earlier this week by AFE, midfielder Danny Gosset has also signed on for another year at Bala, following a cancer battle. The 25-year-old missed the whole of last season after being diagnosed with B-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. However, the club has shown a real touch of class by sticking by his side and giving him the chance to return to the pitch and in the top tier (where he’s proved he certainly belongs) no less.
Forward Kieran Smith, scorer of what is arguably the most famous goal in the club’s history (to put them 2-1 up and help them beat TNS in the Welsh Cup final in 2017), has also signed a further contract extension and will head into his eighth season with the club.
Other confirmed contract extensions have been agreed with goalkeeper Harri Lloyd, defenders Johnny Spittle, Andrew Burns and Sean Smith as well as the midfield quartet of Lee Molyneux, Steven Leslie, Lassana Mendes and Ollie Shannon all agreeing new deals.
THOSE WHO HAVE JOINED
Cardiff Met Uni’s Will Evans was the first in through the door at Maes Tegid. The attacking midfielder, 22, spent five seasons at the Archers which saw him play in their Europa League campaign last summer and also earn himself a call-up to the Wales C squad. Evans scored seven league goals for Met during the 2019/20 season – including the winner against Bala back in January.
Second one to join was highly-rated Caernarfon Town goalkeeper Alex Ramsay, who had been at The Oval with The Canaries for four years. The 26-year-old came through The New Saints’ youth system before spells at Caersws, Rhyl and Llanelli followed before his switch to Caernarfon, where he kept eight clean sheets last season. He’s another player who’s been called up to represent the Wales C squad in the past and has also appeared for Wales Under 18’s at semi-pro level.
Thirdly, and so far the latest signing to made by the club is Cefn Druids defender Nathan Peate, who is another fine addition to this already quality-packed squad. Centre back Peate, 28, had spent three years at The Rock with The Ancients and previously played for Gresford Athletic, Flint Town United, Denbigh Town and Llandudno. Like Evans and Ramsay, he too has represented the Wales C side and will bolster Colin Caton’s side’s ranks even further in 2020/21.
AND FINALLY, THOSE WHO HAVE LEFT MAES TEGID
Of course with the new faces coming in, it means that others have had to depart to make way for them.
Perhaps the most notable departure of all is long-serving goalkeeper Ashley Morris (above). With Caernarfon’s Ramsey arriving at Maes Tegid, Morris has moved onto pastures new after spending eight years with Bala and making more than 260 appearances for the club in total. Over the years, he’s proved to be a top shot-stopper and is one of The Lakesiders most decorated players with a Welsh Cup win, Europa Play-off win and ten Europa League appearances to his name, as well as many other accolades.
Also leaving Maes Tegid Mike Hayes, who has made the switch to fellow Cymru Premier side Caernarfon Town. The striker spent six seasons with Bala, over two spells, with over 150 appearances in all competitions and 44 goals to his name, some of which were very memorable, such as the Goal of the Year contender v Aberystwyth in 2018/19.
Another notable departure from Bala is club stalwart Stuart Jones. The defender was the club’s current longest-serving player having spent nine years at Maes Tegid and is also one of its most decorated players with numerous Europa League appearances and a Welsh Cup Final winners medal to his name.
Jones, who was also instrumental in Town’s Europa Playoff Final victory over Port Talbot Town in 2013, made 259 appearances in all competitions for Bala and scored 19 goals – many of which came during a seven match goal-scoring run leading to Town’s first European adventure. He will veyr much be missed by the club I’m sure!
Lively forward Louis Robles has also left Bala for The New Saints after just one season, having scored 16 goals in 19 appearances for the club and picking up the November JD Cymru Premier Player of the Month award. Elsewhere, goalkeeper Josh Tibbetts has departed for Caernarfon Town, whilst midfielder Nathan Burke has joined FC United.