Total Network Solutions FC begin their attempt to retain the Welsh Premier League this weekend confident that the experience gained from their UEFA Champions League tie with holders Liverpool FC will make them the team to beat once more.
Phil Baker from Bangor City FC and ex-Welshpool Town FC man Michael Jackson are the new recruits to a defence that conceded only 25 goals in 34 league games as TNS were crowned champions for the second time. Manager Ken McKenna has also boosted his attack with this week's capture of Alfie Carter from English non-leaguers AFC Telford United.
TNS's achievement in restricting Liverpool to a 3-0 scoreline in each leg of their Champions League first qualifying round tie gave much-needed projection to the Welsh League and the village side will be hoping to carry on in the same vein when they begin away to Porthmadog FC.
Arguably the most eye-catching opening-day fixture takes place at Stebonheath Park where a Llanelli FC side, heavily reconstructed after a summer which brought a big Spanish influence to the west Wales club, entertain Bangor who finished third last time. The fixture has produced 32 goals in five seasons.
The latest Llanelli change sees former Welsh international midfielder Peter Nicholas returning to the club as manager with Nicky Tucker, who had brought about a marked improvement in Llanelli's fortunes after taking charge last November, shown the door.
League Cup success
With a new director of football in Spaniard Lucas Cazoria and four players from that country on contract, interest in Llanelli has risen remarkably and last weekend's League Cup tie against Aberystwyth Town FC produced a 3-0 victory and the day’s highest attendance.
Apart from Baker, Bangor have lost a number of other players from the side which qualified for the UEFA Intertoto Cup last season, and the early weeks of the season could prove difficult. Rhyl FC and Carmarthen Town AFC are also hoping to follow up praiseworthy campaigns in Europe.
Both went out of the UEFA Cup second qualifying round this week but in the previous round had posted their first-ever aggregate victories. Rhyl, league runners-up, do not start until Tuesday, away to Airbus UK FC while Carmarthen, who lost their grip on the League Cup trophy in the first round last weekend face a trip to Newtown AFC.
League newcomers Grange Harlequins FC, the first club from the Welsh capital Cardiff in the division for five years, are also on the road on the opening day with a visit to Airbus.
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