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Season review: Wales

Published: Tuesday 17 June 2014, 10.18CET
The New Saints FC once again dominated in Wales with a third consecutive league title, eclipsing Barry Town FC's record of seven championships, and a second double in three seasons.
by Mark Pitman
Season review: Wales
Park Hall, home of record champions The New Saints ©
Published: Tuesday 17 June 2014, 10.18CET

Season review: Wales

The New Saints FC once again dominated in Wales with a third consecutive league title, eclipsing Barry Town FC's record of seven championships, and a second double in three seasons.

Boasting the best attack and the meanest defence in the Welsh Premier League, The New Saints FC claimed their third successive title, finishing 14 points ahead of runners-up AUK Brougton FC. The division's only fully-professional side added the Welsh Cup for good measure, while their championship success made them the most decorated club in the top flight.

Champions: The New Saints FC
It was another season of success for the management team of Carl Darlington and Craig Harrison as they helped TNS eclipse Barry Town FC's record of seven league titles. Professional on and off the field, Darlington and Harrison have continued to guard against complacency, with competition in every position ensuring their players remain focused. Goalkeeper and captain Paul Harrison – ever-present in the starting lineup since 2008 – conceded just 20 goals during the 32-game campaign, while strikers Michael Wilde and Greg Draper played a key role in the side racking up 86 at the other end. "It's another fantastic achievement to win the league three times in a row, but that is the level of expectation at this club," Darlington told


TNS celebrate their cup win

Cup final: Aberystwyth Town FC 2-3 The New Saints FC
In one of the games of the season, Aberystwyth were on course for their first Welsh Cup triumph since 1900 when Chris Venables put his team two goals ahead. However, TNS responded with the character and professionalism that defined their season, and after substitute Draper had restored parity with a double of his own, Wilde broke Aberystwyth hearts in the 87th minute. "It shows what fantastic characters we have in our squad," said TNS director of football Craig Harrison.

European places*
The New Saints FC – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
AUK Broughton FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
Bangor City FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
Aberystwyth Town FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Chris Venables (Aberystwyth Town FC)
An incredible season from one of the Welsh Premier League's most highly-rated players. Venables, 28, became the first midfielder in the 22-year history of the national league to win the Golden Boot award. His 24 goals were testament to the attacking philosophy of an Aberystwyth side  managed by Ian Hughes, while Venables' ball-playing attributes and new-found form in front of goal will grace the European stage next season, the coastal outfit having qualified for the UEFA Europa League.

One to watch: Sam Finley (The New Saints FC)
The diminutive midfielder, 21, has attracted the attention of bigger clubs in England and Finley deservedly claimed the Welsh Premier League's Young Player of the Year award. A prodigious talent and tenacious tackler in the heart of the champions' midfield, Finley showed his attacking qualities with ten goals.

Surprise package: Newtown AFC
Despite having one of the lowest playing budgets in the league, Newtown once again managed to upset the odds. Manager Bernard McNally stepped down from his position in November, but his successor, Chris Hughes, carried on the momentum gained from their early season results to once again ensure a top-six finish.

Leading scorer: Chris Venables, Aberystwyth Town (24)

Relegated: Afan Lido FC

Promoted: Cefn Druids FC

Number: 8
The record number of Welsh Premier League titles won by TNS, who savoured their first in 2000.

"It's a great challenge for myself to go up against probably some of the best managers in Europe. It's something I've dreamt of from a young age. I set myself certain targets in my personal life as well as in my professional life that I want to try and reach, but to be managing in the UEFA Europa League at the age of 30 is exceptional."
Aberystwyth manager Hughes spoke to after qualifying for Europe

Last updated: 17/06/14 11.25CET

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