PICTURE by Lewis Mitchell Photography.
THE JD Cymru Premier may be on hold for the time being due to the Coronavirus restrictions in Wales, but a recent announcement from the Football Association Wales (FAW) suggests it will make a comeback some time soon.
It is hoped that clubs in tiers 1 and tiers 2 (as well as women’s tier one) can return to action in March.
Wales’ top-flight had virtually reached the midway point in its 20/21 season before the action was halted at the end of December. With that in mind, I’ve decided to highlight just 21 (in honour of 2021!) top stars from that campaign to date and they’re a fantastic bunch …
Will Evans (Bala Town)
I’ll start things off with the player who, for me and for many others I’m sure, has been THE player of the season in Wales’ top-flight during 20/21.
Since making the move to the Lakesiders from Cardiff Met in the summer of 2020, midfielder/winger Evans has been phenomenal.
A tireless worker for Bala, the 24-year-old has scored 10 goals and provided 7 assists in just 16 matches for the club so far.
Evans has been a real joy to watch and has really thrived in Colin Caton’s side who currently sit third in the JD Cymru Premier table.
Ryan Astles (The New Saints)
A towering and commanding centre half who has been part of the best defence in the league this season – a side which has conceded just 10 goals in just 17 matches.
Astles, a former Rhyl, Chester and Southport player, joined the Saints in the summer of 2020 and has been one of the best defenders in the JD Cymru Premier ever since.
As well as being a defensive rock, making the league’s most successful ball recoveries with 165, he has also provided one goal and 3 assists for Scott Ruscoe’s side in his 16 appearances to date.
A player who really looks a cut above the rest in the defensive department at times.
Kayne McLaggon (Barry Town United)
Another season means another great haul of goals from this man.
Barry’s talisman McLaggon, a former Southampton player, celebrated a significant milestone earlier on this season as he hit his 50th goal for his hometown club in a 1-1 draw v Newtown.
To reach half a century in what is now the forward’s fourth season in the JD Cymru Premier is a decent tally indeed and I’m sure the 30-year-old has plenty more to give in seasons to come too.
He’s currently on eight goals in 14 matches, placing him as one of the Welsh top-flight’s top scorers during this campaign.
Priestley Farquharson (Connah’s Quay)
Recently secured a move to Sky Bet League Two club Newport County, where he made his debut in a 1-0 win over Grimsby Town.
Farquharson was the JD Cymru Premier’s Young Player of the Season and was selected in the JD Cymru Premier Team of the Season as the Nomads won their first ever top-flight title at the end of a curtailed 2019/20 campaign.
The highly talented centre back, 23, followed that success up with another great start to this season, scoring three times and keeping five clean sheets in 14 appearances for Andy Morrison’s side before making the move to Rodney Parade with Newport.
Chris Venables (Bala Town)
15 goals in 15 matches. That’s all that needs to be said really but I will say more!
The evergreen Venables, now 35 years old, has more than 400 top-flight appearances to his name by now having played for the likes of Welshpool, Caersws, Aberystwyth Town and Llanelli before arriving at Maes Tegid in 2016.
The Bala skipper picked up his fourth Golden Boot during a curtailed campaign in 2019/20 after bagging 22 goals in just 26 matches in all competitions. He had previously won the prize on another three occasions whilst playing for Aberystwyth Town between 2013-14 and 2015-16, netting 24, 28 and 20 goals to top the list.
His leadership and goal-scoring prowess has been clear to see once more for the Lakesiders this season and he’s leading the division again in the goals department. He further rubber-stamped his name into the history books of Bala when he netted their goal in the famous 1-0 UEFA Europa League qualifier win over Valletta in Malta last August.
A truly quality player and one that has really put the JD Cymru Premier on the map during his time in the top flight – 18 seasons in total.
Ben Clark (The New Saints)
20-year-old midfielder who has been a real joy to watch for the league-leaders as they look to bounce back and win the title this season.
Clark, a product of the TNS academy system, put pen-to-paper with the club’s first team in 2017, having impressed during his time playing for the club’s under 16’s side.
After loan spells with both Llandudno and Caernarfon Town, the player is now back at The Saints and is absolutely thriving this season.
He’s been a key player in Scott Ruscoe’s side and has contributed five goals in just 14 appearances so far during this campaign. Clark also made his European debut for TNS in September 2020, coming on as a 30th minute substitute for Keston Davies, in the UEFA Europa League game against B36 Tórshavn.
He’s certainly one to keep an eye on in seasons to come!
Aeron Edwards (Connah’s Quay)
A TNS legend who spent 11 seasons with the club before making the switch to rivals the Nomads in the summer of 2020.
33-year-old Edwards is a dynamic midfielder who won nine Cymru Premier titles, four Welsh Cups and five League Cups during his time with The Saints. That kind of experience along with his winning mentality was always going to benefit Andy Morrion’s side and it certainly has done just that.
Edwards has been one of the league’s stand-out performers in the middle of the park, picking up four goals and four assists in 15 matches for his side so far. That included a goal in the club’s 2-0 win over his former side TNS back in December 2020.
There’s no doubting that if the Nomads are to go on and win the title for a second time this season, Edwards will have a big say in that.
Nathan Peate (Bala Town)
Another player signed in the summer of 2020 who made an instant impact at his new club.
Peate arrived at Bala from fellow JD Cymru Premier club Cefn Druids, where he had been a valuable member of the squad.
The central defender endeared himself to Bala supporters from day one with a goal on his debut – a looping header in a thrilling 1-1 draw against champions Connah’s Quay. And his great performances only continued for the Lakesiders for there on out.
In his 15 appearances for Colin Caton’s side to date, 29-year-old Peate has made 154 successful ball recoveries (second highest in the league) and has also scored three goals and provided an assist. He has also been part of two clean sheets for Bala.
He’s been a fantastic addition to the Bala Town team.
Mael Davies (Penybont)
Midfielder who joined Bont from Cardiff Met in the summer of 2020 and has proved to be a key player for the club so far, as they sit in sixth place in the table with the season on hold.
22-year-old Davies, who can also play as a full-back, made 24 appearances for the Archers last season, scoring five times.
Since transferring to Rhys Griffiths’ ever-improving Penybont side the former Swansea City academy player has maintained great form, scoring three goals in 14 games so far and proving to be one of the club’s star performers.
Can he be the key to helping the club secure a top-six finish this season?
Danny Davies (Connah’s Quay)
One of the most hard-working players in the league and one who has been quietly brilliant for the champions.
Winger/wing-back Davies has eight assists to his name this season, the highest of any player in the league, and is a constant creative threat on the attack for the Nomads.
The 25-year-old, who signed for the club from 2019/20 JD Cymru North champions Prestatyn Town in the summer of 2020, has also bagged two goals for the club in his 15 appearances to date.
An interesting fact about him is that he is an ex-professional cricketer, having played for Northamptonshire as well as spending three separate stints in Australia to play the game. However, he returned to the UK after injuring his arm and decided to get back into football.
Davies made his Welsh Premier League debut for Prestatyn’s first team when he was 16 against Port Talbot Town.
Ashley Morris (Penybont)
A top, top goalkeeper who has made nearly 200 appearances in the JD Cymru Premier since 2014.
Having spent some time on loan at Penybont in 2019/20, Morris made the permanent switch to the club last summer and it’s turned out to be a fantastic move for both parties.
The 36-year-old, who spent eight seasons with Bala and played around 260 matches in all competitions, has been in inspired form for Penybont this season.
Morris has kept five clean sheets in 14 matches this season and has undoubtedly been one of the best number one’s in the top-flight.
Jack Wilson (Haverfordwest)
A winger who has been an absolute revelation for the Bluebirds since they returned to Wales’ top-flight last summer.
Wilson, who is a product of the Haverfordwest academy, starred for the club in the Cymru Premier Development League South in 2019/20, netting five goals in just three matches. He also scored seven times in 24 appearances for the club in the JD Cymru South as they were promoted back to the JD Cymru Premier.
The 19-year-old then made the move to the top-flight with the first team seem effortless when the Bluebirds took to the field in 2020. Since making his JD Cymru Premier debut, Wilson has proved to be a fantastic addition to the division.
He’s contributed eight goals and five assists in just 16 appearances, with one of the highlights coming in October as he scored a last-minute winner in the great 2-1 win over Bala Town away from home.
An exciting young player who should have a very bright future ahead if this season’s performances are anything to go off.
Leo Smith (The New Saints)
Highly-talented Porthmadog-born midfielder who has really showcased what he can do for the Saints this season.
The 22-year-old, who began his career with Wrexham AFC where he played 22 times for the first team, is held in high regard on the Welsh football scene and it’s not hard to see why.
His performances in the midfield have been superb at times and he’s proved to be a real creative spark for TNS, providing five assists during the 2020/21 campaign so far. He’s also contributed one goal – it would have been two – but unfortunately his wonder-goal in a 2-2 draw against Bala Town was expunged due to the game being abandoned in the 88th minute because of a floodlight failure.
That was a real shame as, in my opinion, it probably would have gone on to win Goal of the Season.
Welsh-speaking Leo also scored two goals in Europe for the club at the beginning of the season, further proving just how good he can be. He’s a top talent who can really boss the midfield.
Kane Owen (Penybont)
A player whose received rave reviews from many for his performances this season and rightly so!
The talented and hard-working left back has been absolute quality for Penybont again this season.
Club captain Owen, 26, was brilliant in the top-flight last season, contributing 5 goals in 21 appearances as the campaign ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former Cardiff City, Aberystwyth Town and Afan Lido player has maintained that form in 20/21 too. As well as his solid defensive efforts, he’s popped up with 1 goal in 11 matches and makes 1.21 key passes per 90mins too.
Such an important player for Penybont.
Greg Draper (The New Saints)
By now, fans of the top-flight will be more than familiar with this prolific goal-getter.
Draper, 31, has followed up the 18 goals he scored in 22 JD Cymru Premier outings last season with 13 in 16 so far in 20/21, averaging a goal every 64 minutes.
This season was a significant one for the forward. That’s because the English-born New Zealand international, who has one cap for his country, became TNS’ all-time top goalscorer back in October.
Draper hit five goals in a 10-0 demolition of Flint Town United at Park Hall back then to take his career total for TNS to 156 goals. His 154th goal, and his third of the day against Flint, was the one which saw him beat the club record, previously held by Mike Wilde (now at Connah’s Quay).
A great finisher and a legend of Wales’ top-flight by now, having been with the ultra-successful TNS side for the last decade.
Josh Tibbetts (Caernarfon Town)
Keeper who departed Bala Town for the Oval in the summer of 2020 and has become a vital component within Huw Griffiths’ side.
The 22-year-old has earned himself two clean sheets in the league and was also Man of the Match against both Newtown and Cefn Druids.
Has already become a firm favourite among Caernarfon Town supporters in his first 15 league appearances for them due to his great reflexes and overall performances.
Adrian Cieslewicz (The New Saints)
A man who doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for the performances he’s put in for TNS over the years.
The pacey Polish winger/attacker, who came through the Manchester City academy before playing for Wrexham, joined The Saints in 2014.
Cieslewicz helped TNS win the domestic treble (Welsh Premier League, Welsh Cup, Welsh League Cup) during his first season at Park Hall.
A real threat when going forward, he’s picked up four goals this season and is leading the way in the JD Cymru Premier on key passes played (38), showcasing his creative importance to that TNS side.
Jack Williams (Haverfordwest)
Williams and team-mate Wilson, mentioned above, have been the dynamic duo for the Bluebirds this season and have been two of the best young players too.
The 21-year-old, also known as Danny Williams as his middle name is Daniel, has been in inspired form throughout the 20/21 campaign and has netted 7 goals in just 15 matches so far.
Having really stood out for the Bluebirds in the past, the lively attacker departed for Cardiff City in 2019, where he became a part of the clubs under 23’s side.
However, Williams would later return to the Bridge Meadow stadium in the summer of 2020, on a loan deal which has been extended just last month until the end of the season.
It’s been a very welcome return for both club and player and he’s been a joy to watch.
Louis Robles (The New Saints)
A top class finisher who enjoyed a great solo season at Bala in 2019/20, notching 10 goals in 21 appearances in the league (16 in 29 in all) before switching to rivals TNS in the summer of 2020.
And Robles is just one goal shy of that league tally for this season already, having been in inspired form so far for the Saints, scoring 9 times in just 14 matches in the league.
He made his debut in the UEFA Europa League, against MŠK Žilina, where he scored the opening goal, as TNS progressed after extra-time.
During a great career to date, the 24-year-old has played in the United States and Spain. He also played for Wigan Athletic in the English Football League Championship.
Liverpool-born Robles has really caught the eye during his time in Wales’ top-flight and will no doubt continue to do so when football resumes.
Michael Wilde (Connah’s Quay)
A true JD Cymru Premier legend by now, experienced forward Wilde has enjoyed a glistening career in Wales’ top-flight to date and is one of its all-time goal scorers too.
During his time at TNS, joining in 2002, he scored 151 goals in his 214 appearances. Wilde then joined Fleetwood Town in January 2009 before moving to Halifax Town and Chester where he netted 36 goals in 43 games before returning to TNS in June 2012, and was voted as the Welsh Premier League Player of The Season in the 2012/13 season.
He signed for the Nomads in 2016 and has continued to bang the goals in.
Wilde has gone on to make over 120 competitive starts for The Nomads, scoring on more than 70 occasions including a brace in both the JD Welsh Cup Final victory over Aberystwyth Town in 2018, and the Nathaniel MG Cup Final win over STM Sports in 2020.
Wilde was also a key member of the team which won the JD Cymru Premier title in the 2019/20 season.
Despite turning 38 years old this year, he’s certainly showing no signs of slowing down as he’s bagged 9 goals in just 12 appearances.
He should be seen as a real example to so many younger forwards in my opinion.
Paul Harrison (The New Saints)
To close this feature, I’m featuring yet another JD Cymru Premier great who will go down in history as one of its most successful figures too.
Goalkeeper Harrison made his TNS FC club debut in the UEFA Champions League against FK Ventspils in July, 2007. Since then he has gone on to feature in forty-eight European ties.
In the league, the 36-year-old has surpassed the 400 appearances mark – with his 400th coming on January 2020, at Latham Park in the game against Newtown AFC.
During his 14 years with the Saints, he has become one of, if not THE, JD Cymru Premier’s most decorated player having won the division 9 times, the Welsh Cup 5 times and the Welsh League Cup on 7 occasions.
This season, he’s conceded just ten goals in 17 matches with TNS – an average of just 0.6 per match.
A fantastic keeper who has well and truly cemented his place in both TNS and the JD Cymru Premier history books.