After a record breaking summer spent in Europe, gap Connah’s Quay Nomads are looking to make waves in Wales this 2016/17 season.
This Dafabet Welsh Premier League season promises to be the first one where fans will be watching a new look Nomads. Their previous guise as a club of nearly-men, who try but ultimately fail to qualify for Europe, and even the top six at times, has been quashed.
How did they rid themselves of that image? A smash and grab win in the play off final against Airbus got the wheels turning, and then came a stunning victory against Stabaek Fotball of Norway. The mighty FK Vojvodina came against them in the second qualifying rounds of the Uefa Europa League and despite matching the Serbians over two legs, they lost out in a 3-1 defeat on aggregate.
These results have meant for the first time, gap Connah’s Quay are the team everyone is talking about, and they’re not just talking – they’re tipping them as the team to topple The New Saints.
Whilst that prediction may sound ambitious to some, Nomads are certainly looking to be a force to reckon with, as we preview them here.
There’s no doubt that Manchester City legend Andy Morrison has been the driving force behind Nomads’ success. Joining the club in November, when they were languishing at the bottom of the league, he quickly transformed the side into a top six outfit, doing so with a spectacular win over TNS on the last day before the split.
The second phase saw him secure Nomads’ highest ever league finish, and get into Europe with that dramatic win over his former club Airbus UK, where as assistant manager alongside Andy Preece, he helped secure Europe for three successive seasons, a trend that Nomads fans will hope continues at the Deeside Stadium.
He will also be boosted by the renewed signature of long time Nomads servant Jay Catton, who is assistant manager and director of football. Catton’s influence is perhaps not always in the limelight of the league, but his presence, confirmed until 2019 with a three year deal, will be vital to the club going forward.
Current Squad and New Signings
Once they saw Europa League football on the horizon, Nomads immediately began to strengthen their squad. The first members added to bolster the Nomads’ ranks were Newtown’s Matty Owen and former Airbus men Jay Owen and Lewis Short.
Central defender Ian Kearney became the latest Airbus player to make the Flintshire switch, before Michael Wilde joined in what is surely one of the biggest signings of the summer. Wilde’s experience of the league with The New Saints, which saw him named the Welsh Premier’s Player of the Year in 2012/13, may be vital in Nomads quest to stay in the top end of the super 12.
Yet more former Airbus players joined in Mike Pearson and Tom Field, before the club turned to renew some of their current squad’s contracts including influential midfielder Callum Morris.
Departing the club were Jamie Crowther and Jack Riley, who both left with their service to the club well recognised. The quality of the Nomads’ academy has again shone through with youngsters Jack Chambers, Tom Bibby and James Kilburn all securing football scholarships in the United States. Loan deals also saw Ben Nash go to Gresford for the season ahead, whilst Callum Cross and Chris Boyes are headed to Brickfield Rangers (also on loan deals).
League Prediction: 2nd
Although it’s likely Nomads will emerge as one the league’s strongest teams, it must be remembered The New Saints still have a full time advantage and have just won their fifth consecutive league championship. Nomads’ goal will be to qualify for Europe automatically, and in doing so knock Bala Town down to the maybe-or-maybe not in Europe position of third.
Away from the league, Andy Morrison may search to put Nomads’ semi final exits out of both theWord and Welsh Cup last season behind him and try to loosen The New Saint’s grip on at least one of the domestic trophies.
That being said, the focus for not just the Nomads but most Dafabet Welsh Premier teams is that magic word – Europe.