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Aberystwyth Town head into the new season in the Welsh Women's Premier League with renewed optimism.
Following a difficult season last time around where the side had just two weeks to prepare for the leap up in class, the largely inexperienced side were on the end of a number of shattering defeats. However, despite the troubles they faced, the ladies performed admirably, played with smiles on their faces and continued to battle every week thanks in part to an immovable team spirit within the camp, something that the side continues to have in abundance ahead of this terms campaign.
"They proved they wanted to be in this league from their performances every week and after Christmas last season, we looked a new side completely. We had a few ins and outs that balanced us quite well, so it took time but they started to gel really well. The spirit in camp is something that really makes me proud to be involved with this squad and club." assistant manager Bryn McGilligan Oliver told atfc.org.uk. The season ended on a positive note with the club picking up some richly deserved silverware. "We won the CWFA Ladies cup and had to beat strong teams along the way, and they deserved that."
But there was no time for the club to rest on their laurels as preparation for this year's assault on the Welsh Premier League began immediately following the final whistle. This season sees three teams relegated from the division and it's crucial that the Black and Greens don't find themselves in that band of teams.
"Us as staff didn't really get much of a break after we won the CWFA Cup at the end of May," added Bryn. "Prep was being made throughout June/July and we started training at the end of July. We brought in the new players straight away and they seem to have clicked with the current players which helped us massively going into the friendlies."
The ladies are pleased to welcome twelve new faces to the squad. Amongst them are Lowri Walker from Aston Villa, Melanie Pons who joins after moving from France, Amy Hill, a winger from Llanidloes who has just been selected for Wales Under-17s. Katie Christopher and Rhiannon Towns, a young goalkeeper and full back respectively from Llandrindod Wells and both were recent inclusions in the Central Wales Under-17s set up, Lowri Morgan from Penrhyncoch and Josie Pugh, a tall strong centre half from Llanidloes amongst others. The successful and extensive recruitment drive has seen Town increase their squad size to 26 ahead of next week's opener which is something that has pleased the coaching staff: "Everyone we have signed has been a great addition to the squad. I believe we have signed the right players for this season."
These new faces join a squad that is already packed with talent and spirit. Captain Ffiona Evans returns again alongside vice captain Stephanie Land. Despite being young, both have amassed invaluable experience in Black and Green which in turn is beneficial to their team mates. "They are brilliant for us because they help bond the team together and players look up to them," said Bryn. "Even players such as Amy Jenkins, who is only 19 now, is classed as a senior head with us, due to her experience over her playing history.
"It's going to be the most competitive season yet. Newcastle Emlyn are our local rivals and rivals for position in the league alongside newly promoted Cyncoed Ladies. Rhyl & Prestatyn and Llandudno Ladies are all going to be battling around our area of the league I believe, so it will be an interesting one. Cardiff Met are always a very strong side and most seasons compete in the Champions League. But they just tipped Swansea City to the league title last season on goal difference."
As for the league favourites, the coaching staff have tipped Swansea to overturn last season's disappointment: "Swansea were definitely the best side we played against, some of their football is phenomenal. So I would have to say Swansea City Ladies are my favourites to win it this season."
Dreams of league championships and champions league football may be beyond the realms of possibility for this year but this doesn't stop the camp being quietly optimistic ahead of the season. "Our main goal is to finish above that bottom 3. I really believe we can do that, so if we finish above that bottom section and stay in the league, it will be successful."
But despite this, the ladies side embodies the reason why people play the game. "All the staff have a good relationship with each other and with the players. Right now, I couldn't wish for a better set up to be honest. Massive support from the fans, the staff, the players and especially the club."
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