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It was a conversation with Cymru international Owain Fon Williams which helped Declan McManus choose the JD Cymru Premier as his next destination.

The striker signed for The New Saints from Scottish Championship side Dunfermline Athletic and has been in remarkable goalscoring form since his arrival last summer.

McManus spent time playing alongside Fon Williams - a one-time capped international who was part of Wales' Euro 2016 squad - at Dunfermline and has since come up against some of the goalkeeper's former team-mates.

Bala Town midfielder Dave Edwards and Haverfordwest County's Jazz Richards are among some of the former Cymru internationals who have made the switch to the JD Cymru Premier in recent seasons.

And McManus explained how a talk with Fon Williams helped him choose the Welsh top-flight as his next stop after a spell in Scotland's second tier.

"I played with Owain Fon Williams when I was at Dunfermline who spoke highly of the league and some of the players," he said.

"There's a lot of good players throughout the league and players I've played against who have been in the Wales squad for a major tournament, so there's definitely quality.

"I don't think the rest of the UK gives the league as much credit as it should get."

The striker has struck a staggering 21 goals in 21 league appearances for The New Saints so far this season, which has helped Anthony Limbrick's side enjoy a significant lead at the top of the table ahead of the start of Phase Two next month.

He set himself the target at the start of the season of surpassing his best goalscoring campaign - 23 goals in all competitions which he managed during his time at Falkirk in the curtailed 2019/20 season.

But the striker has already surpassed that figure, having added six goals in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers to his league tally.

And he is grateful that he has been able to repay the Saints' faith after making the switch to Park Hall for a club-record £60,000 transfer fee.

"It was a big thing for me on a personal note to try to beat that (record goalscoring season), so to already do that as a new player in the league trying to make my mark, it's obviously a major plus.

"It's gone as well as I could have hoped for, but a large part of that comes down to how well the team is doing and how we're playing.

"I would never have imagined that I would score as many as I have, but you've always got to believe in yourself, especially as a striker, and if you get the chances you'll stick them away.

"The club paid a big fee, so to repay the chairman and the club for the faith they have shown in me is a nice feeling."

After losing out on the title twice in the last two years to back-to-back JD Cymru Premier champions Connah's Quay Nomads, McManus' goals have helped put The New Saints on course to bringing the trophy back to Oswestry. 

The runaway leaders have suffered just one defeat in 21 league games so far this season and enjoy a 21-point gap lead over second ahead of the final weekend of Phase One.

McManus says his team-mates won't get ahead of themselves, but he is revelling in the pressure at the top of the table.

"Without it sounding arrogant, we're the big fish that everyone wants to beat and everyone wants to come after us, which makes the games more exciting for me," he added.

"Everyone has got that little bit between their teeth that they want to put one over on you, so that makes the games tougher.

"But being at the top of the table and everyone chasing you is the best pressure you can have, and you just need to carry on with what you've been doing."

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