Prior to my involvement with The New Saints, I had been to a number of UEFA Cup games, including a final in 1972. In addition, I took in a few matches from the now-defunct Anglo-Italian and Texaco Cup competitions. That was about the limit of my experience beyond the perimeter of English football.
All of the above by the way, were as a fan of Wolverhampton Wanderers, the club that I had a season ticket at before my game-time focus switched to Park Hall. Some moves in the world of football don’t work out, but for me personally, it’s one transfer that has been a success.
Back to the European games though, and last Tuesday I was at my fifth Champions League fixture in the space of twelve months. Of course, it’s great to just see TNS playing in the world’s premier club competition, but what’s even better is being involved.
The press box on the balcony at Park Hall was packed with visiting journalists, as the club hosted the opening game of the two-legged tie with the champions of San Marino, SP Tre Penne. With Sgorio on one side and BBC on the other, TNS Radio kicked off the new season proper as commentary, chat and banter flooded the airwaves.
@TNSRadio Let's go TNS! welcome back guys really missed you.
— Darius Jason (@DariusJasonX) June 28, 2016
Way back when I was a teenager at grammar school, I wanted to be a turf accountant when I finally joined the ranks of the workforce. Although my life took on a very different direction, I still understand the world of the bookie. TNS started at 1/10 against the Sammarinese side, which means, if you’re not familiar with odds, that we were extremely strong favourites.
— Paolo Fabrizio (@paolothebaker) June 28, 2016
Well, of course, they were right on this occasion, although the final result wasn’t as emphatic as many thought it would be. We don’t have possession statistics in Welsh football, but if we did I think you’d be looking at certainly 70/30 in favour of The New Saints. With seventeen corners, mostly in the latter stages of the game, we dominated.
However, it’s all about putting the ball in the back of the net, and going into the second-leg it’s all finely balanced, with just a one-goal advantage. On the subject of scores and, in particular, predictions, our popular #BeatTheBelle competition returned. Welsh football legend, Cortez, gives us a score and we open it up.
Originally it was to see who can beat him, hence the hashtag, but it’s evolved into a guess-the-score game. That hasn’t taken away from the participation of Mr. Belle though, he’s still very much central to it all. In fact, with just one correct prediction in the last two seasons, his lack of punditry skills have become quite legendary!
However, with a 2-1 this time round he has hit the season running. I think he even surprised himself. Well done as well to Kelly Caudill, from the USA, who also went with that scoreline. Fancy a go yourself? Well, Cortez reckons will be more of the same in the second-leg, another 2-1, so depending on when you read this, why not send me your prediction?
Finally, it was great to meet Gabriele and Tomasso, the two fans who travelled with SP Tre Penne for the game at Park Hall. The former has missed only eight games since 2011 in all competitions. That’s real dedication. We also interviewed them on the latest TNS Radio Football Show – episode 44 – so check that out on our website.
Stewart Bloor. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org