Some years ago, when I first got interested in Welsh football, I preached a sermon at church titled, ‘If Llansantffraid can do it, so can you’. The thrust of the message was about dreaming big dreams, and of course, acting them out.
My inspiration was the tiny Montgomeryshire village of Llansantffraid. Less than a thousand people, yet having spawned a team that had played in the greatest club competition on earth, the European Champions League.
Originally playing under the village name, it then became Total Network Solutions courtesy of a sponsorship deal, and of course the metamorphosis was completed when The New Saints emerged. It is a fascinating history, and one that has a definite element of magic in the mix.
After all, could you imagine a team from Gobowen, Morda or Whittington winning the English Premier League? Of course not, it just wouldn’t happen. But that’s exactly what we saw at the turn of the century in 1999/2000.
Breaking Barry Town’s dominance, Total Network Solutions interrupted a four-year champions stint by the Jenner Park outfit, by edging the south Walians into runners-up spot. It was just a blip though, as Barry came back to take the next three titles.
Seven championships in eight years, that sounds like the sort of dominance TNS now enjoys. This is why, in life in general, we should always be gracious when things are going well because you never know when the tide may turn.
Back to the present though, and last Tuesday as I was at Park Hall in the day (including the Town Tour), I decided to go and watch Llansantffraid Village FC play in the evening.
— Stewart Bloor (@TheAnglingRev) October 18, 2016
Following TNS’ move across the border into Shropshire, some fans stayed in Wales and launched a new team. They’re now in the Mid-Wales Spar League. Playing in division two, that puts them in the fourth tier of Welsh football.
They are just three promotions away from the Dafabet Welsh Premier League. Could we once more see the name Llansantffraid gracing the top table? Well, time will tell on that one, of course, but it was just great to make my first visit to the Recreation Ground.
I like football history and to be at the place where it began for TNS, all those years ago, was special. I posted on Facebook where I was, and Wayne Jones the assistant manager at Aberystwyth Town commented that he scored there once, back in his playing days.
Well, on the night Llansantffraid were comfortable victors against another Aber side, this time University FC. It was just a small crowd and I got talking to a couple of fans, both of them now living in the area but originally from Birmingham. It was good to see them out on a cold night, supporting their team.
I enjoyed my visit to the ground; It was great to connect that little bit more with the history of the game in Wales in general, and in particular with TNS’ past. In between my day at Park Hall and the match on the evening I also fished the River Vyrnwy, that passes through the village.
I don’t know if or when I’ll be back at the Recreation Ground, but one thing is for sure I’ll certainly be on the river again very soon. I’m known as The Angling Rev for a very good reason.
I really enjoyed the visit to the river and caught small chub and dace. I can imagine your eyes glazing over right now, if you’re not into fishing, so I won’t bore you with any more details.
See you next Monday and have a great week. This week’s heading comes partly from my love of soul music (cue, Odyssey) and also that a branch of my own family tree grew from the Montgomeryshire/ Shropshire border.
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