On the verge of the new Welsh Premier League season, in this week’s Rev’s Ramblings I’m looking back over the last month or so, and in particular, our European campaign.
Whether friendlies, cup or league games, I love them all. There is, however, one category that rises to the top of the pile. The Champions League most certainly is the cream of the crop.
Following the draw very closely, it was on the team bus in Scotland, on the way to play Rangers, that I realised another country was about to make my tick-list of footballing nations.
Drawing the champions of Gibraltar, due to UEFA restrictions, it was destination-Portugal for the second-leg. Having overturned Lincoln Red Imps’ 14-year dominance of the national league, Europa FC were going to be no push-overs.
Commentating on TNS Radio, I wore my heart on my sleeve as far as emotions were concerned, as words like ‘passion’ and ‘excitement’ were conveyed to us by the listeners, as we broadcast from the Estádio Algarve in the second-leg.
It was a fantastic night and my overriding memory will be that of Scott Quigley, who upon scoring the decisive goal, ran straight to his namesake, Ruscoe, finger pointing straight at him.
No words were needed, especially as the other players all joined in. Actions most definitely do speak louder than words, as ‘This is for you’ came over loud and clear.
Not only did TNS progress, but my personal memorabilia collection took a few decent steps forward as well. It all began, when I first joined the club, quite low-key and without thought, as I kept the team-sheet from the very first game I did on TNS Radio.
Without realising it at the time, a collection was in the making, one that is highly personal, as each item tells a story of my own journey in the world of football. Having got on very well with the people from Gibraltar, I ended up with several unique items.
I now have two Europa FC title-winning tops, one signed by the whole squad and the other personalised by Liam Walker. Since then, the number 10 has joined Notts County.
I was also given the number 5 shirt from the team’s Champions League third kit. Although in black, so unsigned, again the personal nature of the acquisition means so much to me. You can buy memorabilia from the internet but the collection I have is very special.
You should see one of my downstairs rooms at home. We don’t need wallpaper, it is covered with shirts, posters, press passes, posters etc. Yes, I know, I have a very understanding wife! Then there are the boxes of items I’ve accumulated, with everything from signed programmes to UEFA delegate meeting notes.
Following the Europa FC game, it was the champions of Croatia up next. I loved the whole experience of being out there in the Balkans. Everything apart from the result, of course. Back at Park Hall for the second-leg, we all know the outcome now.
On a personal level, which is the thrust of this article, there was both bad news and good news. The former was that there was no TNS Radio. The latter because it was being replaced by TNS TV. Instead of me with my bag of equipment, we had three huge trucks descend upon Park Hall.
Numerous personnel, including five on camera, hundreds of metres of cables, monitors everywhere and Gary Newbon presenting the programme – it was a professional set-up. Moved from my usual position in the press box, I was joined in the TV gantry by a number of production personnel – and Tommy Holmes.
It was great to have the TNS legend alongside me, making his debut on air with us. He did really well, as we not only covered the game but also chatted The New Saints in general and Tommy’s own memories in particular.
Well, as far as our European adventures are concerned, the 2017/2018 book has now closed. However, the personal memories – both in the mind and on the wall at home – will continue to live on.
Stewart Bloor – Media & Communications Officer
Rev’s Ramblings is a weekly blog insight into my personal journey at the champions of Wales.