Having returned to English Championship side, Swansea City, following his loan spell with The New Saints FC, we caught up with Ben Cabango this week. You can read the interview below, as we chatted with the Wales U19 international defender about his time at Park Hall with the JD Welsh Premier League champions.
TNS FC: Ben, it seems like an eternity now but it was just last summer that you signed for The New Saints FC on loan. You met your team mates in a hotel in Birmingham, you flew to the continent and the next morning we were conducting our first interview in the Portuguese sun!
Ben: Yeah, the experience at TNS went so quick for me but I loved every minute of it there.
TNS FC: You hit the ground running and worked your way very quickly into a regular in the starting line-up. Were you surprised at how smoothly things went from the off?
Ben: That was my main goal when I first got to TNS. I was extremely happy that I managed to get into the starting team so early on! Then after that it was just about maintaining my starting position and kicking on.
TNS FC: You made your debut in the UEFA Champions League game at the national stadium in Macedonia. Did you have to pinch yourself to realise that you weren’t dreaming?
Ben: Yeah, as it was happening, I didn’t really realise the magnitude of the game! But looking back it the experience was insane! Playing against such good players, and the fans out there were crazy.
TNS FC: Talking of living the dream it got even better, because in the return leg, you not only played again but scored. Where does that feature in highlights as far as your career to date is concerned?
Ben: It is definitely up there for the best highlights of my career so far! As it was my first goal for TNS as well, that made it even more special. Scoring in the Champions League is stuff I dreamed about and to actually do it was mad!
TNS FC: As well as highs, we all know that football can be very cruel as well sometimes. What, if any, were the disappointments during your time at Park Hall?
Ben: There were not many disappointments during my time with TNS, but one that sticks out was my first league game against Connah’s Quay. It wasn’t my best game in a TNS shirt and obviously it was not nice to lose and especially so being the first league game!
TNS FC: Whoever said time flies wasn’t joking and no sooner had you made your debut in Europe, it seemed like no time at all and you were playing your final game, away at Cefn Druids. At that stage there was uncertainty about whether your loan spell would continue but was there a sense of sadness that it may have been your final game for the club?
Ben: Definitely. I felt like I connected with the club and I’ll always look out for them now! I was unsure whether I was staying or leaving so didn’t really know if Cefn Druids was going to be my last game, but sadly it was.
TNS FC: At least it was a good game to go out on as The New Saints kicked off the New Year with a 3-0 win.
Ben: Yes, was always good to end in a positive way after a very good 6 months!
TNS FC: Since returning to Swansea City, you’ve signed a new contract. How much of that do you attribute to not only your time at TNS but also playing in the JD Welsh Premier League as a whole?
Ben: Yes, a lot of it is down to the JD Welsh Premier League. I’m so thankful for it as I learnt so much playing in the league. I got everything and more I wanted to out of my experience there.
TNS FC: Ben, you were a popular figure at Park Hall and well-liked, have you kept in touch with many of the people you got to know during your loan spell?
Ben: Yes, I’m still speaking to a few of the boys from TNS!
TNS FC: Although you’re now back at the Liberty Stadium, how closely are you following the results in the JD Welsh Premier League?
Ben: I’m always looking at the results, hoping the boys do well! They are doing really well at the moment and it’s great that they’ve won the league again this season.
TNS FC: Finally, Ben, it’s been a real pleasure having you with us at The New Saints and everyone wishes you all the very best for the future. We are certainly following your progress and look forward to great things.
Ben: Thanks a lot! It was a pleasure to play for The New Saints and I enjoyed it very much!
Lead image from the UEFA Champions League game against KF Shkëndija at Park Hall. Courtesy of Brian Jones.