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HARRIS AIMS TO SUCCEED WHERE CHELSEA FAILED
ROMAN ABRAMOVICH hasn't managed it, despite forking out a staggering £121m on new players in his chase for Chelsea silverware.
But the little Welsh club Chelsea are twinned with are looking to go one better than the Stamford Bridge giants by actually winning a trophy this season when they clash with Rhyl in tomorrow's Welsh Cup final at Newtown's Latham Park ground.
OK, the Welsh Cup is hardly the FA Cup, Premiership or Champions League.
But you can only do things at the level you play at. And just as Chelsea are the big spenders in the Premiership, so TNS are the money-men of the Welsh Premier.
And the irony of succeeding where Chelsea have failed isn't lost on TNS chairman Mike Harris.
He quipped, "We have done something Chelsea have failed to do this season - and that's reach a final!
"I watched the Champions League semi-final on TV the other night and Chelsea had enough chances to beat Monaco. But they didn't.
"But we've still got a chance to put some silverware in our cabinet this season."
TNS joined forces with the London club before Abramovich arrived on the scene.
Chelsea were big under Ken Bates, but under Abramovich they spent more than £100m bringing the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Damien Duff, Scott Parker, Hernan Crespo, Adrian Mutu and Claude Makelele to SW6.
So far, though, it's not worked.
The Russian has finished this season empty-handed. Not only that, his club has become the laughing stock of Europe for courting prospective new managers even when current boss Claudio Ranieri was challenging for the Premiership title and European Cup.
"I've only crossed paths with Abramovich once and that was at a distance," said Harris.
"I haven't been down to Chelsea much this year but, who knows, one day I might have the honour of meeting him."
TNS and Chelsea - or rather Chelsea Village plc - formed their partnership when Bates was at the Stamford Bridge helm.
The 72-year-old ended his 22-year involvement at the London club in March after being sidelined by the new regime.
"The twinning has been good for us. On a business level we're getting out of it what we expected," said Harris.
TNS supporters were hoping the link-up would mean some of the youngsters from the Chelsea Academy would be turning out at Treflan. That has not been the case.
"Our youth team is doing very well. They played three matches in Italy last month against Juventus, AS Rivoli and AS Chisola and they won one and drew two.
"So why bring in players who are not better than what you've already got?"
Harris disagrees with the spend, spend, spend policy Chelsea have adopted since Abramovich's £140m takeover last July.
"I don't believe in the approach Chelsea have taken. Did they have to spend so much money?
"One or two new signings were probably needed but did they have to buy so many players?
"I believe you can have too big a squad. Look at Arsenal - the same players play week in, week out.
"Yes, you've got to have good players to back up the first team but they must accept they are not going to play unless there are injuries or a serious dip in form.
"I think at Chelsea there has been change for change's sake. A football club can't be built overnight. You need stability."
Those last words might offer some comfort to TNS manager Ken McKenna, who has yet to win anything since his appointment as boss midway though the 2000-01 campaign.
Three times McKenna has been runner-up in the Welsh Premier and there have been whispers that Harris is losing patience.
But Harris countered, "People say, 'Let's sack the manager.' They do that and think they've sorted out a problem.
"But sometimes that only creates problems further down the line.
"We don't chop and change at TNS.
"I'm someone who likes to see things develop.
"We finished second this season with 76 points - that's more than Barry Town needed to win the championship in the past."
Victory over Rhyl at Latham Park would mean TNS' first trophy since their Welsh Premier triumph four years ago.
"We have already qualified for Europe by finishing second in the league but it would be nice to put a pot on the table," said Harris.
Unlike Chelsea - he might have quipped again.

[Mario Risoli, The Western Mail]
8 May 2021
 
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