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SIMON Davies had a brief taste of life on millionaires' row with Manchester United and picked up one cap for Wales in the process.
Today the 29-year-old midfielder is poised for a return to the big stage, six years after leaving Old Trafford.
He is seen as the heartbeat of the Saints' side that faces Manchester City in the UEFA Cup on Thursday.
After leaving United, Davies moved on to Luton, Macclesfield and Rochdale before arriving in Wales two years ago.
TNS snapped him up in the summer from Bangor, where he was voted best player in the Welsh Premier League last season.
While United enjoy luxury facilities at Carrington, Davies and his team-mates train at the home of Runcorn-based General Chemicals.
It is hard to believe the grim industrial landscape is the gateway to Europe for TNS but Davies' enthusiasm for the game remains undimmed.
"You know there are a lot of good players in Wales," he said. "The standard has risen since I arrived at Bangor two years ago.
"A lot of players are coming out of the Football League and heading for the Welsh league.
"Perhaps there is a domino effect because of the number of foreign players now in England.
"I think we are on a par with the Conference and both leagues, I feel, are going to get better.
"Teams like TNS and Barry could hold their own against the likes of Shrewsbury and Chester."
Manager Ken McKenna took the squad to the City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday as a bonding exercise.
Even though City defeated Barcelona, Davies is not reading too much into the result.
"At times both teams were strolling around, " he said. "We went there looking for a few weak links and we didn't see any.
"All the areas are full of talent, so it is important we keep our shape.
"Of course we are all slightly nervous but I know our lads will not waste this chance of playing in front of a big crowd in a big stadium.
"In fact I would say the ground is now the second best in the Premiership, next to Old Trafford.
"I can't wait. It is a massive challenge and we will give it our best shot."
12 August 2021