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GALLANT TNS, BUT BRING BACK BIG THREE
RESPECTABILITY for TNS on their big Millennium Stadium date - but, if truth be known, further evidence of the desperate need for Welsh football to get the Big Three of Cardiff City, Swansea City and Wrexham back into Europe.
And if the Football Association of Wales won't do it, Bluebirds owner Sam Hammam should take the bull by the horns himself and take UEFA to court for restraint of trade.
That's Bangor, Barry, Cwmbran and TNS out of Europe at the first stage - yet again Welsh Premier clubs hopelessly failing to make any sort of ripple on the continent.
In a way it's a bit unfair to bracket TNS with the other three.
Number one they were playing a Premiership side, as opposed to teams from Macedonia and Israel which have accounted for some of our other clubs.
Number two, if every club was as go-ahead as TNS, the Welsh Premier would be a lot stronger than it is. The village side from Llansantffraid have gone full-time and their dynamic owner Mike Harris' decision to bring this UEFA Cup second leg tie to the Millennium Stadium made it a night to remember for the little club.
But Kevin Keegan's men had already wrapped up the tie by winning 5-0 in the first leg - and the ex-England manager summed up what he thought about it by choosing to put his reserves out last night.
TNS kept City down to just two goals - at least they did a darned sight better against an English team's second string than the Welsh rugby XV did at the stadium just five days earlier.
The TNS players fully deserved the ovation they got at the end.
But the fact is TNS still lost 7-0 on aggregate. More worryingly, our proud heritage in Europe (Cardiff beating Real Madrid, Merthyr beating Atalanta, Wrexham beating Anderlecht, Swansea drawing with Panathinaikos) continues to be eroded by smaller Welsh sides losing to teams from nations Cardiff City and co could without question be beating.
It is time for the FAW, who unceremoniously dumped our Football League Big Three out of the Welsh Cup in the 1990s, to reverse that decision and actively campaign to get our better teams back into Europe via the Premier Cup.
And if they won't, someone like Hammam, who says he is here to fight the Welsh cause, should take up the cudgels on his own.
It's ridiculous. Our Big Three can't qualify for Europe via the Welsh system. Nor can they qualify via the English system, the English FA making it clear their European places are for English clubs only.
Where is the justice in that? Name me another nation in Europe whose leading teams are so penalised.
And while the stand-off continues, our results in Europe, which used to be so good in the not so very distant past, get worse and worse.

[Paul Abbandonato, The Western Mail]

29 August 2021