Having been involved in European football every season since working for The New Saints FC, it’s always an exciting time of the year when the draws are made, to discover who the club will be playing.
On a personal level, and bearing in mind that I am a keen groundhopper, my own wish is that the draw takes us to a country that I’ve never seen football in before. New grounds are always great to add to the list but a new nation is obviously special.
Both boxes were ticked, when the champions of Wales were paired with their Kosovan counteroparts, KF Feronikeli. The first leg, at Park Hall, looked good for The New Saints, who commanded a 2-0 lead with the game in the dying minutes.
However, goals in 90 and 90+3 minutes changed the complexion of the tie completely. A week later, along with the players and staff, I made my way to Kosovo for what had now become a tough fixture indeed.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man though, and in the 67th minute up popped the birthday boy with the only goal of the game. Coming on from the bench with sixty-five on the clock, just two minutes later, he found the back of the net.
As you can imagine, everyone was extremely happy come the final whistle! Back at the hotel, I interviewed Dean in my room. I’ve done several interviews with him during his time so far with the club but this is certainly one that stands out.
Away from the game itself, I enjoyed the trip to Kosovo. It’s one of those places, that if it wasn’t for football, I’d most likely never visit. I know from speaking to the players, it was a first for them as well.
I always take my binoculars when I go on trips with the club, and with scrub directly opposite the balcony of the room I shared with my media partner-in-crime, Sam Wood, I watched a number of birds including hooded crow and whinchat.
The lead image was taken at the stadium where we played the game in Pristina. It was the view from the media area on the evening of the match itself. Great memories, with the result being the ice on the cake. I published a number of blogs with a Kosovo connection and you can check them out HERE.
In addition, there’s a video below, from around the game itself.