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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK
Villagers prepare for big clash
By Carl Yapp
BBC Wales news website

TNS Llansantffraid's Treflan ground

Just 15 years ago village football in Llansantffraid was on the verge of disappearing.

The team was near the bottom of the Montgomeryshire Amateur League and there were just seven regular players.

There was no clubhouse or stand, the team changed for matches in a pub and officials shovelled cow muck off the pitch-cum-field before every game.

It was a crucial period, but after much discussion and cajoling The Saints, as they are known, survived.

So for many in the village, near Welshpool, in Powys, it is astonishing that their club, TNS Llansantffraid, is just hours away from an historic clash against European champions, Liverpool.

Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain is a typical small Welsh community - it has a shop, a couple of pubs, a garage, a church, a chapel and, no doubt, the odd village gossip or two.

This is the biggest match we've played or will ever play
TNS chairman Edgar Jones

It is light years away from hustle and bustle of city life in vibrant Liverpool.

But the Welsh villagers are proud of their team and although they admit their heroes are unlikely to win on Wednesday, they intend to enjoy every minute of their brush with football's elite.

One of those is club chairman of 15 years Edgar Jones, who is more than just a figurehead. His association with The Saints stretches back decades and his roles have been varied.

Not only has he driven the team minibus and managed the club, he and others had to shovel cow muck off a former pitch which was used by a farmer to graze his cattle.

"I don't think people can actually believe that we're going to play the European champions," he said.

"We've had other high points like playing Manchester City in the Uefa Cup, winning the Welsh Cup and Welsh Premier title but this is the biggest match we've played or will ever play.

About 1,000 people live in Llansantffraid

"It's a dream come true, but it hasn't always been this way," said Mr Jones.

"I remember just before I was appointed chairman, the club was on the verge of closing.

"I left our AGM while the committee discussed appointing me as chair, and I went to visit local lad Michael Brown who agreed to manage the team for a crucial season."

Mr Jones said at the time the team was near the bottom of the Montgomeryshire Amateur League and only had seven regular players.

But the club's committee had vision and the team went from strength to strength, shortly afterwards joining the League of Wales in the mid-1990s.

Former manager and Welsh Cup winner with Llansantffraid, Michael Brown, said: "I remember them (the committee) getting me out of bed one night and asking me to manage the team."

He joked: "I agreed, but I learned a good lesson and that was to never agree to do it again."

Jack and Lyn Ellis
Jack Ellis played for Llansantffraid before World War II

The football club in its present form was founded in 1959, but the beautiful game was played in the village before then.

Jack Ellis, 92, recalled what it was like to play village football 70 years ago.

"I remember playing in the 1930s for the Llansantffraid White Stars, an early form of the club," said Mr Ellis, who is a D-Day veteran.

"I recall breaking my leg during a game against Guilsfield in 1936.

"The manager Tom Pugh came onto the pitch and I asked him to remove my boot, but he said: 'I'll never get it on again if I take it off.'

"It was as though he was saying get back on the field and play."

Mr Ellis, who has been married to his wife Lyn for 66 years, said transport to matches often involved players riding miles on a bicycle.

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