Pic: Brian Jones
By Chris Smart
CRAIG HARRISON talked ambitiously about plans for the future after guiding The New Saints into the Guinness Book of Records with a breathtaking run of 27 competitive victories.
A 2-0 Friday night win at the Rock Stadium over battling Cefn Druids took them past the previous record of 26 successes on the bounce of Johann Cruyff’s brilliant Ajax side of the 1971-72 season, which included such stars as Jonnny Rep and Johann Neeskens.
But Harrison, who has been in charge at Park Hall for five years and has been linked recently with other clubs such as National League side Wrexham, has no intention of stopping there.
He said: “I am very happy at TNS and we have our eyes on four competitions this season – the League, League Cup, Welsh Cup and IRN-Bru Scottish competition. It would be fantastic to go through the season with a 100 per cent record, but to use an old cliché we will take every game as it comes.
“It would be fantastic for us to make the knockout stages of a European competition, such as the Europa League or Champions League. That would be real progress. Just look at what Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers have done.”
TNS are 21 points clear of Gap Connah’s Quay at the top of the Welsh Premier League and could have their title defence wrapped up by the end of February.
Harrison paid a glowing tribute to TNS owner and chairman Mike Harris, who he described as “a real visionary”.
He added: “Mike just loves the club. He led the move towards 3G pitches and is so enthusiastic about everything TNS.”
Harris said: “To put a run together like ours is nigh impossible. Some of the great sides like Rangers, Celtic, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United have not done that.”
The last time TNS failed to win a game was back in July in the Champions League, and since then have won 21 League matches, two in the IRN Bru Cup, three in the League Cup and one in the Welsh Cup.
Cefn Druids made the Oswestry-based team fight for the record however – they held them for 35 minutes before Aaron Edwards volleyed the ball home from close range.
TNS were still not able to relax and the stadium was filled with tension as the champions searched for a second goal to make them more comfortable. It was only with four minutes remaining that they made it 2-0 when Jon Routledge netted with a 25-yard pile-driver.
That is how it stayed and TNS were the record-breakers. Champagne corks popped but it was down to earth again as the next stage in a remarkable story was planned.
Also hoping to earn a spot in the record books will be the trainers involved in the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. Moon Racer is the early favourite for the Supreme Novices Hurdle and if you fancy a bet on one of the sporting weeks of the year, take a look at the Cheltenham Festival 2017