The New Saints
Ground: Recreation Ground
Capacity: 2000 (1000 seated)
Nickname: The Saints
Admission: £5 adult, £3 student/OAP, £1 other
The New Saints F.C., often known as TNS, is a British football club representing Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain in Wales and Oswestry in England (the two places are only 8 miles/13 km apart). From 1997 to 2006, the club was known as Total Network Solutions F.C.
Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain is a village in Powys, Wales about 8 miles to the north of Welshpool. Its name means “Church of St Bridget” in English.
The church of St Ffraid lies on the northern edge of the village. It is a complex building revealing various stages of reconstruction over the centuries. The church’s dedication to St Ffraid (otherwise known as St Bride or St Bridget), together with its location on the edge of the Cain valley, point to an early medieval foundation, though there is no surviving trace of any early structure. A small Norman window in the south wall indicates the age of the first building survivals, probably, but not confirmed, as the 12th century. The church is first recorded in the Norwich Taxation of 1254 as ‘Cap’lla de Llansanfret’
Oswestry is a town in Shropshire, England, very close to the Welsh border. It is at the junction of the A5, A483, and A495 roads. It is the third largest town in Shropshire with a population of 17,110, after Telford and Shrewsbury. The former Marcher Lordship of Oswestry was annexed to Shropshire along with the Lordships of Whetington, Masbroke and Knoking to form the Hundred of Oswestry by section 11 of the Laws in Wales Acts 1535.
The area has long been settled. Old Oswestry is the site of a large Iron Age hill fort with evidence for occupation dating back to the 550s BC.
The Battle of Maserfield is thought to have been fought here in 642, between the Anglo-Saxon kings Penda and Oswald. Oswald was killed in this battle and was dismembered; according to a legend, one of his arms was carried to an ash tree by a bird, and miracles were subsequently attributed to the tree (as Oswald was considered a saint). Thus it is believed that the name of the site derived from a reference to “Oswald’s Tree”. The spring Oswald’s Well is supposed to have originated where the bird dropped the arm from the tree.
Offa’s Dyke runs nearby to the west. The town, being very close to Wales, has many Welsh street and place names and the town’s name in Welsh is Croesoswallt.
The former local football club, Oswestry Town F.C., was one of the few English teams to compete in the Welsh football league. Oswestry Town folded due to financial difficulties in 2003 and merged with Total Network Solutions.
Following the takeover of the club’s sponsor in 2006, after a trawl for naming ideas, including an attempt to sell the naming rights on eBay, the name “The New Saints” was agreed upon as appropriate to the clubs’ history — Llansantffraid was always known as “The Saints”, while Oswestry had strong connections with Saint Oswald, at the same time handily retaining the initials “TNS”. A new club badge was also developed, featuring a dragon to represent Llansantffraid and a lion representing Oswestry. They are planning to build a new ground in Oswestry, but will probably not break ground until at least 2007.
How to Get There
From Welshpool (A483), turn left on reaching Four Crosses (A4393) to Llansantffraid. Over bridge, turn left.
From Oswestry (A483) turn right at Llynclys Crossroads onto A495. Follow signs for Llansantffraid.
From Shrewsbury take A458, and follow signs for Lake Vyrnwy.
Treflan is right in the middle of Llansantffraid. Turn opposite Wynnstay Stores (marked Treflan) and bear right.
Map to Treflan
Parking: Large car park at ground.
Nearest railway station: Gobowen (12 miles) Welshpool (10 miles)
NOT the most impressive ‘stadium’ in Wales, but not bad for a village the size of Llansantffraid (population just over 1,000).
The Recreation Ground, usually referred to as Treflan, is bang in the middle of the village – just turn off the A4393 opposite Wynnstay Stores.
Attendances for Welsh Premier games averaged 333 last season with a high of 1,042 for the televised visit of Rhyl.
On 9 August 2002, Treflan saw a record crowd of 1,996 for the pre-season friendly visit of Chelsea.
The stand behind one goal seats 500 and is alongside a corporate hospitality box. Down one side of the ground is an older, smaller stand, opposite the TV gantry, which is used for live coverage or filming recorded highlights at some games for showing on BBC Wales or S4C. The ground is fully floodlit with the lights recently upgraded to 500Lux.
40-page colour match-day magazines cost £2.
There is an excellent licensed social club inside the ground, together with a refreshment bar serving hot and cold drinks and snacks.
Saturday kick-offs are at 2.30, Sundays are 2.00 pm, evening kick-offs at 7.30 pm.
TNS plans to relocate to a new Uefa-compliant 3,000 seat stadium in Oswestry.
Rivals: Bangor City, Caersws, Barry, Port Talbot, Newtown
Treflan photo by Matthew Ashton
The village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, south west of Oswestry, has had a football team for many years, but it was not until 1959 that the present club was set up. Nicknamed ‘The Saints’, Llansantffraid first joined the Montgomeryshire Amateur League in 1959/60 and enjoyed considerable success therein, winning all the honours available in little more than a decade.
For the record, the Montgomeryshire League championship was secured on five occasions (1969, 1970, 1971, 1983 and 1987) and the Montgomeryshire Cup competition won six times between 1963 and 1976. In addition, ‘The Saints’ were Village Cup winners seven times up to the 1990s and, when the senior team progressed, so the reserves won the cup in 1991.
The 1989/90 season, however, had seen the club on the brink of closure, but positive action set Llansantffraid on their climb through the Welsh pyramid system, beginning with a move up into the Mid-Wales League. Graham Breeze was appointed to the manager’s post and success quickly followed. After finishing as runners-up to Morda United in 1990/91, Llansantffraid were promoted to the Cymru Alliance.
That first Cymru Alliance season saw Llansantffraid finish as runners-up to Caersws, but disappointment followed when they were overlooked as potential contestants in the inaugural season of the newly-formed League of Wales.
Determined to progess, however, the club raced to the championship twelve months later, heading off Welshpool Town and Rhyl in so doing and losing just two league games on the way.
Thus, promotion followed and Llansantffraid took up their place in the League of Wales for 1993/94 having become the first club to climb up three rungs of the pyramid to reach the top division. To add to the successes of the 1992/93 season, ‘The Saints’ reached the final of the Welsh Intermediate Cup and defeated Brecon Corinthians to add more silverware to their trophy cabinet.
The first season in the national league was rather traumatic and relegation was only avoided at the last possible moment. Victories over Conwy United and Flint Town United meant that ‘The Saints’ required at least a point from their last game, which they achieved.
There was much to celebrate in 1995 as ‘The Saints’ won the League of Wales League Cup, beating Ton Pentre 2-1 in the final staged at Newtown. Spurred on by this success, it was widely predicted that they would be a real force to be reckoned with in the 1995/96 season, yet that failed to materialise and they slipped to 12th spot.
Nonetheless, as they meandered through the season, Llansantffraid kept notching up victories in the Welsh Cup. Llandyrnog United were despatched 2-1, then Abergavenny Thursdays by a margin of 4-0 before ‘The Saints’ were drawn to play away to Welsh League side Pontypridd Town in the quarter-finals, thus avoiding Barry Town, Inter Cardiff, Cwmbran Town and Ebbw Vale at this late stage. A 2-1 success meant that Llansantffraid were a two-legged tie away from the Welsh Cup final.
Drawn against Inter Cardiff, they secured an important single goal victory in the first leg and, though the South Walians made life difficult in the second leg, Llansantffraid eventually triumphed 3-1 (and 4-1 on aggregate) to go through to the final against Barry Town at the National Stadium in Cardiff. Perhaps many thought that ‘The Saints’ were just making up the numbers in the final, but a tremendous performance saw the game go to extra time, after Barry notched a late equaliser. With the match tied at 3-3, Llansantffraid won a dramatic penalty shootout 3-2 and became the first side from Mid Wales to lift the Welsh Cup since Aberystwyth Town 96 years earlier!
More importantly, the team from a tiny village had won through to the European Cup Winners Cup and, just three months later, Llansantffraid drew 1-1 with 14 times Polish champions Ruch Chorzow in the first leg of their Cup Winners Cup tie at the Racecourse, Wrexham.
In 1997, computer company Total Network Solutions, from their base on the border in Oswestry, made Llansantffraid an offer no club could refuse. In return for a major sponsorship deal, the club changed its name to Total Network Solutions FC.
1999/2000 saw the club reach the pinnacle of Welsh football when, in an exciting finale, Total Network Solutions were able to pip Barry Town to the league championship and thus qualified for the European Cup. FC Levadia from Estonia were their European opponents in the Champions League and TNS secured a creditable 2-2 draw at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground in the first leg, only to lose 4-0 in Tallinn.
In 2000/01, TNS finished a disappointing eighth in the League of Wales but reached the final of the Welsh Cup. Despite losing to Barry Town in the final, they still qualified for the UEFA Cup and faced Polish side Polonia Warsaw in the opening round. In 2003, TNS earned another crack at European competition finishing as Welsh Premier runners-up. This time the reward was a fabulous opportunity to oppose Manchester City in the UEFA Cup and become City’s opponents in the very first competitive fixture played at the City of Manchester Stadium. Runners-up for the third consecutive season in May 2004, TNS went one better the following season when lifting the WPL title for the second time and adding the Welsh Cup to their trophy cabinet.
Welsh Cup winners 2004/05
The subsequent reward of a tie in the qualifying round of the European Champions League against the holders Liverpool was something of which not even ‘Roy of the Rovers’ could have believed to be credible and brought the club national attention.
The Saints performed creditably in both legs, played at Anfield and Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, losing 3-0 in each game.
The tie brought TNS to the attention of the media, not just in the UK, but around the world, gaining widespread recognition for a club that was playing amateur football just 15 years ago..
The Saints’ rise to fame has been meteoric since they played in the Montgomeryshire Amateur League as Llansantffraid FC.
When TNS wrestled the championship title from Barry Town’s grip in 2000, their astonishingly rapid rise to the top was not complete. Managing director Mike Harris never rests on his laurels. A new stand, fully professional status and a youth structure with Scholarship Scheme have followed and TNS are now regular title contenders and European qualifiers.
Now, a merger with Oswestry Town has given the club further impetus and there are plans for a 3,000 seater modern and Uefa-compliant stadium over the border in a far more populous area, with the opportunity to develop and increase the club’s fan base.
In June 2006, the club changed its name to The New Saints, following the end of the sponsorship deal with Total Network Solutions.
Welsh Cup winners: 1995-96, 2004-05
Welsh Cup runners up: 2000-01, 2003-04
League of Wales champions: 1999-00, 2004-05, 2005-2006
League of Wales runners up: 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04
League of Wales Cup winners: 1994-95, 2005-2006
Cymru Alliance (D2 North) champions: 1992-93
Welsh Intermediate Cup winners: 1992-93
History of Oswestry
Football has been played in the border town of Oswestry for as long as the game itself. Indeed there is some evidence that the Oswestry club might have been formed as long ago as 1860, which would make it one of the oldest clubs in the world.
When the game was beginning to be organised, Oswestry United arranged to play friendly matches at the local cricket ground – many being against near neighbours Chirk, the Druids from Ruabon and Wrexham.
All of these joined Oswestry competitively when the Combination – based on clubs in the north west of England and north Wales- was formed. With Rugby being the dominant code in south Wales, it was left to the industrial area of the north Wales coalfield (which included much of north west Shropshire) to lay the foundations of Association Football in the country.
Oswestry were among the leading clubs in the formation of the Football Association of Wales in 1876 and took part in the first ever Welsh Cup competition in 1877 – a competition which they entered regularly up to 2003. The club’s Welsh connections also saw it provide many international players including no fewer than nine when Wales played their first international against England at Kennington Oval in 1879. Among them was Thomas Owen, who some football historians believe to be the father of Oswestry’s famous First World War poet, Wilfred.
It could not have been recognised at the time, but all this had great significance to the club’s destiny well over a century later.
United won the Welsh Cup in 1883 (becoming the first team to take the trophy over Offa’s Dyke), and again in 1901 and 1907. They continued playing in the, by then, Lancashire Combination until the 1914/15 season – which started with some promise until the majority of the team left with the “Oswestry Pals” to serve in the trenches of the First World War. The club tried to continue but gave up the unequal struggle until peace returned.
In fact it wasn’t until the 1920/21 season that the club returned to active service when the renamed Oswestry Town joined the North Wales Alliance. During this period they obtained the services of local lad, Herbert Roberts, who caught the eye of Herbert Chapman, manager of the all conquering Arsenal team. Herbie was converted to become the first “stopper” centre half and won many league and cup honours whilst playing for the Gunners. He also won an England cap, despite coming from a Welsh speaking family who regularly attended Chapel.
Having won the Alliance championship in 1924, Town moved on to the then powerful Birmingham League, where they rubbed shoulders with the likes of Shrewsbury Town, Wellington Town (now Telford United), Hereford and Kidderminster, plus a number of the West Midlands’ Football League clubs’ reserve and A teams – and even Cardiff City reserves. Once more the outbreak of war in 1939 saw an end to football at the Cricket Ground for the duration of hostilities.
After the war, Town had some success winning the league championship in 1953 with several near misses and visits to the first round of the F.A. Cup. Among the managers in this period was Alan Ball Snr whose son was, of course, to become an England 1966 World Cup hero. He went to school in the town and learned many of his skills at the old Victoria Road ground (renamed when the Cricket Club moved to its new home shortly after the war).
In 1960 Oswestry moved into the Cheshire League where they regularly played the likes of Macclesfield, Wigan and Northwich, plus older rivals in Rhyl, Bangor and Wrexham’s reserves. The restructuring of the non-league system saw a couple of changes in the 70’s, with spells in both the Southern and Northern Premier Leagues.
The 1980’s brought bleak times. There had been several financial crises over the years but with debts mounting, and things came to a head in 1988 when the Victoria Road ground had to be sold to developers to pay off the debts. Various attempts to find a new home – including several ground share schemes – failed and so, for the third time in its history, Oswestry faced a period of inactivity.
Despite being written off by some as dead and buried, eventually the club managed to obtain the use of Park Hall Stadium, an ideal facility built by the army as part of the extensive barracks that had existed in the town until the mid 70s. Much had changed since a ball had been kicked in anger and a change to the Welsh pyramid system gave Oswestry Town an unique opportunity. The Board felt that the chances of reaching the top of the Welsh system were greater than moving through the much larger English system.
Oswestry United’s early work in helping to form the F.A. of Wales, and the club’s unbroken full membership, qualified them to enter. So it was on 28 August 1993 that Oswestry returned to competitive action with a goalless draw at home to New Brighton Villa in the Welsh National League 1st Division (the third tier of the pyramid). A couple of weeks earlier over 1000 had crammed into Park Hall to see the club’s first game there against Football League neighbours, Shrewsbury Town.
After a flying start, it looked as if Town might move up the pyramid at the first time of asking, but a loss of form late in the season saw them finish a creditable third. The following season Town cruised through to the League Championship and League Cup double without defeat, and promotion to the Cymru Alliance. Even more amazingly the League and League Cup double was repeated the following season in the higher grade which should have resulted in promotion to the League of Wales, the top flight of Welsh Soccer.
Unfortunately, the club was caught out by its own success as Park Hall Stadium was not up to the strict criteria laid down by the LoW. In particular the lack of floodlights was a major stumbling block. With the financial lessons of the past well and truly learned, the club decided against going deeply into debt to get the work done, preferring to improve the stadium through its own resources and passed over the chance of promotion. An appeal was made for money to provide and erect floodlights on pylons that were still held from the old Victoria Road ground and, after three years’ hard work by volunteers, they were switched on for a League Cup game with Flint Town United on 13 November 1998.
With this hurdle cleared a successful assault was made on the Cymru Alliance championship in 1999/2000 to earn promotion to the top level of Welsh football. Once more the club’s willing band of helpers turned out in force and, working almost round the clock, met the deadline to get the ground up to League of Wales standards. This included the provision of new dressing rooms, better toilets, a hospitality area, increasing the number of seats and the provision of hard standing all around the ground – no mean task with a stadium the size of Park Hall!
After years of inactivity and rebuilding, Oswestry was ready to develop its unique role in Welsh Football history. Unfortunately, financial problems again reared their head and, for the time being at least, it seems that the name of Oswestry Town will no longer appear on the football map, albeit senior football is due to continue in a new stadium in the town under the TNS banner.
Oswestry’s final season squad, 2002/3.
Welsh Cup: Winners 1883 1901 1907
North Wales Alliance: Champions 1924
Welsh National League: Champions 1924, (Wrexham Area) Champions 1994/5, Cup Winners 1994/5
Birmingham League Division 1: Champions 1953
Birmingham League Division 2: Champions 1958
Cymru Alliance: Champions 1995/6 1998/9 1999/0
CA Cup Winners 1995/96
CA League Cup finalists 1997/8, 1999/0
N E Wales Cup: Winners 1999/0, Semi-finalists 1995/6, 1997/8
Welsh Cup: Quarter finals 1995/6
Recreation Ground, Treflan, Llansantffraid, Powys, SY22 6AE
Tel: 01691 828 112
The New Saints FC, Enterprise House, Mile Oak, Oswestry, Shropshire SY10 8NS
Tel: 01691 664 053