The hopes of the country’s football fans rest not on Gareth Bale and Chris Coleman’s shoulders tomorrow, but that of Colin Caton and Craig Harrison’s as Bala Town and The New Saints prepare for their inaugural games in the Irn Bru cup.
Bala and The New Saints’ inclusion into the cup comes after an invite from the Scottish Professional Football League to clubs from Wales and Northern Ireland to compete in what is the old Scottish Challenge Cup.
The competition does not have a direct Welsh equivalent, but could be compared to the EFL Trophy in England, as it includes the U20 sides of all Scottish Premiership Clubs.
Entering in the fourth round, the welsh clubs are guaranteed £5,750, with the quarter final seeing a rise to £8,250 and the semis earning them £10,250. The runners up gain £12,750 whilst the winners will scoop £17,750.
Bala may consider themselves the luckiest of two the Welsh clubs, with their home draw saving a 300 mile journey to Alloa’s Recreation Park.
Alloa, or ‘The Wasps’ as their club crest makes clear, are a semi professional outfit playing in the Scottish League One (third tier), having been relegated from the Championship last season.
The Scottish outfit were this week rocked by the news their manager, Jack Ross, has agreed a deal to become the St Mirren’s manager. However, he does not start this role until Monday, so the wasps will want tomorrow’s game to be one last hurrah for the well respected Ross.
Ross has so far this season kept Alloa at the top end of the table, sitting third with 16 points from eight games having only lost two league fixtures so far.
Bala meanwhile haven’t had the smoothest of starts to this season, but appear to be recovering with a recent win against Newtown and draw with Bangor City FC placing them just inside the Dafabet Welsh Premier’s top six.
Ahead of the game talking to the Daily Post, Colin Caton has said:
“It’s going to be a really tough game game. I went to watch them last week and they are a very good team with some quality players. so we’ll need to play well. They are favourites for promotion in their league. Although their manager is leaving after the game, I think they will be keen that he leaves on a high, so it’s going to be difficult.
But it’s refreshing to be playing somebody different, it’s got a European feel about it, and is a game to look forward to.
The New Saints are gearing up for an away day to Forfar Athletic, who play below Alloa in the Scottish League Two. Like TNS, they have enjoyed a great start to the season losing just one game so far and sit at the top of their league.
The visiting Saints have gone one better, having dominated the Dafabet Welsh Premier with a 100% start that has left their sixth consecutive title almost wrapped up already.
On paper, The New Saints’ full time professional status should overpower the ‘Loons’, but the mixing of Welsh and Scottish league clubs is a new and intriguing prospect for TNS, Bala, and indeed the Welsh Premier League.
Speaking to The New Saints’ official twitter account, Craig Harrison said:
“We feel very privileged to be in the competition and we’re looking forward to representing the Dafabet Welsh Premier League.
“There’s a really good feel in the group, the players and the coaches can’t wait to get there and get the game started.”
The Saints and Lakesiders will certainly be up for their inaugural cup fixtures, which puts them only four games away from Irn Bru cup glory.
The New Saints kick off at Forfar at 3pm, whilst Bala’s match gets underway in front of live S4C cameras at 1pm.