“Summer football? How about letting us play on our own ground – Connah’s Quay boss Andy Morrison on summer football and how Europa League group stages are still a way off for Wales

“You’re taking on a side who are financially better off, have a huge squad and we go and find them the best stadium in Wales to play at.”

The JD Cymru Premier league has your run of the mill August to May season with all the bells and whistles in between.

But for a while now the idea of summer football, and taking the same footsteps as the domestic game in the Ireland has been hotly talked about.

Arguably football in the summer in Wales is more important than the league campaign. The Europa and Champions League campaigns of the four clubs involved directs the rest of the league.

If they fail, the other clubs fail. Defeats mean a drop in coefficient points (the world rankings), which in turn could lead to less European places to go around in the future.

So summer football, to fit in with the European campaigns, is popular among some fans and commentators.

But for Andy Morrison, a man who has transformed the fortunes of Connah’s Quay Nomads turning them into Welsh champions, believes looking at summer football is barking up the wrong tree.

The Nomads have enjoyed famous European nights in recent years under his stewardship, but there is one element that is always against them according to the former Manchester City defender.

And unless it changes the fortunes of the clubs in Europe may not progress as quickly.

“I get asked about this a lot and asked if it would help us at Connahs Quay, but I always say you can forget summer football.

“How about trying to let us play at home? How about letting is play in Europe at the Deeside Stadium, rather than taking a European powerhouse to the best stadium in Wales.

“We’re taking them to somewhere we’ve never been before, and immediately home advantage is gone.

“Make it a level playing field. I’d take on anyone at the Deeside Stadium and expect to beat them.

“But we’re not even getting a chance to play where we’ve qualified.

“You’re taking on a side who are financially better off, have a huge squad and we go and find them the best stadium in Wales to play at.

“So you can forget about summer football, just get us to our own stadium and give us half a chance.”

The standard of the league is getting better and there has been progressive results in the last few years.

Both Newtown and Bala have beaten Maltese giants Valletta and Connahs Quay and The New Saints have both enjoyed successes.

But you have to look back ten years to find a time when anyone got near the group stages of the Europa League.

TNS were just a few steps from the groups when they were holding CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria with just minutes left on the clock.

Three late goals killed them and they went on to draw the replay 2-2 at the Racecourse Ground.

Both the Saints and the Nomads have picked up decent results in recent years, but nothing to trouble the final qualification rounds.

Morrison with assistant Craig Harrison

A team in the groups would be huge not just for the clubs, but for the league itself.

The success of minnows Dundalk in recent years has led to increased interest and focus in the Premier League in Ireland.

But despite the success of his own team in the last five years and the league as a whole, the straight talking Morrison insists there is still a huge gap.

“This probably isn’t a very popular view but I am a realist and I will not kid myself.

“I know the draw has to be incredibly favourible, you look at Dundalk and the path they had to do it this year.

“It is a huge, huge ask. It is easy to say the right things and of course there has been improvements in results where we have closed the gap.

“But that gulf is huge. You look at the pots for the draw and you think, hopefully we miss them and miss them.

“Then even if you get the smallest side bar yourselves you start by googling them, look at their squad, realise their budget is 25 times the size of yours, and find out they’ve got 11 established internationals.

“That is the gulf you’re coming up against and for me the groups are still a long way off, but the gap is closing.

“Against Tblisi this year we got to the 97th minute and lost to a penalty.

“We had five lads out and we were down to one sub. They just beat us and are a big team, then you look at how they got beat three or four in the next game.

“I’m not being negative, I’m just a realist and know how difficult it is.”

That Dinamo Tblisi game turned out to be an eventful one for the former hard tackling defender both on and off the pitch.

Three players missed the game after testing positive for Covid-19, with another sidelined with symptoms.

With a limited bench the Nomads took the game all the way and we’re beaten seven minutes into added time.

A proud and passionate Morrison came out to speak to the media after, and some of his comments would lead to an investigation by UEFA.

Morrison said some players had arrived for the game not feeling well, and he said: “I can’t hear it tonight.”

A BBC article on the matter prompted an investigation, but UEFA found no wrongdoing and Morrison said they were ill for other reasons.

The club hit back and said there was ‘a very clear narrative that the club had ignored Covid-19 protocols’.

Noamds in action in the Europa League this year – Picture NCM Media

Speaking a couple of months after the incident and ahead of last weekend’s return to action in the JD Cymru Premier, Morrison insists he already feels pity for the next person who gets ‘stitched up’.

“The interview was three minutes 35 seconds long and they have taken a ten second section of it out of context and caused a mass hysteria.

“Us and the FAW were left to pick up the pieces and UEFA had to do the right things.

“What I struggled with is that I’m not a big personality, I don’t earn millions. I’m a hard working man on a working man’s wage.

“Why would they want to target me and get a headline for a story is beyond me.

“It has gone now and I move on but I feel pity for the next person who gets stitched up the way I was.”

Morrison’s Nomads returned to action in a fiesty encounter at The Oval against Caernarfon Town on Friday evening that saw two of his charges sent off.

Stepping away from the Welsh domestic game, Morrison, a tough tackler himself, gave his view on the current state of the top level in England.

Asked whether he believes tough tackling 90s footballers would survive in the current climate, with tighter laws and VAR, he said: “I think every phase of football through the decades changes and evolves.

“The rules are different now and you have to adapt along with them. The 70s were different to the 80s, then the 90s and so on.

“Today’s football is not like it was then, and the large majority of players in may era would not be able to play in the modern day if they didn’t adapt to the tackling, intesity, aggression.

“But saying that fans like to see that ferocity, a bit like a coliseum and going to see a battle. Some of that has been taken away now, that competitive edge has gone a bit.

“That aggression and desire to win has been curtailed.

“Today you have to stick to the rules and I think that is where it comes to. And I think that leads to the game being more favoured towards flare players than defenders now.

“It is a lot harder to defend in the modern game than it used to be.”

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