With the threat of coronavirus wiping out all of the weekend’s fixtures, we caught up with The New Saints manager, Scott Ruscoe, to talk all things European football.

Saints have flown the flag for Wales in Europe for the past 19 years, competing against some of the continent’s most decorated clubs in both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

A long stint at the top of Welsh football has seen TNS into the early qualifying rounds of the prestigious competition for almost two decades, during which Ruscoe has experienced highs and lows in Europe, both as a player and a manager.

He believes the opportunity to play in the biggest club competition in the world, is something that draws players to the JD Cymru Premier.

With the top two places in the league now guaranteed a place in the qualifying rounds of the two prestigious competitions, it provides a huge chance for players to test themselves against top opposition.

Ruscoe believes the format of the competitions is what makes them both so special.

He said: “You’ve got the buzz of the draw, and then when you find out who you’re playing you have to go away and do your homework, and you have very little time to prepare.

“For players, it’s the pinnacle of the sport, if you don’t play in the FA Cup or reach the English Football League, I think the Champions League is something a lot of players strive for coming to the Welsh system. I’ve been in the Welsh system for 19 years, and every single year we’ve competed in Europe, and I think it’s a big draw for players coming here.”

Having made more than 30 appearances as a player for Saints in European competitions, and managing the side through their past three campaigns, we asked Ruscoe to list his top five European experiences from his career with the Welsh champions:

1 – The New Saints vs KF Feronikeli

If you look at the last two or three European campaigns we’ve had, I think the one that stands out the most for me is the match in Kosovo.

We were winning 2-0 at home and they came back to score twice in the final few minutes of the match, which then lead to us having to go out there and not concede any away goals, while looking to nick a winning goal.

That’s how it panned out, and the way we set up in the second leg to play on the counter was perfect and gave me one of my best moments in football.

Obviously as a player and a manager, there are lots of different emotions, but when you do get that win in the end, especially away from home in a hostile atmosphere, there’s nothing better.

There was about 12,000 fans there, which was a massive crowd for our players, and being on foreign soil added to that, but to go there and not concede, it was brilliant.

2 – The New Saints vs Lincoln Red Imps

The first European match I had as manager was against the champions of Gibraltar, Lincoln Red Imps, and again we had to go away from home and win, which we did in extra time.

We lost 2-1 at home and there was a bit of doom and gloom about the place, because I think we were expected to beat them, but I knew that we had the ability to go away from home and not only score, but beat them.

That’s what we did, and it was another excellent result and performance in another massive stadium.

It wasn’t as big of a crowd as there was when we played in Kosovo, but it was an excellent evening and it gave us a real buzz around the place.

3 – The New Saints vs FC Copenhagen/The New Saints vs Ludogorets

Another campaign that stands out for me is during last summer, when we had the Champions League match against FC Copenhagen, and the Europa League match against Ludogorets.

Being a manager and being put up against those kinds of teams is excellent and it’s a great experience.

It’s something which stands you in good stead for the future with regards to how you set up to play, the planning and preparation for big games.

Even though the results don’t always go for you in those games, because sometimes the gulf in class is there to see, and at the time it does hurt when you lose 5-0 or 4-0, but then when you see recently, Ludogorets only lost by one goal to Inter Milan, and even went ahead in the tie, it shows how tough the task is.

4 – The New Saints vs Liverpool/The New Saints vs Manchester City

I think I had about 32 appearances in Europe, and I was involved in more than that when I might not have got on the pitch.

We played Liverpool, Man City, Anderlecht and Legia Warsaw to name a few – some really top European sides.

They’re the nights you know you’ll never forget once your career is finished.

The Liverpool match at Anfield stands out for me, as well as the game against Man City being the first match played at the new Etihad Stadium.

5– The New Saints vs Bohemians

Winning at home against Bohemians was excellent as a player, with the win sending us through to the next qualifying round against Anderlecht at the time.

We were 1-0 down against them away from home, and they were a side who had a massive budget in comparison to us, and had a really big following.

They were favourites for the tie, but we came back having lost by one, even though it could have been 3-0 or 4-0 to them the way they played. We came back to our place and scored in the opening five or 10 minutes, and really had a good feeling during the game, and ended up winning 4-0.

I think turning a tie around like that is always a great feeling. I almost had that as a manager when we faced Macedonian champions KF Shkëndija, lost 5-0 in the first leg and won 4-0 in the second.

That could’ve been one of the biggest results in European history if we’d have come back and drawn.