Interview: TNS’ Stewart Bloor on the Nathaniel MG Cup final

Media officer and The New Saints fan Stewart Bloor is preparing for his fifth cup final with the club. Well known as the passionate anchor of TNS Radio, he has so far seen his side conquer all in the Welsh system. 

However,  Saturday’s final comes after the end of TNS’ record breaking run of games won, with in-form Welsh League One side Barry Town standing in their way of the Nathaniel MG Cup.

Will TNS’ run of stunning success come to a stutter tomorrow? We caught up with him to ask about the final ahead and their incredible season so far. 

“This is my third full season of being involved with the club and Saturday will be the fifth cup final I’ve been at. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but as far as I’m concerned this is as special as any of the previous ones.

I love cup finals and there’s still a freshness. In some ways, last Saturday may feel like a defeat but it’s good to remember that it wasn’t. The positive thing is that the unbeaten run continues and is now up to 28 games this season. Of course, in terms of winning though it will be the perfect opportunity to get back on track.”

Along with their world record, the Saints have also enjoyed success in the Irn Bru cup, the Scottish trophy competition which they were invited to play in before the start of the season. After seeing off Forfar Athletic and Livingston FC to set up a bumper semi final against SPFL side St Mirren. Bloor however rules out the prospect of any distractions this coming Saturday. 

The Irn-Bru Cup has been a brilliant experience for everyone involved with the club. Especially as our two games so far have been on the road, they have had the feel of European games. The travel, new grounds and added media interest have all created a buzz around the club. Our semi-final, against St. Mirren, is still a month away so will have no bearing whatsoever on Saturday’s game. There will be a total focus on the job in hand.

The New Saints’ clash with Barry carries extra weight in the fact TNS and Barry are two of Wales most successful sides. Whilst this could factor as a grudge match, there appears to be animosity between the two as they prepare to go head to head with a trophy at stake.

There is definitely a friendship that exists. The communication between us, both clubs and fans, leading up to the final has been excellent. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily due to the fact that we were once major rivals. In fact, that often produces the opposite effect. My guess is that a number of factors contribute. The thing is though, it’s great to see.

The New Saints will be the runaway favourites for a trophy win tomorrow, but they have travelled much further than Barry, with the final being hosted at Cardiff Met FC’s Cyncoed Campus ground. In Bloor’s view, the chances of a South-Walian advantage for Barry are slim. 

Regardless of distance travelled, on the day both teams are away. The fact that it’s a cup final will be the overriding factor for both sides, I’m sure. I don’t see any advantage that one team travels less than the other. Whether ‘down the road’ or ‘across country’, it’s a neutral venue.

With more than 800 tickets for the final already sold, Bloor points out that although TNS fans might not be heard supporting their team, a committed bunch can continually be seen. 

TNS is often criticised over the fans. My experience however, is just because they don’t bang drums, hang flags and make lots of noise (and I’m not having a go at those who do, it’s brilliant to see), it doesn’t mean to say they’re not passionate. At last season’s game away at Haverfordwest County, for example, I counted 30+ and that was just from people I recognised or were wearing colours. In WPL context, that’s commitment.

With TNS’ dominance a hot topic surrounding the Welsh game, and their Dafabet Welsh Premier title all but won, is there still a desire to win in the TNS camp? According to Bloor, their hunger for success will be never satisfied. 

From Chairman to fan, we want to win every game. Whether friendly or Champions League, there’s a hunger to succeed. Saturday will be no different. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be travelling back home after the game with my 100% personal cup record still intact.

The New Saints vs Barry Town in the Nathaniel MG Cup final kicks off live on S4C at 5:15pm on Saturday.

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