Barry Town United manager Gavin Chesterfield has told his players their return to European football must be more than a one-season fling.
The new season in Wales begins on Thursday evening with Barry poised to revive memories of continental adventures from yesteryear when they host Cliftonville in the Europa League – a match that will be streamed live online by S4C.
For Barry fans the preliminary round tie – against Northern Irish opponents – will be a nostalgic nudge towards their glory days of two decades ago. That was an era when Barry rubbed shoulders with Aberdeen, Dynamo Kiev and Porto as they proudly carried the Welsh flag into European battle.
Now back after an absence of 16 years, Chesterfield insists it needs to be more than a fleeting visit.
“Achieving a place in Europe is fantastic, but we can’t stop here with just this,” said Chesterfield.
“We have to keep this going. It can’t be a one-season thing. Being in European football has to be something we do year-in, year-out.
“Cliftonville will be a tough ask and they will be favourites to win the tie, having qualified for Europe in eight of the last 10 years.
“For us, it’s early in what we believed our cycle would be. To be ahead in that process is a good thing for the club, but we’ve no illusions about how tough it’s going to be.
“There’s no pressure, though – just huge enthusiasm. It is an exciting opportunity for us, we probably didn’t think we would get.”
Barry earned their European date by finishing third in last season’s Welsh Premier League. That was notable in itself as it came in only their second season back at the top level of the Welsh pyramid.
By contrast, Cliftonville have been an established part of Northern Ireland’s NIFL Premiership for many years and have enjoyed regular European football jaunts in the summer months.
They finished fifth last season, but it was only six years ago that they were in the Champions League second qualifying round as Northern Irish champions.
Drawn against Celtic, they emerged with credit after losing 3-0 at home and 2-0 away to the Scottish giants.
Their visit to Wales will see them play the first leg at the Cardiff Athletics Stadium at Leckwith, as Barry’s pitch at their usual Jenner Park home did not meet UEFA standards.
That means no short stroll to the ground for Barry’s key striker Kayne McLaggon, who lives just around the corner from Jenner Park and was the club’s talisman last season with 14 goals.
McLaggon, though, is desperate to score as he makes his European debut at the age of 28 following a career that has included spells at Southampton, Bristol Rovers and Merthyr and recent international caps at Wales C level.
“This is a first time in Europe for most of squad, but the club has history in Europe and people will be looking at us to do the club justice,” says McLaggon.
“We have to give ourselves a chance and try to replicate those famous Barry European nights from the past.
“I’ve got to be honest, and I probably shouldn’t say this, but I remember climbing over the fence to get in to a few European ties back in my younger days as a boy growing up in Barry – I probably owe the club some money, to be fair!
“I would always do my best to go and watch. I remember them playing against Dynamo Kiev and Aberdeen, a friendly against Manchester United too.
“This club, and European football at this club, has always been a part of me – I could see the ground from where I lived – so it means perhaps more to me than most.”
Barry will travel to Belfast to play the second leg at Cliftonville’s Solitude ground on Thursday, July 4.
The winners will face FK Haugesund of Norway in the first qualifying round if they get through and then Austrian club Sturm Graz in the second qualifying round if they progress further.
SGORIO: UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE – BARRY TOWN UNITED v CLIFTONVILLE
Live from Leckwith Stadium. Kick off 18.30.
Live web broadcast of the UEFA Europa League Preliminary Round first leg match between Barry Town United and Cliftonville, of the NIFL Premiership in Northern Ireland. Kick off at the Leckwith Stadium is at 18.30.
**Online only – watch live at s4c.cymru and on the Sgorio Facebook Live page**