A blog on the performance of Scott Quigley as The New Saints make Champions League progress.
Striker Scott Quigley spared The New Saints’ blushes on Tuesday night as his UEFA Champions League brace secured his teams passage into the second qualifying round at the expense of Gibraltan champions Europa FC. A disappointing 2-1 reverse at Park Hall the week before had left The New Saints with it all to do in Portugal, but Quigley produced by contributing a double return that added substance to the style of his 1st leg strike.
After starting his senior career with a loan spell at Carmarthen Town in 2012, Quigley has bided his time at The New Saints, waiting for his opportunity behind established strikers such as Michael Wilde and current team mate Greg Draper. His patience has been rewarded, and now as the towering focal point of the Welsh champions’ forward line, he is realising the potential that has been talked about since he emerged through the ranks.
? WHAT. A. GOAL!
— BBC Wales Sport (@BBCWalesSport) June 27, 2017
Now with 25 Welsh Premier League goals to his name, in addition to his six goals in the UEFA Champions League to date, he is now well on-course to become the Welsh Premier League’s leading European goalscorer having moved within one goal of Wilde. Quigley marked his first Champions League goal with his first start in the competition against B36 Torshavn in 2013/14, and with his confidence now at an all-time high, he will relish the prospect of taking on Croatian champions HNK Rijeka in Europe’s premier club competition next week.
But while the extra-time victory over Europa FC makes this an exciting time for The New Saints, interim manager Scott Ruscoe and his backroom staff will know that there is plenty of work to do if they are to make an impression in the next stage of the competition. Prestatyn Town discovered first-hand during their 2013/14 UEFA Europa League campaign how formidable Rijeka can be on the European stage with a 8-0 aggregate defeat.
There is no doubt that they present a very different prospect to the Gibraltan part-timers who were making their Champions League debut. However, The New Saints have previously given a good account of themselves against established European names, and it is that same level of organisation and application that Ruscoe will need from his squad next week.
It is uncommon to find a reason to criticise progress by a Welsh Premier League club in the Champions League, but needing extra-time to edge past nine-man part-time Europa FC means that the result will be celebrated far more than the performance. In their defence, The New Saints could only beat what was in-front of them on Tuesday evening, and the manner of the victory will be forgotten long before the final outcome.
The New Saints have become established Champions League competitors through their domestic dominance in recent seasons, and while the group stages of the competition remain something of a pipe dream, they are the flagship club of the Welsh Premier League and any success serves only to raise its profile. The financial rewards of Champions League progress provide the backing needed for The New Saints to maintain and improve upon the high standards currently set, and with a thriving academy supporting the promise of a brighter future, their model is a blueprint that could serve their domestic rivals well.
Too many clubs have suffered financial collapse from chasing the carrot of European cash without building a solid foundation, and while clubs will continue to make mistakes, it is encouraging that there is more awareness of financial responsibility amongst the majority of current Welsh Premier League clubs. A lack of football at this time of year points the spotlight at the early stages of European competition, and with Scottish giants Rangers suffering an embarrassing exit from the Europa League to Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn on Tuesday night, the Welsh Premier League has gained kudos by association.
Can’t believe what happened. People wrote us off, people doubted us but there we are!! Lads were class! Bring on the Croatian champs ??
— Quigs (@ScottQuigley1) July 4, 2017
Meanwhile, Scott Quigley was also making headlines on Tuesday, but for all the right reasons. His efforts will no doubt be noted by those that appreciate the potential rich-pickings that are available within our national league, and he could quickly become a valuable asset to The New Saints solely on the back of his latest Champions League impact. Quigley has firmly put himself in the shop window, and another starring role against Rijeka in the next round could be as lucrative for him as it could be for his club.