Welsh chairman challenges City fans

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The Independent Football

The TNS chairman, Mike Harris, has challenged Manchester City's fans to demonstrate their big club credentials by turning out in their thousands at the Millennium Stadium on 28 August.

The Welsh non-league side confirmed yesterday that the second leg of their Uefa Cup qualifying tie against Kevin Keegan's side will take place at the 72,000-capacity venue.

With Wrexham's Racecourse Ground ruled out because of a rugby union international taking place there the previous evening, Harris was left with little option but to host the match in Cardiff.

Although the club are facing the embarrassing possibility of playing the match in front of a largely empty stadium should City wrap up the tie during the first leg at their new City of Manchester Stadium a fortnight earlier, Harris believes there will be no problem if the Blues' supporters back up their words with actions.

"Since the draw was made, I have had numerous calls from City fans asking us to give them a big allocation," Harris said. "Well they can't have a bigger one than this. This isn't about money and if I am the only person in the ground then so be it.

"But we keep hearing how many supporters City have got - well let's see them."

Harris is confident his team, based in the tiny village of Llansantffraid, will emerge from their two-legged tie with pride, even if he is refusing to suggest they could actually progress.

More than anything though, he is hoping TNS's performances can generate some recognition for the Welsh Premier League, which he believes is struggling to attract the attention it deserves.

"If we could somehow get the same attention as rugby does in this country then we would all be happy, so this is an excellent opportunity for us.

"People ridicule Welsh football but I feel there has been a huge improvement over the last few years.

"Twenty years ago if a team like Turkey had come to play it would have been regarded as a virtual walkover. Now they have one of the best teams in the world. It is the same at club level, so that is the type of improvement we have to look for to."

Meanwhile, Alf Inge Haaland has admitted the next two weeks will be vital to his chances of playing again. The City midfielder has refused to accept that his career is over, even though he has not started a match for more than two years since the infamous incident involving Roy Keane at Old Trafford in April 2001.

"People ask me if they think I will play again but if I didn't think it was possible I would have packed it in and not gone to the trouble of working so hard," he said. "I have trained all summer and the plan is simply to see how it goes. I am stepping things up gradually and the next two weeks will be vitally important."