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You remember Declan McManus, don't you? No, not the singer of songs such as Alison, Brilliant Mistake and Riot Act who went under the pseudonym that borrowed a first name from the King of Rock and Roll and a surname from an American comedy duo of the 1950s. This is the Declan McManus. The striker who had spells at Aberdeen, Dunfermline Athletic, Falkirk, Morton and a number of other Scottish provincial clubs has been happily banging in the goals for TNS in Wales for the past couple of years, so much so that he was hitting the headlines last season for having a better strike rate than Manchester City monster goalscorer Erling Haaland – it's a pretty impressive stat if you momentarily forget that McManus was scoring his goals in the less rarefied environs of the Welsh Premier League as opposed to one of the most competitive leagues in world football.

Haaland memorably finished last season capping a prolific campaign by helping City lift the Champions League – the third leg of the treble. McManus has more modest aims, as befits someone who leads the line for a team entering the competition at the preliminary stage. Relatively speaking, the task is not an easy one, however. McManus and his TNS team-mates find themselves in the Swedish port city of Gothenburg this evening where they will take on BK Hacken, who won the Allsvenskan and Swedish Cup last season. They boast a number of internationals including forward Ola Kamara, Haaland's Norway team-mate, who has scored seven goals in 17 internationals and featured against Scotland in last month's European Championship qualifier in Oslo. Midfielder Samuel Gustafson who has won seven caps for Sweden and the winger, Benie Traore, who has been linked with moves to both Rangers and Celtic but seems set to join Premier League Sheffield United this summer. A measure of how TNS can expect to fare this evening comes with the Swedes' 5-3 aggregate defeat over one of McManus's former teams, Aberdeen, in the Conference League last summer. Equally, the Welsh side can point to a victory over Czech side Viktoria Plzen in the qualifying rounds of the Europa Conference League in 2021. However, Hacken are an improved side on the one that lost to the Dons a year ago. 

The Herald:

Speaking last week McManus said: “I think this is probably the hardest draw we could have got. But if we could get through, then we’d only be one game away from group stage football. It’s a big carrot for us and hopefully we can achieve it.

“No-one will be expecting us to do anything in Sweden. It was the same against Plzen but we ended up taking them all the way to penalties. Hopefully we can recreate that kind of performance.

“Welsh club football is definitely on the way up. We are seen as the big fish but in my time there, the standard has definitely got higher among the other clubs. There is more investment, both from the club owners and the Welsh FA. I think The New Saints would definitely hold our own in the Scottish Championship and maybe even be challenging for the top flight.”