Connah's Quay Nomads: Meet the part-timers who stunned Kilmarnock

By Michael PearlmanBBC Sport Wales
'Now some of the lads have got to book time off work to play Partizan Belgrade'

Part-time Connah's Quay Nomads were a 200-1 shot to knock Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock out of the Europa League before kick-off in their second leg.

Their astonishing win has been described as a fairytale, but considering the Nomads have a player named Disney, perhaps we should not be surprised.

While Kilmarnock fans raged about already booked flights to Belgrade, Connah's Quay were celebrating their greatest-ever win and surely, the biggest success for a Welsh side in European competition since the formation of the Welsh Premier League.

Now they face the small matter of former European Cup finalists FK Partizan Belgrade, who count Fulham forward Aleksandar Mitrovic and former Liverpool winger Lazar Markovic among their recent alumni and are managed by ex-Aston Villa striker Savo Milosevic.

Connah's Quay players celebrating
Connah's Quay, shown here celebrating their win over Kilmarnock, count former striker Rhys Healey as their most famous former player. Healey has played for Cardiff City and recently moved to MK Dons

Back to the day jobs making cocktails and selling phones

While like most part-time sides they have their share of ex-professionals, like former Newport defender Danny Holmes and ex-Wrexham forward Michael Bakare, Connah's Quay are also reliant on players for whom football is just a nice distraction from their 'proper' professions.

Six of the Nomads team, who arrived back in north Wales at five o'clock in the morning after their victory in Scotland had to go straight into work.

Defender and captain George Horan, 37, who has played non-league football for the likes of Chester FC, is an electrical engineer.

The aforementioned John Disney is a sales director for a mobile phone recycling company and substitute Michael Wilde works as a coach in the Tranmere Rovers academy and as a sports tutor.

Nathan Woolfe is a cocktail maker at a bar in Alderley Edge, while you may also have heard of his half-brother, Steven Woolfe, a former European Parliament member for UKIP.

"We've got a mixture of players, some working - phone companies, sales - we've got one lad who is a waiter, one working behind a bar and some of our younger lads aren't in on a day-to-day basis either," forward Wilde said.

"The majority of our lads are part-time, most of them are. We have quite a good mixture.

"But we were always optimistic we could produce a shock."

Wilde feels complacency probably affected Kilmarnock, especially as they were up against a Welsh Premier League side who are often overlooked in the media.

"I think we have even seen in the press they by-passed our tie with Kilmarnock and they were starting to look at the Partizan v Kilmarnock game and totally disrespected the fact that they had to come across us," he added.

"We don't mind, we expect it.

"Sometimes you expect it with the domestic league we play in. Before people start having their own opinions they should probably start having a look at what we have done in the past three years at Connah's Quay and how far the Welsh Premier League has come in the past 10 years and some of the other shock results which we and other Welsh teams have produced."

Andy Morrison lifts the trophy as Man City win the League One play-off final
Andy Morrison, pictured with Nicky Weaver, was signed by Joe Royle for £80,000

The manager who helped to start the Man City revolution

Manchester City supporters raised on the free-flowing football at Etihad Stadium featuring the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero might not remember Connah's Quay's manager Andy Morrison, but fans of a certain vintage will.

Voted by City fans as one of their greatest captains, Morrison led Man City in their 'sliding doors' moment, their incredible 1999 Football League Second Division play-off final against Gillingham where they came back from the brink to win on penalties and return to the first division and subsequently the Premier League.

Morrison also played for Plymouth, Blackburn, Blackpool and Huddersfield during a playing career that spanned more than 250 games.

His life could already be made into a film - but probably not made by Disney - as he has spoken in the past of battles with alcohol and family issues,external-link but he is carving out a second life in football as a manager.

His impact at Connah's Quay, only promoted back to Wales' top-flight in 2012, has been nothing short of remarkable.

Morrison led The Nomads to their highest finish in his first season in charge in 2015-16, leading the side to a fourth in the Welsh Premier and Europe, while in 2018 they won their first Welsh Cup.

As well as back-to-back second-place finishes in the WPL, Nomads were the first non-Scottish side to reach the Scottish Challenge Cup Final this season, losing 3-1 to Ross County in the final.

"My players have hearts the size of Lions, they absolutely never back down," Morrison told BBC Sport.

"When you have a team of men you always have a chance. I hoped it would be our night.

"It is a monumental achievement, I am incredibly proud, I can't describe it."

Jamie Insall
Jamie Insall was in celebratory mood on social media

The striker rebuilding his career after a drugs ban

Jamie Insall, who won the penalty that won the tie for Connah's Quay, made headlines when Hibernian plucked him from non-league obscurity but two years later he left without playing a league game after failing a drug test.

A UK Anti-Doping ban from all sport followed, and when a stint as a bare-knuckle boxer did not work out, Insall joined Connah's Quay in April after his 24 month punishment ended.

Insall's troubles happened when he was at East Fife during a loan spell and he insists he never knowingly took a banned substance.

"I'm very anti-drugs," he insisted in an interview with BBC Sport Scotland. "I know it sounds silly saying that, but I am. When I was told I'd been banned, I was mortified. I didn't even know I'd taken anything.

"That's why Hibs paid £2,200 for a second test. I was certain I hadn't taken anything. That's how we found out about the quantity in my system.

"It was awful. It was probably the worst time in my life."

Insall says his side always believed they could stun Kilmarnock.

"But we all believed and I think we were the only people that did believe we could do it to be fair and we proved a lot of doubters wrong," he told BBC Sport Wales.

"From the first leg I got some abuse from my time in Scotland so as soon as we scored that second goal it was quite emotional and I lost my head for 10 minutes.

"I had a bit of banter with the crowd - that's all part and parcel of football to be fair and then in the changing room afterwards are memories that are going to stick with me for life."

Belgrade's tweet to Wales
Partizan Belgrade were also surprised by Nomads' win in Scotland

The minnows versus the giants

Former European Cup finalists and winners of 44 domestic trophies, Partizan Belgrade represent spectacularly glamorous opponents for Connah's Quay, with the Serbians' 32,000-seater stadium a far cry from the 1,600-capacity Deeside Stadium for a side whose average attendance is below 300.

Serbian visa requirements mean there will probably be more Killie fans in Belgrade than Welsh supporters on Thursday, 1 August, but first there is the encounter in Wales with Rhyl's Belle Vue the stage.

For Connah's Quay, it will be another chance to add to their fairytale success, but just don't expect Morrison's men to fear their illustrious opponents.

"I don't fear anything and neither do my players. We won't fear Partizan Belgrade, we will respect them but we won't fear them." Morrison said.


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