IT IS fair to say the small village of Llansantffraidd is not where you would expect a Premier League club, packed with international stars and a truly world-class Italian striker, to be preparing for the new season.

But one Friday night in August 2002 Chelsea, led by club legend Gianfranco Zola, and featuring fellow internationals Mario Stanic, Jesper Gronkjaer and Albert Ferrer, turned up in mid Wales at the Treflan Recreation Ground for a friendly against TNS.

At the time, the club was known as Total Network Solutions and yet to move to Park Hall after the merger with Oswestry Town, but owner Mike Harris had forged a link-up with the Stamford Bridge giants’ Chelsea Village PLC, before the arrival of Roman Abramovich in west London the next summer.

Chelsea were then managed by future Premier League winner Claudio Ranieri, although he was not in Powys that evening.

Although the relationship seems to have faded since, the link saw youngsters from the TNS academy travel down to London to visit Chelsea, and a plaque marking the ‘twinning’ was placed in the Shed End at Stamford Bridge.

The TNS side of that era were packed with their own stars including future Wales international and current Saints coach Steve Evans, as well as his brother Ricky Evans, who was presented with his Wales Semi-Pro cap by Zola before the game.

Photographer Phil Blagg captured the action as Zola went on to score a hat-trick in a game Chelsea won 6-1, with Stanic also on the scoresheet.