WHEN the first bar of the Champions League music hits the airwaves it will mean Jay Catton was right to “dream big”.

Rewind a decade and Catton was tasked with penning a vision assignment as part of his course at the University of Central Lancashire.

Catton was starting out as assistant manager of the Connah’s Quay Nomads first-team, who had been relegated to the then-Cymru Alliance.

The vision included short-term, mid-term, longer-term goals and personal targets - all of which have been achieved - with the ultimate target being to win the Cymru Premier and qualify for the Champions League.

That ultimate target became a reality when Nomads were awarded the Cymru Premier title for the first time in their history on a points-per-game, ending The New Saints’ run of eight successive victories.

It means that Catton will be part of the backroom staff, alongside Andy Morrison and Craig Harrison, tasked with helping Nomads make a mark on the biggest club competition in European football.

“I’m so proud of the journey we’ve been on,” said Catton. “I was asked to do a 10-year vision at uni and the ultimate goal was to win the Cymru Premier.

“I’ve always been told to dream big and it’s been very humbling to see how where we’ve got to in the last 10 years, which haven’t been without hard-work and heartache.

“When I came into the first-team we’d just been relegated and the challenge was to try and climb to the top of the mountain, to be the best team in Wales.

“We can’t ever forget the steps we’ve taken to get to where we are. We won the league and were denied promotion, we’ve had play-off defeats and lost in the latter stages of the Welsh Cup.

“It’s been inspiring to achieve what we have and hopefully other clubs can take look at our story, because getting to where we are now is great.”

Nomads have made their mark on the Europa League in the last four years, knocking out Kilmarnock and Stabaek, while beating Helsinki at Nantporth before being defeated in Finland.

Next on the agenda is the Champions League, a competition Catton can’t wait to be a part of.

“It’s the biggest achievement,” said Catton. “Winning the Cymru Premier is immense and historic, but being a part of the Champions League and hearing the music playing before kick-off will be an unreal experience.

“Some very good teams don’t get that opportunity, so it will be special to be a part of the Champions League.

“You only have to look at TNS playing against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City over the years to realise the opportunity we’ve got.”

The very best teams don’t stand still, and while the Champions League is first-up for Nomads, there is also the small matter of trying to retain the title.

Holding onto the trophy is considered more difficult than winning it for the first time, and Catton is ready for the challenge.

“TNS have created a dynasty,” said Catton. “They’d won nine out of the last 10 titles before this season, which is very different to winning one.

“There are some huge and exciting challenges ahead and the good thing is knowing that no-one works hard than us. Every single week is so intense.

“Every player that comes into the club is taken aback by how hard we work and it’s the players that ultimately deserve the credit for what we’ve done.”