A few matches

23 09 2010
Carmarthen Town 0 Bangor City 1
Welsh Premier League
4/9/10

We’d never been further than Llanelli on the train so today had a dash of Magellan’s spirit. The 6 and a half hour journey dampened this spirit of exploration, remembering the lift back with Cabs brought a little sun back to our memories.

Yesterday dark clouds literally appeared on our horizon; the weather forecast predicted rain over Carmarthen before, during and after the match. Our natural state,  pessimistic optimism, means hoping for the best but preparing for disappointment. You could have almost written the script; damp free to Cardiff,  then rain just after Swansea. The rain clouds helped to shroud the scenery between Llanelli and Carmarthen in a fine mist.This was unfortunate as the view from the train window hinted at beauty, all crags and fields. By the time we got to Carmarthen the rain was still falling but a tease of blue sky appeared in the distance.

We tell the next part lest anyone wishes to visit grounds in the Welsh Premier League. Here’s two thing to remember; (1) Few grounds are easy to find. (2) Be prepared for puzzled looks if you askfor directions.

The Platform guard stood poised for our question – “Excuse me, how do you get to Carmarthen’s football ground?” – and his reply was swift; “Well you’d better ask somebody from Carmarthen!!”. We decided to follow his advice but not only for information, we had a gnawing hunger to ease. 

We had the company of three Newport RFC fans for the journey into town, they were also after a ground in which their team were playing. Just after we parted an information booth came into view. The attendant was busy chatting so we waited  patiently in the increasingly heavy rain. Eventually the bloke said that we needed to ; “…get a 600 hundred bus to…” he then proceeded to deliver the directions in a way famailar to a fan of sketch shows from the 1980s.

I struggled to keep up with him, all I could glean was; “The road is 900 yards long…….Go to a garage called Denzil’s, wait a minute it’s not called that anymore it’s closed………go past a big church”. It was like listening to someone from Last of the Summer Wine, was that a bath on wheels I could see?

A taxi suddenly seemed a good idea. After finding sustenance from a charming little sandwich bar we needed directions to a taxi rank. Nobody knew the location of a rank, or Richmond Park for that matter. They seemed to know where the rugby ground was though, “…if that helps?” which it didn’t. I said football ground, F-O-O-T-B-A-L-L.

We arrived at Richmond Park with to find spots of rain still falling and blue army intellectuals in the clubhouse. After some hurried refreshments we waited for the game, and our mini-flag day, to commence. When we tried to have our flag day “the man” stepped in to say that we were covering advertising boards that people had kindly paid for. We put them on the fence instead.

During the first half we had some charming company to our right in the form of an older Carmarthen fan. We found the conversation rather charming but it was sword with two faces, the presence of a charming old man is intimidating when you have to offer coaching tips to the opposition’s goalkeeper. The first half passed.

The second half was more like it because the inevitable happened; Bangor scored. The award of the penalty led to much moaning from the old gold faithful. “Dive, dive, dive!!” they cried as if the Graf Spee were approaching. Then Dave Morley does what Dave Morley gotta do; he placed the ball past the despairing keeper.  

We could have had more goals but unfortunately so could Carmarthen. The last part of the match wasn’t comfortable, especially when Smithy had to make several saves. The Jet Set rode home with Cabs via Aberystwyth amid smiles, all was good!

Bangor City 5 Airbus UK 1
Welsh Premier League
10/9/10

And so it came to pass…..

The rain supposedly falls hard upon humdrum streets. In Bangor the streets only remain humdrum to the residents that have failed to grasp the magnitude of what is happening upon the sainted fields of Ffordd Farrar. The pre-match rain fell hard upon hardy hopeful souls.

The multitudes came with their minds and breasts full of the joys of music, and why not!! Were we not in the land of song and the county of Gruff Rhys’s education.

The singing was sure but the Airbus footing wasn’t, the two things may have been connected. The singing was lusty, the keeping was rusty. the two things may have been connected 1-0 Reedy, Reedy, Reedy!!!! The multitude sang and sang. 2-0 Reedy, Reedy, Reedy!!!! The multitude sang, and sang, and sang. The rain fell heavily upon the joyful terrace. 

In the 31st minute of the contest the ball arced from foot of Johnno to foot of Bull. In one fluid movement the ball was stunned. It lay there, poised, as if it were a member of the crowd marvelling at what had just happened. There was that spilt second of awed anticipation just before greatness. Then suddenly, movement recommenced. Feet gliding over turf, ball tied to dexterous digits, a maestro at work!! Space appeared. The defenders wanted to see football beauty close at hand. Bully caressed the ball around time, space and defenders and goalkeeper. Total Football was on the menu tonight. 3-0.

They won’t have heard a din like the second half welcome since the last time it happened. The multitudes packed in behind the goal with the hope of seeing a little magic. The multitude weren’t disappointed. Reedy, Reedy, Reedy, Reeeeeeeeeeeeedy!!! 4-1.

Then the Giant in blue strode forth with the ball at his nimble feet. When there is a state of cosmic equilibrium between giants in blue, space and football you deal with destiny. 5-1!!!!

Some person scored for Airbus.

Wigan Athletic 1 Sunderland 1
premier league
11/9/10 

Today was our annual visit to a premier league theme park.

This year we chose Wigan as Bangor City used to play Wigan when both clubs were  in the Northern Premier League. In fact when Wigan Athletic were elected to the football league Bangor stood against then in the election. We thought that a Bangor City Northern Soul t-shirts was just the job for such a trip, we hoped it would lead to a nice conversation.

Our first impression of Wigan was cloudy. Fortunately the threat of rain was brief so we had blue sky for most of our afternoon. Blue sky, good manners and Pies, Wigan is our kind of place. We first came across gentility in an American sandwich outlet, “Yes Love?” and “That’ll be 2.29 please mate”. Some may be shocked by the informality of the greeting but when working class or northern males address you as “Mate” there’s nothing more natural. It’s the gap year students working HMV in their gap years addressing you as “Mate” that are the problem.

The pies entered the equation when we were  in the ground. We bathed in the aroma and that’s not an unpleasant experience per se. It was only £4 for a pie and cold drink, “the north” really is different country from Wembley.

Unfortunately today wasn’t all sunshine. On the way to the ground we got a bit lost, we’d done or best to keep the stadium arches to our right but we managed to take a wrong turn into an industrial estate. Eventually we caught sight of the arches on our left. When were close to the ground we casually enquired about the time; “Do you have the time please?” “Yes Thanks!!” said the comedian.

Then there was the steward. The Jet Set somehow became a little confused and we found ourselves at the wrong end of the stand. Just as we were advancing to an area that looked unoccupied a flourescent jacket wearer intervened; “Oi. Oi, you can’t go there, that’s for Season Ticket holders!!…” – “Oh, sorry……”” Before I could finish my sentence, his first sentence ran into another; “….and if you go past this seat again, you’ll be ejected” Silly us, thinking that you could sit where you want in a half-full ground. The cold, unflinching, banal face of  “power” encroaches on our joy again.

The match had a bit of edge to it as Steve Bruce, Lee Cattermole (Sunderland’s captain) and Titus Bramble were all ex-Wiganers. A terrace wag near us thought that the best result would be a 1-0 Wigan win thanks to a Bramble own goal in the last minute. Mind you he was the only audibly bitter person, everyone  else was mostly quiet. Bitterness only seemed to touch Wigan thoughts when Cattermole was sent off. Even then the bitterness mainly manifested itself as ironic clapping and waving.

Both sides looked generally composed on the ball. There were subtle differences between the sides; Wigan looked silkier, Sunderland seemed cannier.

In the second half we saw goals. Sunderland scored when Wigan’s possession started to take on a more purposeful look. Di Santo, their recruit from Chelsea, caused a few ripples of excitement when he ran with the ball. As Di Santo embarked on the runs the moral bankruptcy of the premier league came to mind.

Di Santo had languished in Chelsea’s squad until this summer as an obvious, but “unpolished”, talent. When your team can buy anybody, like Chelsea,  opportunities are rare. Clubs of this ilk seem happy hording  obviously skilled footballers, just so others can’t have them, like a greedy kid with a bag of sweets,

Here’s where the problem begins, the essence of exciting sport is an even contest. Chelsea’s (and other big clubs)  thinking on squad composition represents a perversion of the idea.  The rich clubs ensure their domination not just simply through their skill, but also through protecting their competitive adavantage through hording good players. Remember Steve Sidwell – he went from Reading star to Chelsea reserve in 3 months a few years ago. When idiots try to sell the premier league as the “World’s bestest league” this kind of thing shows the league’s shallowness. When Liverpool were top dogs they didn’t try and buy every single skillful player they could but the past is a different country.

Anyway on with the story, when Wigan were just about on top Sunderland scored, wouldn’t you just know it. It was a great goal, a slick move down the wing, a cross and then a flying volley from  another new player on view, Asamoah Gyan. We’d heard about some Wigan fans lack of paitience with Martinez’s patient play, now we heard the first tangible disatisfaction but that’s fans for you. They change personality when their team is losing.

Wigan continued with their patience but time was against them. Then  towards the end of the match Wigan had a free kick outside the area, the ball was played into the area and somehow a goal was scored. We tried to take pictures of these moments, (they could prove exciting – we actually managed to catch the moment that the ball is about to go past the keeper for example) – but we missed the finer details of the goal. You have to suffer for your art. It finished 1-1 and the moaning became muted.

We walked to the station surrounded by people wearing Everton and United shirts, they played each other earlier, and wondered what do Wigan have to have to get people interested in coming to see them. They’re a premier league team that plays attractive football on their door steps. They  don’t charge too much either. Yet some would rather still buy a identikit polyester garment and go to pubs instead of feeling a bit of local pride.

No-one noticed our northern soul t-shirt either.

Port Talbot Town 1 Bangor City 2
Welsh Premier League
18/9/10

For the second time in a fortnight we were south Wales bound for a Bangor match, this was a little unlucky but at least it was another interesting trip to cope with. These trips give us a chance to catch up with a bit of reading too, a four hour chore turns into a mind broadening adventure. This time we had timed our day all wrong so we ended up with 2 hours to kill in Cardiff. Our recent movements in south Wales seem to match the rugby fans of Newport, the Jet Set seems to be pied pipers for people wearing black and amber hoops.

Port Talbot was sunny today, and sunny weather is a boon to the “flying flags at football community”, especially as Bangor’s match was live on TV. We had to kill more time in Port Talbot so the shopping centre felt like the place to be. Near the entrance a lone piper met the passing shoppers, a charming touch that the local teenager were less enamoured of the “… Scottish Prick”, as they had affectionately dubbed him.

The bus seemed to be the best option for getting to the ground but there was only one problem, we only had a vague recollection as to where the ground was. All we had was a road name to go on; ”Victoria Road”. Luckily the bloke behind the counter was a bit more helpful than the bloke in Carmarthen. Luckily there was a bus waiting to go.

The Port Talbot Clubhouse is a lovely place, selling lovely drinks, containing lovely people and the blue army intellectuals had a lovely chat. Nigel came from the warm air and we had another chat. Football really is great, disparate people can be brought together by a common sport, no animosity, no stupid chants, just great vibes.

 The match didn’t go to plan at first. The flags were the problem; we couldn’t reach the high fence. Then we couldn’t drape them over the fences because “the man2 like to advertise. Our message was being undermined, curses. To top it all Port Talbot scored the first goal. Then they could have doubled their lead.

As I removed my flag from the fence, the ball bounced in front of Eddie Jebb at the perfect height for a volley. Eddie connected with the ball using the perfect volley. The ball flew at some speed into the top corner. It’s very exhilarating when you view such a shot from a certain angle. From our angle we saw the flight of the ball perfectly, the volley’s ballistic quality was almost perfect; like a curved bullet. We Bangor fans were being treated to some great sights this season.

Unfortunately the Port Talbot players refused to allow us to bask in the golden memory of the goal, they attacked dangerously immediately afterwards, the ball was cleared off the line and Smithy made a couple of great saves too. 1-1 at the break but it could have been worse for us.

The second half began with flags unfurled and Bangor on the attack to great effect. We tried to impose more pressure upon the Port Talbot defence and we were successful within ten minutes of the second half. A corner, a header and a nice shot on the turn from Reedy was the basic detail of our goal. Photos were received by text in case we were wondering how beautiful the blue army looks on camera, we needed have worried, we look fabulous!

The second half felt very elongated as Port Talbot were still very dangerous when they had possession. In fact hearts were worried on several occasions, the most notable example happened when Port Talbot hit the bar and it looked like the ball span backwards really quickly over the goal.

The final whistle blew and more camaraderie followed in the clubhouse. It got even better for the Jet Set when we found ourselves less than 10 feet from football legend John Hartson for half an hour, what an honour!

Julian gave the Jet Set a lift home and what a happy car it was!

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