Welsh Premier League managers and the world cup – It’s a rich history!!!!

29 06 2011

I might as well come clean. I lied yesterday. I lied about the Welsh Premier League managers that have featured in world cup squads.

There are the three that everyone will know straight away. ex-Bangor City manager Graeme Sharp (Scotland, Mexico ’86), new Newtown manager Bernard McNally (Northern Ireland, Mexico ’86) – Read Mark Pitman’s blog post about him –  and ex-Inter Cardiff boss George Wood (Scotland, Espana ’82).

Mind you these are the only ones that everybody knows about (we can now add  Tomi Morgan to the list) there is a hidden history of Welsh Premier League managers at the world cup;

John Hulse

Hulse played for Australia in 1974;

Ken McKenna

As you would imagine from the name he is Scottish. He played for Scotland  in Italia ’90.

This piece of news is inexorably connected to two things; 1) Tomi Morgan’s appearances for Costa Rica. 2) Tomi and Ken’s long-standing grudge – it’s so bad they haven’t spoken civilly for years.

Many have thought that the bitter rivalry stems from that notorious post-match interview in 2006 when Tomi famously quipped  “Llansantfraid still had a soul when I was there” but this is not true. The feud goes back to Italia ’90, more specifically the match between Scotland and Costa Rica.

The start of what would become Welsh football’s most infamous feud is recounted by Bryan Gunn in his world cup diary; Three weeks on an Italian bench (plus other adventures)”;

“We were warming up at half time in case we would be needed. We were in one half and Costa Rica were in the other.

At one point during half time a ball bounced several times near the halfway line. It came to  rest about a yard inside the half we were in. McKenna was the nearest of our players, Morgan was the nearest of theirs. Both men saw the  ball and both men wanted it. You could see a disaster unfolding.

Both men leapt at the ball but Morgan was quicker and won the ball. In fact he didn’t only win the ball he proceeded to showboat in front of McKenna  (remember this was the time before Lovejoy made showboating cool). This didn’t go down too well with McKenna as he hates this rubbish.

I could see the red mist descending around McKenna. After it had descended he tried to set about Morgan but Morgan was too quick, he avoided the clumsy attempts at capture. Kenny was normally so poised but you know what it’s like when you’re in a rage, your co-ordination is the first thing to go. 

The worst thing about it all  is the two players forget they were in front of a crowd. The duel became very personal. The most embarrassing thing for McKenna was that not only did Morgan evade capture but he also retained possession of the ball. Morgan’s touch was just too deft for the enraged and lumbering McKenna. I actually had to stop laughing at one point.

Morgan nutmegged McKenna over and over again. After the fifth nutmeg Morgan put one foot on the ball, looked down at McKenna, looked him straight in the face and then extended his hand before exclaiming “OLE” with a matador’s flourish. This was the last straw for Kenny and he arose like a volcanic eruption.

If the restraining presences of Stewart McKimmie and Ally McCoist had been absent blood will have been spilt on that Genoese evening. Luckily the second half was about to start and Morgan was due to replace their ineffectual number 9.

Unluckily for the rest of us Morgan was not finished. Early in the second half Morgan created what would turn out to be the only goal of the match with a cheeky backheel.

Instead of celebrating with the rest of his teammates. Morgan made a beeline for our bench, he pointed at Kenny before saying in what sounded like a Welsh accent, “That was for you Bollocks!!!”

Then he performed another matador flourish with his right hand. “OLE” said Morgan. “I’M GOING***@<>?  TO GET THAT PIECE OF F£$%^&*( COSTA RICAN S$*&” said McKenna. McCoist and McKimmie were again the peacemakers. Kenny finally got on to the pitch but didn’t touch the ball.

Anyway everybody knows that Scotland lost and this ranks as one of our most embarrassing defeats. Morgan wouldn’t let us humiliated Scots wallow in self-pity, he was intent on humiliating Kenny once more. He did his Matador flourish with his hand – “OLE!!!” once more, again McKenna was restrained.

Morgan wasn’t finished, he then began to cluck like a chicken, which only  further enraged McKenna. The last thing I heard was “Leave it Kenny, he’s not worth it” as McKenna was bundled down the tunnel.

Even then Morgan still wasn’t finished.  Archie MacPherson wanted  to talk to one of the subs after the game because he wanted a perspective from the bench. Kenny was the only sub willing to talk to Archie. Morgan stood around in the background clucking and perform what would go on to become his well-known “chicken dance”.

If you listen to the replays Morgan’s antics are very audible on tv. Again McKenna was restrained but this time it was by Archie. The last thing I remember about this was Morgan’s laugh echoing around the bowels of the ground, it was a chilling sound for every Scot there”

Neil Gibson

Neil Gibson is older than you think. He may look like he’s in his early 30s but he’s actually 48. In case you doubt this fact I should let you know that he was part the Austrian squad for Espana ’82. He was a raw nineteen year old at the time (you do the maths);

They say he learnt the effectiveness of cynicism in the “squalid non-aggression pact” that masqueraded as the West Germany v Austria match (both sides engineered a result that would allow them both to proceed at the expense of Algeria). They say he uses this match as a template for the Welsh Premier League matches his horrible little team plays.



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