Upon discovering a pile of old fanzines

21 12 2012

In the summer I was in Colwyn Bay’s club shop when I spied a pile of old fanzines that were leaning to one side. I knew I had found something interesting, I knew I had to have a look. The pile consisted of fanzines from two clubs; various Rhyl fanzines and Colwyn Bay’s “Claret and Booze” – A title that used to be listed in the back of When Saturday Comes. I looked at the pile and thought of a shelf that had empty space. I simply had to buy them. Needless to say the fanzines went undisturbed for months. Last week I thought it was about time I read them.

As with most fanzines they had home-made feel; a cobbled together look, photocopied pages, “hilarious” magazine photos with “hilariously” altered captions. For example one edition of Claret and Booze featured an attempt to channel the spirit of Viz  by producing a fake ad about Bangorians. They said we were happy because we ate a lot of lard.

Even the cursory look in the club shop transported me back to a purer time, a time when the premier league was in its infancy. I was able to wallow in this purer time when I read the fanzines properly. When I read them I was also reminded that fanzines are treasure troves of bitterness and angst. I had already expected the Rhyl fanzines to be quite vitriolic about Bangor City and I wasn’t wrong ;

“Christmas present for Bangor City supporters – A choice between rabies and foot & mouth disease.”

I’m not saying that Rhyl fans are obsessed with Bangor but an article from a January 2004 fanzine listed six of the best matches a Rhyl supporter had ever seen and 3 of them were victories against Bangor. Rhyl fans also produced a fanzine in Feb ’95 called “Bring on Bangor” that featured a hilarious cover with Bangor players depicted as clowns!!!

“Bring on Bangor” included this list of hilarity………….

  • “The away game at Furrow Road saw one on the largest turnouts of Rhyl fans in recent years…..”
  • 3 Bangor related entries in an A-Z
B is for Bangor Shitty and Butters, who do we hate most?”
F is for Farrar of more like Furrow Road, our most hated cess pit
Z is for Zoo, see you all there at Bangor Shitty”
  • A full page “hilarious” slagging off Bangor chairman Gwyn Pierce Owen
  • A page about the previous season’s  end of season celebration that included the following paragraph “It really capped a great season for Rhyl fans when news filtered through that Afan Lido had wrecked  Bangor’s hopes of a league and cup double by beating them 1-0 in the League Cup Final at Aberystwyth. Nice One Lido!!”
  • A page spoofing Bangor’s player-manager Nigel Adkins, a renowned spectacles wearer with a skit-  “Where are you glasses Adkins? Even Nigel’s big head can’t stop these!!!” (“these” being loads of footballs)

The fanzine was written years before Rhyl became competitive, mind you even when they were competitive and successful their fans carried on hating Bangor. Come to think of it now they’re in the Cymru Alliance (Wales’ 2ND Division north) they’ve carried on hating Bangor, they’re consistent if nothing else.

“Claret and Booze” was hardly backwards in coming forwards regarding Bangor. In issue 3 Bangor City were also hilariously described as “Bangor Shitty”. They do say that a bad joke is halfway around the world before aesthetic taste has woken up. Piss poor jokes were the glue that kept Claret and Booze together, behold;

Question; You’re locked in a room with Saddam Hussein, Rosemarie West and Gwynne Pierce Owen the Bangor City chairman. You have a gun but only two bullets. Which one do you shoot.

Answer; Gwynne Pierce Owen, and then you shoot him again just to make sure.”

Another example was the running joke in issue 20; every other page contained the words “Whatever happened to…..” followed by a hilarious continuation. One of the responses was “Bangor City in Europe”!!! You know as if Colwyn Bay have a massive European history. Having said all this the Bangor hatred was not as heartfelt as in the Rhyl fanzines and there are hardly any mentions of Bangor City in the later editions.

While fanzines highlight rivalries, they also show that some rivalries have a false basis, even if people banging on about it really believes there is a proper rivalry. For example the Rhyl fanzines hint that the Rhyl v Bangor rivalry is two way street – by insinuating that “Rhyl people” have really hated Bangor for many years – but if you talked to older Bangor fans they will tell you that Bangor fans disliking Rhyl is a mostly recent thing, if pushed they will tell you that Caernarfon are Bangor’s real enemy. Besides vitriolic fanzines often contain unwitting truths.

In 1994 a Rhyl fanzine produced a guide to the Konica League – “Rhyl haven’t done well there since the 1950s but when that elusive win does arrive, boy will there be celebrations.”

In January 2004 “Having lived in the shadows of Bangor City since the early 1960s, Rhyl is at last re-addressing the balance on the north Wales coast.”

The Bangor v Rhyl rivalry looks like a one-way street.

When the earlier issues Claret and Booze in the pile (early to mid 1990s) contained references to Bangor it presented the impression that Bangor were regarded as serious rivals. How they thought like this is beyond me. The clubs were miles apart in terms of status until the early 1990s. For example between 1935 and 1984 Bangor had won Welsh Cups, played at Wembley, played against Atletico Madrid and Napoli, and been founder members of the NPL and Alliance Premier, othat’s Conference to you. According to Colwyn Bay’s website this is what happened to Colwyn Bay between 1935 and 1984;

“……In the Birmingham League were the likes of Worcester City, Cradley Heath, Wrexham Reserves and Kidderminster Harriers. Unfortunately this gave them transport difficulties and results tailed off. Unable to halt a slide down the table, which saw them finish bottom in 1935-1936 and 1936-1937 seasons, it was perhaps not surprising that they left this league to join the Welsh League (North) in 1937. After the Second World War the club rejoined the competition and proved to be highly successful, starting off with a runners-up spot at the end of the first season and ending by taking the league title in 1983 and 1984”

If you look closely you will notice nothing much happened between the end of World War Two and 1983. If you’re unsure about the Welsh League (North) it was the league in which Colwyn Bay played reserve sides of Rhyl and Bangor City for 40-odd years, from about 1945 to 1984. How exactly can Colwyn Bay fans see Bangor as rivals?

Fanzines are not solely about highlighting the existence of football rivalry. They are also useful from a social history perspective; they highlight the contemporary mood in football. Claret and Booze certainly highlighted the interesting times around Welsh football in the early 1990s. The fanzine tells us in excruciating detail about the creation of the Konica League of Wales, or the Komical League as they called it. Every twist, turn and betrayal is documented and commented upon. These events may provide an answer that tells us why Colwyn Bay fans thought there was a rivalry with Bangor City.

Saying there is a historical rivalry between Colwyn Bay and Bangor may be illogical but there was a little tension between Welsh non-league clubs in the early 1990s, the fanzines weren’t making this up. Claret and Booze suggests the idea that Colwyn Bay fans felt Bangor City had betrayed the other rebels by joining the new Konica League of Wales.

It’s logical that assume that the rivalry may have only happened at the time of the fanzines, underlining the point about fanzines reflecting their era.  Claret and Booze contained evidence that the rivalry wasn’t historical or bitter. Issue 3 contained a good-natured account of Bangor’s last home match in the English system. Claret and Booze also suggests that there was a bit more common ground between the clubs because there was a common enemy; the FAW, or more exactly Alun Evans. As the cover of issue 2 tells us;

Question: What’s the difference between these two dictators? (Pictures of Alun Evans and Hitler)

Answer: One of them didn’t stab his own country in the back.

While the tone is a bit distasteful and sensational it does make its point. Looking at Claret and Booze over a period you can see a steadily increasing bitterness about the situation their club finds itself in. They started with polite appeals in issue 2 and 3;

Phone the Welsh FA on 0222 372325

Keep the pressure on the Welsh FA…

These are the North Wales members of the Wales FA. Contact them now….

The appeals became anger and poorly honed assaults were made upon the Welsh clubs competing in Europe by issue 6;

“I’m seriously pissed off with Bangor………”

“Alun Evans Top Five Lies”

The side were paired with a team from Iceland (the country)……… The Iceland manager Mr MT Head disagrees “Bangor won’t beat us. In fact nobody beats our remarkable prices (Oh look, they made a skit saying Bangor were playing in worthless league so they had drawn a team from Supermarket called Iceland not the country called Iceland, ha, ha!!)

By issue 10 they had started slagging off ex-players that joined clubs in the Welsh system;

Bay fans believe Jonesey and Rush going is no great loss as they are both past their best”

Claret and Booze subjected anything and everything to forensic evaluation in order to find some succour for their viewpoint; for several issues they were transfixed by the idea that Bangor used Scouse players in the League of Wales, as if it other clubs in north Wales didn’t use players from Merseyside. To sum up Claret and Booze at this point; “Traitors, splitters, twats lead me your beers. INFAMY, INFAMY, THEY’VE ALL GOT IT IN FOR ME!!!!

Normally I’d have sympathy for a club that was being bullied by the football authorities but it’s hard to have sympathy for supporters that presume a status for themselves. For example in one issue of Claret and Booze an article writer had heard that Merthyr, Bangor and Newport would be granted special status in the dispute with the FAW.  This person had also heard that this special status would allow them to stay in the English system “at the expense of the others” (including Colwyn Bay). The person then asked the following; “As a supporter of the top non-league team in Wales, I would like to know WHY Bangor and Newport?”

I’d turn his question on its head, why should Colwyn Bay enjoy special status equal to Bangor or Newport? Colwyn Bay had only been in the English system for eight years, whereas Bangor had played in England for most of the 20th Century and Newport AFC were the successor club of a football league club. How could you have sympathy with Colwyn Bay when they believed they were more equal than the rest of us.

Any lingering sympathy is dispelled by the claim “We’re the biggest non-league club in Wales” on the flimsiest or the ludicrous comparison between themselves and Cardiff or Swansea, “We’ll join the League of Wales if Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham do“. Jesus they one good Welsh Cup result against Wrexham in 1992 and they’re the “biggest non-league club in Wales”.

The fanzines reminded me of the barbed comments I’ve heard from Colwyn Bay supporters down the years; “Oh yeah I see Bangor had another piss-poor crowd in Europe” “Oh I see Bangor were knocked out by another Romanian pub team” “They’ve only come here because S4Cs camera are here, where will they be next week?”

Anyway, if you ever see a pile of cheap fanzines in a club shop buy them!! It’s an easy trip down memory lane!

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