Erthyglau / Articles Millennium Season 2000

Pride Of The Past not Pride In The Past 8/1/2000 *** Dixie's Back! 22/1/2000 *** Mark's 2002 World Cup Challenge 5/2/2000 *** Keith Cooper writes..... 12/2/2000 *** The Way Forward for the League of Wales 12/2/2000 *** Following The Town 26/2/2000 *** Three Rhyl Greats 26/2/2000 *** What A Cup Run Means To The Club 11/3/2000 *** Divided Loyalties 11/03/200 *** Jonathan Wilsher 25/3/00 *** Standing On The Fence 04/04/00 *** The Athletic's World Famouse Collection 04/04/00 *** Lawrence Hourahane Reflects 04/04/00


As the League of Wales eases towards the end of its eighth season, it’s time to assess the impact made by the league over this period.

On the field, Barry Town have soldiered on as the only full-time club in the competition. With a reluctance to expand what is basically a thirteen man squad, the emphasis at Jenner Park nowadays is on quality, rather on quantity. While it was never likely that other clubs could afford to go down the same road as Barry, it is surprising - and disappointing - that other clubs have plumped for overlarge playing squads of part-timers, rather than sign up 3 or 4 fulltimers to make up the core of their team on the field, and the focus of the club off it through Football in the Community schemes. A chance of positive publicity spurned, maybe?

The reluctance of credible established English League players to conclude their careers here also remains a mystery - to this observer at least. Mark Aizlewood is the only current former star player to make a contribution to a League of Wales club - and even he has to balance his playing commitments with his all-out assault on Dale Winton’s prime-time television slots! Why is Paul Bodin, for example, finishing his playing days at Bath City rather than in our League? The presence of such players would certainly boost teams, and bring positive publicity with it.

Off the field, however, the signs are more positive. A recent visit to a Welsh League ground acted as a reminder of how basic facilities were before the League of Wales was formed. The welcome at the ground was warm, but the facilities were spartan - an unenclosed field, the surrounds of which were obviously popular with dogs, and no seating at all. Compared to even the most basic of LoW grounds, it just showed how far our competition has raised standards. Even the simple enclosure of a ground goes a long way to improving the environment for players and spectators alike- my vote for club purchase of the season at Richmond Park definitely goes to Malcolm Williams’s Great Wall of Carmarthen!

Off the field then the signs are good. On it, perhaps, clubs need to look again at their strategy to take on the full-timers of Barry Town. But progress has definitely been made, and the foundations are there for more solid development in the years to come.

Now, anybody know of a sponsor for the League…..?

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THERE I WAS STANDING at the bar of my local, The Black Lion in Cwmffrwd (warm welcome assured, excellent food and drink - end of advert), when a bearded gentleman appeared at my elbow. Within seconds he had engaged me in conversation; within minutes he had engaged me to write for Carmarthen Town FC’s Programme. No expenses spared, as long as no costs incurred.

My subject, I’m instructed, is the world-famous collection of sporting boots and shoes housed in the Carmarthen Athletic’s Trophy Room, with particular emphasis on the soccer boots.

Well, to begin at the beginning. The collection started in 1967 at the end of the All Blacks rugby tour of Britain. An outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease prevented the NewZealanders taking their boots home to their dairy farming country. The Athletic Club President, the late Gwyn King Morgan, approached the legendary Colin ‘Pine Tree’ Meads, and he handed over his boots to found the collection. Since then the collection has diversified to include, not only rugby boots, but footwear of the famous in 22 other sports.

Possibly the most prised boots are those worn by Muhammed Ali when winning his first world title against Sonny Liston. They are exhibited along side the likes of Sir Gary Sobers and Ian Botham; Seb Coe and Steve Ovett; Bjorn Borg and Steffi Graf; Sir Gordon Richards and Willy Carson; Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino. There are about 150 pairs in all, and there is an excellent chapter on then in ‘Early in the Morning’, a comprehensive history of the Athletic Club, written by Neil Davies.

The earliest soccer boots acquired belong to two of football’s six knights - Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney. Matthew boasts the longest league career at 32 years 10 months and is England’s oldest goalscorer, netting against Northern Ireland at the age of 41 years 248 days. He is best remembered for his winning 1953 FA Cup performance, in what has become known as ‘The Matthews Final’. Finney - The Preston Plumber - was a one-club man who scored 210 goals in 473 games, whilst gaining 76 caps for England. He was deservedly knighted in 1998.

Gwyn Morgan once met Pele, in Birmingham, when he was playing for his club Santos. The result is that the Santos jersey, the Brasil shirt and the football boots of Edson Arantes do Nascimento are in the Athletic Club, with a signed card ‘Don amingo, Morgan’. He can almost be forgiven for scoring the goal that set Wales crashing out of the 1958 World Cup quarter-final.

The ‘foreign’ boots in the collection had to belong to someone special and Franz Beckenbauer fitted the bill. ‘The Kaiser’ was never sent off, and became the first man to both captain and manage World Cup-winning sides.

Nearer home, Kenny Dalglish gave the boots he wore when he scored the only goal in Liverpool’s 1978 European Cup Final win over Bruges at Wembley.

The Welsh contingent in the collection is headed by John Charles, a man still revered at Juventus. His 42 league goals for Leeds United in 1953-54 is still a club record. More recently Brian Flynn, Ian Rush and Ryan Gigg’s boots have been received. Perhaps in the future an ex-Town player, who has gone on to fame and fortune, will be asked for his footwear!

TO CONCLUDE, may I offer my best wishes to Carmarthen Town FC for a successful future. Pob lwc!

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I FEEL VERY HONOURED to be asked to contribute towards the programme with regards to the match between The Town and Llanelli.

Both clubs have kept the flag flying for football in Carmarthenshire for a number of years with Llanelli being the older club.

When Carmarthen was formed in 1950 I was a member of their team at the age of 16. To me it was a great honour to play with one’s home town team. The players were all locals with JACKIE COMEY and ALVERO VELASCO having played for the Reds. So there was a wealth of experience in the side.

I was looked after well by both players and Committee - not allowed to smoke or drink - and never once forgot to appreciate what was being done for me.

After being capped by Wales in 1951-52, I was offered the chance to play for many teams but I decided to join Llanelli under manager JOHN LOVE. I was thrown in at the deep straight away against Lovells Athletic and when I went into the changing room I was introduced to my new team-mates - JACKIE DRISCOL, ex Irish International, JOCK WALLACE and JOHN NIELSON, Scotland, and the captain was JACK ROBERTS who had captained Bolton Wanderers.

Llanelli waa a real professional club with no stone unturned, to make sure the club was one of the top in South Wales, regularly reaching the first round proper of the FA Cup. The three and a half years I spent there were the best years of my playing career.

I count myself very lucky as being groomed by the Town with their older players and then able to go to Llanelli to play top class football with great players, and able to play on some of the best grounds in Southern League Football. The shame is that Carmarthen will not have the chance to play in this league as they are committed to playing in the LoW.

TONIGHT’S RESULT? - Let’s hope football wins and we have a great open game played in the best spirit and that everyone enjoys himself.

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IT WAS WITH GREAT INTEREST that I read a recent article by manager Tomi Morgan in a Carmarthen Town programme discussing the way ahead for the LoW.

Much has been said this season about the LoW and its apparent deficiencies. Most of the talk and the written word have been sparked by the financial problems of the likes of Inter Cardiff, Caernarfon, Conwy and more recently Bangor. With it has come the ill-informed conclusion that the LoW is in some sort of crisis.

Crisis, what crisis? There is no crisis.

Having covered the LOW - or Konica League as it was once known and to some still is - since its inception, I have had to take something of a back seat view of procedures this season due to commitments covering Swansea City. But since those early days back in 1992, I have seen the LoW make rapid strides. Unfortunately, it has to be said those rapid strides were made in its early years. For the last few seasons the LoW has stood still in too many areas. Not so much in Carmarthen’s case as they have continued to impress me more than any club with their vision and organisation. But Carmarthen’s progress has been made in the real financial world by getting matters off the field right, in tandem with matters on the field. It’s easy to throw short-term money at a team in the hope of success, but if there is no business structure to back it up behind the scenes then there is not likely to be a long term future.

Tomi Morgan is correct in his criticism of certain journalists and their negative portrayal of the LoW. On the other hand, I feel that more could be done by the FAW and the LoW to push the media into a direction which will portray the League in a more positive light. The LoW Newsletter is a step in the right direction and it is to be highly commended for its research and prompting to bodies such as UEFA for a fair financial reward for our National League.

But this leads me to some criticism of the FAW. I would bet Town’s Secretary’s last pint on the fact that our LoW clubs have probably missed out each season because our governing body hasn’t discovered the various cash points out there and grabbed them with both hands. The FAW will probably hit back with the claim that they already subsidise the LoW to the tune of around £100,000 a season. Well, I think that this money is theirs by right from the likes of television revenue and broadcasting rights. There must be change if the LoW is to progress above its current plateau, and much will depend on the lead given by the FAW.

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THE SUCCESS which we have achieved this and last season in the Welsh Cup is something that everyone involved with Carmarthen Town can be justly proud of. Cup runs don't occur very often, and are to be enjoyed whilst they last. The win which the team achieved in the last round against Aberystwyth was a tremendous morale booster, and many of us were on a high for days afterwards. An additional bonus was the television and press coverage which we received, culminating in the excellent centre page report by Paul Williams in the Western Mail. Let us hope that the rest of the Cardiff press follow Paul's example and start supporting the Welsh Cup and the League of Wales, and end their negative reporting.

A successful cup run provides additional exposure to our sponsors without whom we wouldn't have achieved what we have to date, on and off the field. Moneys provided by our sponsors amounts to 40% of our annual income. Should we qualify for the Premier Cup next season then substantial work costing £55,000 has to be carried out during the close season. A permanent BBC studio and TV gantry have to be erected, and there will also be a need to increase our stand seating to 500.

The cup match against Aberystwyth provided our hard working Chairman Jeff Thomas with the opportunity of raising some additional finance. He arranged Corporate Hospitality for 36 people, each paying £50 a head. A sumptuous meal was provided together with entertainment in the clubhouse prior to the match.

Cup matches provide us with additional finance which we hadn't budgeted for at the beginning of the season. This comes through sponsorship, a share of the gate receipts, raffle, programmes, clubshop and clubhouse sales. Also a special thank you must be given to our Ladies Committee who raise much needed funds for the Club, and who work hard with the catering before, during and after matches.

We are very fortunate in having a dedicated team of people running our junior sides from the Under 9's up to the Youth and Reserve teams. They are justly proud that several of the players that they have helped to develop over the years are now part of our Cup team. In fact seven of the team in our last Cup match were aged 21 and under, which augurs well for the future.

THE ACHIEVEMENTS WHICH WE HAVE HAD IN THE WELSH CUP during the past couple of seasons would not have been possible without the management team of Tomi and Ray. However the main thanks must be to the players who have provided us with so much pleasure. They have an excellent team spirit, and work hard for each other. They are the ones who have put Carmarthen Town in the spotlight.

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'FOOTBALL’S A FUNNY OLD GAME!’ So said Jimmy Greaves [very often at that]. Then some wag added, ‘And the fans are even funnier’.

I have always tried to support three football teams. The first, Ipswich Town, whom I have supported for the last thirty years. The second is Wales, and the third, well the third often varies. To be honest I always try to support the local team. When I lived in Aldershot I supported them. Then when I moved to Shrewsbury I supported them. And now that I live in Carmarthen, I follow the ‘Town’. The problem with this system is that it often causes the odd problem of allegiance.

When I lived in Aldershot during the late seventies I would go to most of the home games. Although the action was not as good as that in the First Division it was still great for a child to watch. At the Recreation Ground I saw many of the rising stars of the eighties play. I even saw Malcolm MacDonald play for Arsenal in a testimonial game and do what he did best, come on as a sub and score!

Then I moved to Shrewsbury and this is where the first 'problem' arose. A few weeks after moving, Aldershot drew Shrewsbury in the FA Cup at the Gay Meadow. Who was I to support? In the end the teasing at school won and I switched my allegiance, which was just as well as Shrewsbury won.

Then in both 1981 and 1982 Shrewbury drew Ipswich in the FA Cup fourth round. They drew 0-0, before Ipswich won the replay 3-0. The next year the two teams met again in the fifth round and the match proved to be the shock of the year as Shrewsbury won 2-1. On both occasions I have to admit I supported Ipswich. Boy, was it odd standing in the 'away’ supporters' block!

Another incident at Shrewsbury during the early eighties was when they met Swansea in the Welsh Cup Final at the Gay Meadow. Before the game started it was announced over the P.A. that as Shrewbury were an invitation team, whatever happened, Swansea would win the Cup. It is the only time I’ve been to a match where serious crowd trouble broke out. As it was the 'Swans' won comfortably with most of the home fans having staged a walkout.

Ipswich has the honour of being the only team to win the Second Division and go straight into the Premier League. Why? Because the following season heralded the new Premier League. My wife and I were at Ipswich’s first home game that season, which incidentally was the first ground in the English League to be an 'all seater'. Ipswich Town lost but who cares, we are able to say ‘we were there’.

So on to Carmarthen. For years I have followed 'Town' in the press and on TV but work and a spinal injury stopped me from coming to Richmond. Fortunately this year I’ve been well enough to watch 'Town' play. Starting with the cracking Bank Holiday win against Aberystwyth I’ve been fortunate to get to all the home games, which so far, have been mainly wins.

SO HERE’S LOOKING FORWARD to the remainder of the season., starting with today’s important Cup game. The atmosphere in the stand at Richmond has brought back a flood of memories, some long forgotten, Fortunately, in today’s Cup tie there will be no divided loyalties and I will be supporting the Town wholeheartedly!

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Gareth Hughes on THREE RHYL GREATS

IN THESE DAYS OF MULTI - MILLION POUND TRANSFER FEES and telephone number salaries, it seems unlikely that many of today's Premiership stars will ever feel the inclination to play out their careers on the semi-professional scene.

It hasn't always been the case however. When the term 'Player Power' was little more than a distant dream and the pay differential between top and lower level players was not so great, players found themselves having to play in their twilight years to earn their bread and butter.

Being convenient to the major conurbations of Liverpool and Manchester meant that many signed for clubs along the North Wales Coast. Rhyl attracted their fair share of former-stars, and in the post-war period there were three top-division goalkeepers with very interesting stories to tell.

The first was Stan Hanson. He joined the club at the age of 40 in October 1956 having made 384 Football League appearances for his only ever club - BOLTON WANDERERS. He was the goalkeeper on the losing side in the famous 'Matthews Cup Final' of 1953 when Blackpool came back to win 4-3 at Wembley. He may not have been as agile playing for Rhyl as in his Bolton days, but his mere presence was enough to inspire those around him. He made 79 appearances for the club over the next two seasons and was an influential member of the team that defeated Notts County at Meadow Lane in the Third Round of the FA Cup in 1957.

Two years later, Rhyl paid STOKE CITY £500 for the transfer of Scottish International goalkeeper Tommy Younger. The 30-year old Scot had made his name in the Scottish League with Hibernian before leaving for Liverpool in 1956 and making 120 appearances for them. The holder of 24 full International caps, he returned to his homeland for a short spell with Falkirk before returning South of the border to Stoke City. He made ten appearances for them before Rhyl secured his services for the 1960/61 season. His time at the club was not a successful one! He had a 'howler' in his first game - letting in six goals against Wrexham Reserves - and only played two more games - conceding another six goals - before injury put him out of the team. He didn't regain his place. Rhyl supporters might not have been too impressed by his ability but the following season he signed for LEEDS UNITED and played 37 full games in their Second Division campaign!

They say that goalkeepers are a crazy breed, and it is fair to say this of Albert Dunlop who completes this trio to have played for Rhyl. He played 211 games for EVERTON before joining Wrexham in November 1963. He then joined Rhyl in September 1965 as a goalkeeper initially, and by February had been appointed full-time manager and commercial director of the club. He was quite a flamboyant character, and when the club was going through a rough patch he once selected himself as Centre-forward to see what the problems were at first hand. A reporter in the local paper claimed that he might as well have played ten men from the start for the amount of use he was! He was a newspaper hack's dream and would often make the back-page headlines with his comments. Most were wild exaggerations, but some were fulfilled.

In August 1966 he proclaimed that his new teenage signing Brian Lloyd was "the finest prospect he had ever seen" and that he would play for Wales. Within six months Lloyd was transferred to Stockport County for a fee of £1,000 and in 1976 he did indeed make his full international debut, going on to be capped three times!

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FOLLOWING THE TOWN ..........John Meredith

COMING FROM A CARDI you might find it odd when I say that Carmarthen has given me more memorable moments than any other town in Wales. My earliest memories of the town are those of being dragged through the Market Hall in my parents’ hands nearly half a century ago. Since then things have looked up. It was for Carmarthen Harriers that Siôn won his first international Cross Country vest, which was a proud moment for all the family.

Due to the unfortunate illness of my friend and co-reporter, Alun Lenny, I was in Carmarthen reporting on that momentous night in the history of Wales - the night that Carmarthenshire swung the tables and gave our country the first all Wales governing body in 600 years.

As an ex-football player what could possibly contend with the excitement and pride that we all felt in the win against Conwy in the semi-final of the Welsh Cup?! The final was memorable despite the result.

Following Carmarthen Town this season has allowed me to turn the clock back and relive my youth. Once again Saturdays are devoted to one thing - FOOTBALL! I’ve learnt a lot and become wiser as a consequence of my newly formed links with the Club. My geography of Wales has improved and following the away trip to Connah’s Quay, where I had the pleasure of the company of the Club Chairman and Committee Members the terms Premiership and Carmarthenshire League have taken on a new meaning - (for an explanation ask the Club Secretary).

I would like to thank Carmarthen Town FC for the way they have made me feel at home in such a short period of time. For what it’s worth I believe that it is one of the best-run clubs in the LoW. Before long even the media will have to take the Club seriously and give it the attention it deserves. I remember reporting on the trials and tribulations of the Welsh FA when they were trying to set up the LoW. The reluctance of some of the clubs to join provided plentiful fodder for us media people but thanks to the labour of people like Alun Evans the League was born. You could say that now it is entering a crucial period once again as financial and other problems raise their heads. Welsh soccer cannot afford to loose the LoW.

MAE’R GÊM HEDDIW yn erbyn y Rhyl - un o drefi tripiau Ysgol Sul fy mhlentyndod. Gwawriodd mileniwm newydd ers i ni eu maeddu o gôl i ddim yn ôl ar yr ail o Hydref. Ar y Sadwrn hwnnw roeddem yn ffodus i ennill - diolch i gôl wych boi y ‘wes wes’ - Nigel Nicholas. Rwy’n siðr na fydd y gêm hon ‘chwaith yn ‘Drip Ysgol Sul’ i dîm Caerfyrddin. Ar ran y cefnogwyr i gyd diolch i’r tîm cyfan, y rheolwyr, y pwyllgor a’r noddwyr am dymor llawn cyffro.

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THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT that over the last few years the LoW has made significant progress and that the standards both on and off the field have increased dramatically. But the argument goes that the improvement has not been noted in the media. Part of the problem, I believe, is that most of the media are based in Cardiff where there is, of course, a Nationwide Second Division Club, and where the League, its strengths and merits, are judged by what happens at Inter Cardiff and Cwmbran - two of the most successful sides over the years but the worst in terms of attracting support.

What happens at clubs like Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, Llanelli and the like, successful, well-supported clubs playing an important part in the life of the community, is largely ignored. Having said that, I feel that, at times, in order to develop further the League still has much to do.

Firstly, there has to be a reduction in size; we need quality not quantity. The fact is that one of the smallest member nations of UEFA has one of the biggest leagues. And I firmly believe that Friday night should become LoW night. It is a fact that the games played on Friday attract higher attendances and the product looks far better on television. That in turn enhances the product and its image, and could help attract potential sponsors. While the League Clubs at times demand coverage, what is done to make it appear worth while? A crowd of a 120 at Leckwith or Cwmbran or Conwy does little to sell the product. Clubs should try to entice youngsters, maybe by playing youth team matches prior to the first team game, thus attracting parents as well as friends to both games.

I have to agree with comments made by Bangor City’s Meirion Appleton recently - it’s no longer enough for clubs just to play in Europe. Sides have to start winning. There is no doubt that, unlucky though they were, Barry Town certainly missed an opportunity against Valletta of Malta in the summer. That surely has to be the next step.

There is much to praise - the number of players who have gone on to the English professional leagues, the improvement in the standard of facilities (still a way to go but a 100% improvement on ten years ago). And, contrary to belief, crowds do and will go to matches. Witness Llanelli v Barry Town, witness this afternoon’s encounter.

WE SHOULD STOP LOOKING to the Premiership in England, but compare like with like - with Latvia, with Malta and other small European nations. And maybe, the criticism is all part of being Welsh. It is the same with the language or with politics. Which other country in the world would be so negative in its response in a genuine attempt to raise the standard of the game, to give youngsters something to aim for, to play for their local club and to participate in front of huge audiences on television and to participate in Europe?

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MANCHESTER UNITED V ARSENAL - Keith Cooper (National Referees Officer) writes..........

MARCH 1995. The date is forever with me. The fixture: Manchester United V Arsenal, a game which conjured up all sorts of thoughts and emotions. On the previous two occasions players had been dismissed and feuds and vendettas had broken out all over the field. Whilst other games came and went, this game was imprinted on my mind, with the thought of any eventualities being overcome.

The big day arrived. The newspapers were full of headlines relative to previous encounters. I arrived at the ground at 3.00pm in plenty of time for the 8.00pm kick off, missing the motorway traffic. There was plenty to occupy my mind. With Gill, my wife and Mike, a friend, a constant source of inspiration to me. I made contact with the secretary and checked the ground and dressing rooms. Outside it was becoming a hive of activity with players arriving for their pre-match meal, their car chauffeur-driven to the car park. Alex Ferguson gave me 'stick', I responded - it was all in good humour.

My Assistant Referees arrived with their guests. They had been with me on previous occasions. Good choice, I thought. The fourth official was inexperienced? It couldn't happen today.

The guests were wined and dined in their private room, with Fred allocated to look after all parties connected with the referee. We went to the dressing room - I like to change early. The police arrive to inform me of all their procedures. I pull a leopard skin jock strap from my bag and jokingly ask the chief if he'd like to wear it. He refuses, and retires blushing. Brian Kidd and Stewart Houstan bring in the team sheet. Brian always refers to the officials as Mr. - I wish them luck. Banter in the dressing room is lively, but deep down I know what's ahead. I "bell" the teams at seven minutes to kick off and we meet in the tunnel. I can feel the tension between the teams as we walk out into the 'Theatre of Dreams". Fifty thousand greet us.

Early on I keep the game tight, play little advantage and it seems to be running smoothly. United score. Attitudes will change - I realise that, although with five minutes to half time there haven't been any major problems. Then Steve Bruce chips a ball up the touchline, and Wrighty leaves his studs in. The air is blue; I have more than a quiet word with both hoping that they wouldn't clash again before half time.

The interval arrives. All four officials meet at the centre circle. The fourth official is getting excited; players are running to the tunnel. I stay in the centre circle, check my laces, anything rather than get involved. I ask my assistants if my studs are okay for the second half The fourth official is getting more agitated, he wants to get involved. We take our time. By the time we get in the tunnel nobody is around except the Security guy. He looks sheepish. We take our cuppa. Stewart Houstan comes into my dressing room asking me to keep an eye on things because of the half time problem. 'What problem?' Stewart looks astounded. 'I was still on the field,' I tell him. He leaves the dressing room, but I know. It's going to be tough. I demand total vigilance and concentration from the Assistants. Again I ring the bell. We wait in the tunnel. The players arrive, nobody talks.

The second half begins - no advantage. Ryan hardly touches Lee Dixon - foul, Ryan looks amazed. I smile, he smiles and he realises. Tight control, plenty of smiles, lots of communication. It is going well. United go three up quickly. Ten minutes from time, Brucie seeks retribution. He does Wrighty. Ian is lying on the ground, looking, wondering. I caution Steve, he protests his innocence. But I know. There are no more problems and the game ends Man Utd 3 Arsenal 0. There are very few handshakes between players, but they all come off together.

In the dressing room we congratulate each other and the assessor is delighted. Tony Leake, a current Football League Referee, and on that day my assistant, still to this day says the half time problem taught him a lot. My theory is : why look for problems? There are enough out there confronting you anyway.

We drive home contented. I was happy that a potentially explosive game had, by careful man-management, faded into a damp squib.

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Alan Evans writes


YOU MUST FORGIVE me if I am not with you this afternoon. Oh, I could easily be present in body, but that would do no good, for my thoughts will be miles away. About a thousand to be exact. This weekend, Mark Hughes, newly appointed as Welsh team manager, flies out to Warsaw for his first big away match, and against not just one opponent but five. Historians tell us that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but that scenario is old hat. Success in modern football begins everywhere but on the pitch. And so it is that our hopes of Wales reaching the 2002 World Cup finals will start with Mark Hughes sitting round a table with a bunch of fellow-managers and administrators in Poland to fix the timetable of matches in their qualifying group.

These fixture meetings never get much coverage, but as contests of will they can put the toughest sport to shame, and I’m surprised that no specialist in ground behaviour has made a study of them. The usual gambit is for the most powerful association to attempt to seize control and list its desired order of matches, hoping to gain agreement from the lesser nations who will then fit in the other games around them. It was a tactic worked by Spain at my first such meeting in 1984. Scotland and Iceland shared the group with us, and the Spaniards only showed alarm when our final match was arranged against the Scots, for they suspected that we might conspire to create a result if it was vital for British football. They only put aside their paranoia when they were oddly given permission to shift their final game back seven days - against the FIFA rules. As it happened, it did give them the advantage of knowing their target and they narrowly qualified for the finals.

I remember their approach for the next draw, which brougt us up against Denmark, then at their very best. We met in Copenhagen, where the Danes tried to lay down the law, Our manager had been unable to travel, but gave me strict instructions. I think that my Czech and Finnish colleagues resented the superior air of the Danes, for they didn’t oppose me, and a meeting which started at 10 in the morning and only required fitting in six games ran overnight and only finished the next day when the Danes gave up their pre-planned schedule. The Dutch, as European champions, tried the same trick in the next World Cup grouping, but failed, partly because they were in the same group as the Germans, who had the political clout to challenge them. At one point, the German manager, Franz Beckenbauer, himself seemed unconcerned what order his country played in, and his confidence was justified when his team went on to win Italia ‘90.


SO WHAT SHOULD MARK HUGHES LOOK FOR? I’d start with an away game in Norway : they are the seeded team but will be tired from the Euro 2000 tournament, so their guard will be at its lowest. Play either Belarus or Armenia third and fourth : they are the weakest and any player with an early suspension will miss a relatively unimportant game. Try and arrange Belarus and Ukraine as a Saturday-Wednesday away tour : it will cut out one of the long journeys and stays in uncomfortable surroundings. And finish with a home match. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The trouble is the other five managers will be laying the same plans! Mark’s one consolation is that picking an international squad is child’s play by comparison.

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Alun Charles............


LAST WEEK, AFTER ALMOST a five year break, Wrexham-based Dixie McNeil returned to club management in the LoW, this time with today’s visitors, Caernarfon Town.

Born in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire in 1947, Dixie started his career as a full-time pro with Leicester City in November 1964 but was handed a free transfer at the end of the 1965-66 season. He was snapped up by Fourth Division Exeter City in the close season and made his Football League debut in the opening match of the new season - a scoreless draw against Wrexham at the Racecourse! Strangely enough, after a season at St James’ Park when he topped the club’s scoring chart with 11 goals he was released! There followed a period in non-league football with Corby Town where his goalscoring prowess continued in the Southern League.

Dixie returned to the Football League when Northampton Town manager Dave Bowen paid £5,000 for him in May 1969. He spent three years with the Cobblers before signing for Lincoln City in 1972 where he played alongside ex England manager Graham Taylor. and maintained his impressive goalscoring average. In January 1974 he signed for Football League newcomers Hereford United for £15,000 where he recorded the club’s first ever Football League hat trick in a 5-0 win over Chesterfield. At the end of his first full season at Edgar Street his new employers had to pay a further £5,000 to Lincoln as part of the transfer agreement if Dixie scored over 20 goals. In fact, he scored 31 and with Peter Eastoe was joint top scorer of the entire Football League. He won a Third Division Championship medal with the club in 1976.

At the beginning of 1977-78, Dixie signed for Third Division Wrexham and became an instant success. He was a remarkably consistent goalscorer and his scoring exploits were a major contribution as Wrexham won the Third Division Championship. He continued to hit the back of the net for the next four seasons in the Second Division for the Robins before they were relegated in 1982. In particular, Dixie will be remembered for scoring key goals in FA Cup matches against the likes of Newcastle, Bristol City and Arsenal. During the 1982-83 season he left Wrexham to rejoin his former club Hereford United. He decided to finish his Football League career in January 1983.

Towards the end of the 1984-85 season, Dixie was appointed manager of Wrexham and led the Robins into Europe against FC Zurrieq of Malta and Real Zaragoza of Spain. He resigned early in the 1990-91 season . A few months later he joined his former boss at Hereford, John Sillett, as first team coach at Coventry City and spent a little over a year at Highfield Road.. In November 1993, he returned to football management as manager of LoW club Flint Town United but resigned in March 1995 following an internal disagreement.

In recent times, Dixie has been employed as a salesman for a book company and also as a summariser for BBC Radio Wales Sportstime during the football season, often on Wrexham encounters. His sons, Richard and Jamie, have both been on Wrexham’s books as apprentices and still play in local football. In fact, Richard has just signed for the Canaries. Best wishes on your return Dixie and, after today, may you have much success!

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Curtis Hessler writes from Australia ............


RETURNING, AFTER A DECADE away from the Town scene, I was initially disappointed with the Club’s ‘face value’, that is, by the lack of history or pride on display at the Clubhouse, impressive as it is. Outside its front door, the Town advertises beer but, surprisingly, not its own emblem!

And inside, again no Club badge or memorabilia of significance; it is certainly lacking in footballing terms and particularly in nostalgia. The one prominent item befitting the great Club is the Player of the Year Board, but it only begins in 1976. Such famous townies as Terry Evans, John ‘Davo’ Davies, Peter Harding, Peter ‘Banker’ Williams, Peter Turner, Dai ‘Dolau’ Davies, Richard Gealey and Kevin Colvin are not recognised and, somehow, they should be.

Famous as all these heroes were however, the lack of any major trophy by the Town (or United) has always been frustrating for me. In the forty five years of existence, Town have never won anything of value, such as the Welsh Premiership, the Carmarthenshire Premiership and the West Wales Senior Cup.. This may be contributed to Carmarthen’s lifestyle and general lack of ambition to go for the big one’.

But whatever the motivations in the past, there is now a new and apparent wave of enthusiasm and drive in the Club, one that is having unprecedented results on the Park. And it may eventually lead to gaining one of those cherished trophies which, for a town of our size, should have realistically arrived decades ago.

The changes within the Club over the last decade have been phenomenal - floodlights, seating in the stand, enclosed fencing, VIP box, sponsors and new clubhouse facilities are just some of the improvements made, unthinkable in the past. Wherever one looks there seem to be clear goals and smooth-running organisation in control.

Most promising however is the fact that off-the-field success is being matched with equal success on-the-field (Town were lying top of the Premiership during my visit in October).

One can only be super-impressed by the entire transformation and I sincerely hope that it continues, and that the club eventually achieves that elusive trophy before its 50th Anniversary which is coming up soon. Speaking of the Golden Anniversary, one only hopes that there will be more player recognition, and more appropriate memorabilia are sought and displayed prominently (along with that trophy hopefully) in the Clubhouse in time for the celebrations.

Historically, Town officials may have lacked ambition, but most not only had loyalty, but also pride and love for the identity of the Club and its past. Hopefully, the present Town regime can take a leaf from their predecessors’ book and improve even further on the Club’s ‘face value’.

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