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Sunday, 22 January 2017 09:58

Saints Go Marching In (eventually)

SATURDAY 21st JANUARY. Cyncoed Campus, dry but very cold.
BARRY TOWN UNITED 0 THE NEW SAINTS 4 (Nathaniel MG Cup final)
A very cold January day, many local games postponed with pitches frozen, but I'm spared the difficulty of finding a game on - I was never going anywhere today other than the Welsh Premier's Nathaniel MG Cup final.

Although it's my eleventh visit of this season to the Cyncoed Campus ground, the occasion and the size of the crowd should make this a bit special - or at least that is what I've been hoping. There has been plenty of pre-match build up online and in social and local media and what's been encouraging has been the signs that the FAW and the sponsors - Nathaniel Cars - are treating this as a 'big match' with all the trimmings appropriate to a national cup final - tickets on sale, press accreditation, pre-match hospitality etc. And indeed, on arrival at Cyncoed mid-afternoon, the promise is already being fulfilled. A couple of hours before kick off and the Students' Union bar is buzzing with early-arriving fans and VIPs (the college caterers laying on an excellent meal for the latter, whom I am fortunate to have been invited to join).

An hour before kick off, darkness starting to fall and temperature dipping further, but the ground is filling up, with the blue and yellow of Barry not surprisingly outnumbering the green and white of TNS. The choice of Cardiff Met University as the final venue might have been seen by some as controversial, but I think it's inspired: close enough to Barry to double or treble the number who will turn out to support them in their first cup final in a decade - plenty of them clearly not regulars at games. The small ground will give the game an atmosphere that it couldn't have had elsewhere - showpiece finals in big stadia (like recent Welsh Cup finals at Wrexham) may have superior facilities but lack atmosphere for those present and look empty on live TV.

Even so, I hear moans from the 'glass half empty' supporters of both sides about the Campus ground. It's always possible to find fault. But for Barry folk especially, gripes about a neutral venue eleven miles from home that guarantees them the majority of the crowd seem perverse. Would they have preferred the 'easy option' of, say, Newtown or Aberystwyth?

By 5.15, the crowd - officially 1,116 vindicating the FAW's choice - is lining the touchlines, filling the seats. A privileged few can avoid the plummeting temperature and watch from the elevated, indoor balcony, but for me there's nowhere to be but pitch-side. It could get uncomfortably cold, especially if the match is over, as a contest, within half an hour - a possible scenario, if the first goal or two go to the Saints.

Published in Football
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 09:01

It's Been 11 Years

TUESDAY 20th SEPTEMBER: Cyncoed Campus, a fine evening.
CARDIFF MET 2 NEWTOWN 1 (Dafabet Welsh Premier League)

I've been up to Cyncoed more times in the past month than the whole of last season. Such has been the lure of Welsh Premier football in Cardiff, plus a couple of UEFA games. But I haven't yet seen Cardiff Met win a Welsh Premier match - in fact no Cardiff team has won a national league fixture in the capital since October 2005 (that was the ill-fated Grange Quins).

But there is hope: Cardiff Met actually won away on Saturday (at Llandudno) and clearly have a chance tonight against visitors Newtown. The university, with its students now back on campus, has promoted this game and is hoping for a big attendance. Half an hour before kick off, it seems they are going to be rewarded - a fair turnout of regulars, neutrals, officials plus some students, and the latter group start to arrive in bigger numbers as 7.45 approaches. At one point a queue is even spotted [the attendance is later confirmed as a ground record, 428].

Published in Football
Monday, 22 August 2016 07:53

Tough Lessons for the Students

SUNDAY 21st AUGUST - Cyncoed Campus Stadium, rain.
CARDIFF MET UNIVERSITY 0 BALA TOWN 1 (Dafabet Welsh Premier League)
After a ten-year absence, Welsh Premier football returns to the Welsh capital. A decade has passed since Cardiff Grange Quins' brief and disastrous cameo in the national league, several years more since the more successful era of Inter Cardiff. The latter, in fact, had a Cardiff Met connection in their final year at top level, merging with the college (then UWIC) to avoid folding. Technically, Cardiff Met are the direct successors of that merger, though they really reverted to being just a university club when the top flight place was lost in 2001.

Cardiff Met today are a far more professional outfit than that which was relegated in 2001, on and off the pitch. While Christian Edwards has built a team capable of competing at this level, their new stadium at Cyncoed is at the heart of the university campus and the football side now receives far more active support from the authorities, and they have been promoting this opening fixture heavily to the people of Cardiff.

Given all the publicity and attempts to interest Cardiff City fans, it's a shame that only 221 are here - though this may be deemed a good crowd in the neglected Welsh Premier. It's surely not the lowest Cyncoed will see this season, as it has been swelled by a fair number of groundhoppers from England and quite a few from visitors Bala Town. On the other hand, the weather - persistent rain - might have deterred a few casual 'fair-weather' spectators.

Published in Football

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