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Friday, 27 January 2017 08:29

Issue 195 - Feb./March 2017

WF 195 cover

ISSUE 195 - publication date 27th January 2017

In this issue we have extensive features on three clubs: 


We also examine the vexed question of the best format for the Dafabet Welsh Premier League - Super 12 or Sweet Sixteen?

There is also a look at the planned changes to UEFA competition formats from 2018 and how they may affect Welsh clubs.  

In our popular Looking Back history columns, we revisit news and action from 50 years ago this month (1966-67) and25 years ago this month (1991-92)

Plus all our regular columns on major leagues, regional round-up, programme notes, international scene and other news and views.

Available to order for £3.60 - email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  for online options or send cheque to 57 Thornhill Rd CARDIFF CF14 6PE



Published in Publication Dates
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 15:23


THURSDAY 21st JULY - Belle Vue, warm, dry.
GAP CONNAH'S QUAY 1 FK VOJVODINA 2 (UEFA Europa League, 2nd Qualifying Round, 2nd leg)
The fifth match of my annual July European travels, and before a ball is kicked, almost certainly the last this year. Already this week TNS have lost in Cyprus, leaving only Connahs Quay flying the flag. They only trail 1-0 from the away leg in Serbia last week, having held out for 86 minutes and finally conceded a deflected goal, but it's hard to see them preventing the talented visitors from scoring here in the home leg. But we travel in hope.

Published in Football
Saturday, 02 July 2016 16:11

Nomads undefeated in Europe....

THURSDAY 30th JUNE - Belle Vue, wet and cold
GAP CONNAH'S QUAY 0 STABAEK 0 (Europa League 1st Qualifying Round, 1st leg)

48 hours on, same train, same journey up the Welsh/English border. Today's destination Rhyl, whose ground is being used by Connah's Quay for their European debut against Stabaek of Norway. Out in Scandinavia, the Welsh Premier's other two Europa League entrants face Swedish opposition. Tough draws for all three, against clubs in the middle of their domestic seasons.

Rhyl has, in the past, hosted plenty of these games, and usually there's some evidence in the town that there's a match on. Not so today, and once again it seems the European Championships are occupying the minds of public and press alike, leaving these club games overlooked. Indeed, as the torrential rain lashes down on Belle Vue an hour before kick off, the ground is as quiet as I have known it for such a game. The weather again hardly helps, nor does the clash with the first Euro2016 quarter-final. Still, it could be worse - if it had been Wales playing their quarter-final in France tonight, there wouldn't be anyone here. Finally a queue briefly forms at the turnstile, as the small but noisy Stabaek contingent arrives.

The teams emerge with the downpour still at full force, Connah's Quay in red and Stabaek in blue. The visitors' line up is unexpectedly varied - an Indian goalkeeper, Africans from Ivory Coast and Ghana, an Albanian - and a Scottish manager. My initial impression is that it is a very young side indeed.

Published in Football
Sunday, 12 July 2015 06:49

Drama and Heartbreak at the Seaside

THURSDAY 9th JULY: Belle Vue, sunny and mild.
BALA TOWN 2 FC DIFFERDANGE 03 1 (UEFA Europa League 1st Qual. Rd., 2nd Lg)
Forty-eight hours after travelling north to see TNS in the Champions League, (and less than 24 hours after getting home) it's time to do it all again: destination Rhyl, to see if Bala can overturn that 3-1 deficit from the first leg of their Europa League match.

It's a fine, sunny day, without the excessive heat of last week, so conditions should suit both sides better. Bala Town have taken over Belle Vue for the evening and the ground is already lively as the first spectators start arriving an hour and a half ahead of the match - merchandise, programmes and raffle tickets all on sale just in side the entrance; UEFA and media types bustle about importantly. There's an air of expectation, almost quiet optimism I feel, among the Welsh contingent. Maybe the feel-good factor from TNS and Newtown pulling off 3 wins so far is infectious, but having seen Bala lose last week, I feel any respectable result tonight will be satisfactory - but an aggregate victory is too much to expect. When asked, I rate the chances as no more than 15-20%....

Published in Football

THURSDAY 2nd JULY - Stade Municipal, Differdange. Weather conditions: heatwave.
FC DIFFERDANGE 03 3 BALA TOWN 1 (Europa League First Qualifying Round, 1st Leg)

Eighteen days after watching my last game of 2014-15, I'm setting off to watch my first of 2015-16: as usual, the new season is heralded by a burst of early July activity in the early rounds of the UEFA competitions and, since the draw last week, the Welsh Premier representatives and their followers have been hastily preparing for the first legs. In my case, I've chosen to watch Bala Town away this week, in Luxembourg, and - rightly or wrongly, I've decided to travel by rail. It seemed like a sound plan, saving significantly over flight costs, but that was before the Calais migrant and ferry worker strikes started disrupting Eurostar.... and before a heatwave started.

After several days of anxiously checking news sites and Eurostar service updates, it's good to get the journey underway on Wednesday, with a full day's travel ahead. Despite the heatwave that has descended on northern Europe making it a less than ideal way for travelling anywhere (Wednesday in fact sets a new July record temperature in Britain), things go smoothly enough after all: the disgruntled ferry workers refrain from blocking the tunnel today, so by late afternoon I'm in Belgium and heading south-east on the slow, stopping train to Luxembourg as it trundles out through the Brussels suburbs, depositing workers and day-trippers at every stop. Four hot and stuffy hours later, the service crawls into the Grand Duchy and, sadistically, dawdles for a final, agonising twenty minutes outside Luxembourg station before releasing its few remaining weary passengers into the humid night air. After a cooling bath and the news that TNS have won in Torshavn, my spirits are fully recovered.

Thursday 2nd July dawns with Luxembourg on red alert because of the heat and humidity: temperatures in the high 30s celsius have caused the government to put the country to implement its plan for the "canicule" (literally dog-day), involving mobilising squads of paramedics, red cross and social workers to visit elderly and vulnerable citizens and help them survive the hot, polluted days and nights.

In Luxembourg city, it's a day for taking things slowly, staying in the shade, drinking copious amounts of mineral water; all of which I do, before having to set off again on a train, in the peak mid-afternoon heat - destination Differdange, a town in the south-west of the country, in the 'Valley of the Red Rocks', an industrial area close to the French border. For an industrial centre, Differdange and its surroundings seem pleasant and semi-rural: the town centre is relaxed, the main road from the station to the square dotted with quiet bars. I settle in one for a cool beer, watching various unfamiliar French types of horse-racing on the TV.

The twenty minute stroll to the Stade Municipal is an ordeal because of the heat and humidity, but it's flat and straightforward. The stadium is adjacent to a large open-air swimming pool, which has predictably drawn huge crowds today. Smaller numbers are filtering into the football stand an hour before the match, all making immediately for the shaded upper rows. Around 75 Bala fans are here to show support with flags and songs, having made their way here across England, France and Belgium, variously by air, sea, rail and road. They're hopeful of course, but seem realistic too - Luxembourg may not be a football power-house, but their clubs are more experienced in Europe than ours and their league is probably a little stronger. Differdange are European veterans, the present club and its antecedent "Red Boys Differdange" having campaigned on this stage over forty years. Bala will do well to keep the tie alive for the second leg, I feel. Although I'm always an advocate of having a go and not showing too much respect - in view of the heat (still 36 degrees at 7pm, kick off time) the Welsh side need to keep things tight early on to settle into the game.

Published in Football

Two weeks after the final act of the 2014-15 Welsh season - the promotion play off in south Wales - the curtain went up on the 2015-16 season with the much-awaited UEFA Champions League and Europa League qualifying round draws. In between, in the absence of a proper close season, the summer solstice seemed to mark the changing of the football seasons too: as the days begin to shorten, thoughts turn to autumn and winter, but long before that we have some summer action in Europe coming up.

It's an unfortunate feature of the UEFA calendar that the smallest nations in its "family", those who contest these earliest rounds of the two cups, are given barely a week to plan the biggest games of their year, and arrange tricky overseas travel for parties of players and officials. UEFA can of course point to the six-figure distributions to all competing clubs as justification for the demands, but surely it's not unreasonable to ask for just another week or two between draw and action?

Fans too face the challenges of arranging trips into Europe at short-notice, so the days following the draws are typically involve a day or so of uncertainty about dates, venues and kick off times, followed by frantic searching for and booking the best travel options. It's only when all that is in place that we can start to assess our hopes and expectations for the four clubs representing us in Europe's premier club competitions.

Published in Football
Saturday, 12 July 2014 06:58


THURSDAY 10th JULY: Park Avenue. Warm and sunny.
ABERYSTWYTH TOWN 0 DERRY CITY 5 (Europa League, 1st Qualifying Round, 2nd Leg)
Just like last week, the quest to watch a Welsh team representing their country means a long journey west, to a distant edge of the country from my midweek base in Birmingham. Actually, getting to Aberystwyth from Birmingham is a little bit easier than getting there from within Wales, certainly from home in Cardiff: I'm able to catch a lunchtime train that is heading all the way to the Cambrian coast, although for Aber there's a change of trains in Machynlleth.

And, also like last week, the train journey is one of the most scenic in Wales, through the gentle countryside of Mid Wales, then along the Dovey estuary and the coast to Aber. I don't think I'll ever be able to pass through the final stop, Borth, without thinking of the atmospheric Welsh police drama 'Hinterland' - its magnificent old railway station starred in one memorable episode of the recent series.

Arriving in Aberystwyth by late afternoon, there's time to drop my bags and go for a stroll around the town. The seafront and castle ruins are at their best in this glorious weather, and locals and visitors are enjoying the sun, the beach and ice-creams. Already around town it's easy to spot small knots of Derry fans, resplendent in their distinctive red and white candy-striped shirts. The more sedate of them are exploring Aberystwyth, but the noisiest have turned The Old Station Wetherspoons into an Irish bar for the afternoon; their singing causes a few worried glances from the mostly elderly locals and holidaymakers near the station. I doubt if many even realise there's a match tonight - when I checked into my hotel the owner had no idea.

Published in Football
Sunday, 06 July 2014 07:18


Thursday 3rd July 2014, The Book People Stadium, Nantporth. Sun, wind and drizzle.
AIRBUS UK BROUGHTON 1 FH HAUGESUND 1 (UEFA Europa League 1st Qualifying Round, 1st Leg)
While most of the football world is watching and talking about the World Cup (although it's a non-match day in Brazil today), in a number of European football outposts the focus is on European competition. Three of our Welsh teams are in action tonight - Aberysywyth Town and Bangor City away and Airbus at home, although as the Broughton side cannot use their own Airfield ground, nor Wrexham's Racecourse, they're actually playing over 60 miles west of home, at Bangor's ground. Inconvenient for their supporters, and in fact for me too: the logistics of arranging trips to these games, at short notice, during the working week are bad enough, but Bangor is a long way both from home and work. Given more notice (longer between draw and games) I might have managed to arrange a trip to Derry for Aberystwyth's away leg, but Bangor's just about possible, by taking the afternoon off and making a hasty getaway after the game.

Published in Football

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