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Thursday, 09 June 2016 07:11

Lost in France?

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My travels are over for the season. After a hectic but enjoyable May, when a massive backlog of fixtures had to be cleared, players, officials and followers of local football can at last relax.

But the irony is that for many Welsh football followers, the travels of a lifetime are just starting. A veritable invasion of France is underway, with Welsh fans heading by train, boat, car and plane towards Bordeaux, the venue for Wales's first group game in Euro2016, against Slovakia on Saturday. Several Welsh football correspondents will be there, but I'm going to watch the games on television, and prepare to resume my travels in three weeks' time, when the Welsh clubs enter the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

For those heading to Bordeaux, Lens and Toulouse for the Wales group games, having secured tickets and sorted travel and accommodation plans, there will still be a need to work out some finer details: how best to travel to the stadium ? What else is there to do while we're there? Where are the fan zones and best sports bars?

Fortunately, help is at hand. The fans won't have to find the tourist information centres, try to remember enough French or hope that English is spoken, because everything they need has been conveniently assembled on one website. GoEuro has a handy guide to each of the nine host cities, covering local information on transport, fan-zones and bars, and with links to useful tourist resources. There's even a handy city ranking, rating the cities on their attractiveness, affordability, accessibility and football cultures.

Anyone going - or already there - should have these links on their smartphone - it could make the trip smoother and even more enjoyable.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016 19:16

Graveyard of Dreams?

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TUESDAY 24th MAY - Parc Newydd, a warm, sunny evening
GIANTS GRAVE 2 YNYSYGERWN 2 (Neath League, Premier Division)
Sometimes a fixture just jumps off the page because of its significance. The climax to the Neath League title race - and its implications for promotion from West Wales to the Welsh League - have drawn attention from far and wide, and tonight's the night when it all comes to a head.

Here, then, is the proposition: the two championship rivals, Giants Grave (reigning champions) and Ynysygerwn, can each clinch the title if they win tonight. If they draw, Giants Grave have one more match after this, and the title will remain undecided. If Ynysygerwn finish top, they may automatically secure the West Wales FA's nomination to the Welsh League (although even that's a debatable point, as conflicting pyramid rules seem to exist). But if they finish second, they definitely face a play-off for promotion with the Swansea League runners-up, Team Swansea. Intriguing, no ?

Sunday, 22 May 2016 08:33

Finals & Play-offs

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I've reached the stage of the season where I'll only be tempted out by cup finals, play-offs and title deciders - no meaningless end of season fixtures for me. I've already got a short-list of probable and possible games for the next fortnight - but it was still with interest - and no little surprise - that I read an announcement by the Cardiff Combination League that their Sam Cornish Cup final would be staged on this Sunday afternoon, at Cardiff City stadium. Duly added to the list. [Article continues - click READ MORE below if not visible] 

Monday, 09 May 2016 08:47

Final after final...

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FRIDAY 6th MAY - Alyn Park, dry and overcast.
RHOSTYLLEN 2 ASTON PARK RANGERS 0 (Horace Wynne Cup final)

& SATURDAY 7th MAY - Afoneitha, humid and hazy.
LLANUWCHLLYN 3 CEFN ALBION 2 (Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division One Cup

A third trip to north-east Wales in the space of a week - maximising use of an Arriva Trains rover - means another couple of cup finals, starting at Mold Alex's ground - a venue I haven't visited since the early 1990s. The ground is recognisable, although the stand and the adjacent iron shelter weren't here then, nor the clubhouse building near the entrance gate (much smarter on the inside than outside).  [article continues, click on Read More below if not visible]

Friday, 06 May 2016 08:02

"3-0 to the Rhondda Boys"

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WEDNESDAY 4th MAY - The White Tips Stadium, mild dry evening
CARDIFF AIRPORT 0 TREBANOG 3 (South Wales FA Intermediate Cup final)
The weather has been unusually kind for one of the SWFA's showpiece finals, for it's a dry and pleasant evening half-way up a Taff Vale mountainside at Treforest's compact White tips Stadium. And a large crowd has turned out too, steadily filing through the clubhouse to the ground, handing over £2 for a card programme on their way (it's good that the SWFA produce a programme for the final, so many leagues and associations don't).

The final pits two local league champions against each other, Rhondda double winners Trebanog meeting Vale of Glamorgan double winners Cardiff Airport. The Rhondda contingent seems to be the larger, and certainly the noisier, with chants of "Tre-, Tre-, Trebanog" ringing out from the start of the game. And the fans' enthusiasm is clearly matched by the Trebanog players, in their navy kit with distinctive hooped socks, as they hurl themselves with 100% commitment into early challenges. It's an effective tactic, as the early action is mostly dominated by Trebanog, the Airport players having no time to settle on the ball and consequently conceding possession and territory.  [article continues, click Read More below if not visible]

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