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Sunday, 15 August 2021 17:33

A Swansea Treble

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WEEKEND 13-14th AUGUST: Swansea Quartet Trio

There has been a distinct west Wales theme to my early season travels, and it continues into another weekend when Groundhop UK’s Chris Berezai, an exiled Jack, rings to say he’s coming down and suggests teaming up for some Swansea fixtures over the Friday and Saturday. After a bit of planning and research, we even have a quartet of games pencilled in…

Monday, 19 July 2021 18:41

Sevens

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SATURDAY 17th JULY. Onllwyn Welfare Ground, sweltering.
SEVEN SISTERS ONLLWYN 7 GURNOS FC 1 (FAW Amateur Trophy, Round 1)

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A huge fixture list for the opening round of the trophy meant there were literally too many options to choose from. Ideas have changed during the week too – at one point a number of groundhopping friends were planning to meet at Mumbles Rangers today. I had my doubts – on a hot summer Saturday the entire population of south Wales tends to head along the slow Swansea Bay road to Mumbles and the Gower. But this fixture fell foul of a withdrawal and so the meet up was off. Back to my own instincts, I’m heading somewhere where none of those sun- and beach-seeking families will be heading: the top of the Dulais valley, famed for opencast mines.

Monday, 19 July 2021 18:41

Sevens

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SATURDAY 17th JULY. Onllwyn Welfare Ground, sweltering.
SEVEN SISTERS ONLLWYN 7 GURNOS FC 1 (FAW Amateur Trophy, Round 1)

A huge fixture list for the opening round of the trophy meant there were literally too many options to choose from. Ideas have changed during the week too – at one point a number of groundhopping friends were planning to meet at Mumbles Rangers today. I had my doubts – on a hot summer Saturday the entire population of south Wales tends to head along the slow Swansea Bay road to Mumbles and the Gower. But this fixture fell foul of a withdrawal and so the meet up was off. Back to my own instincts, I’m heading somewhere where none of those sun- and beach-seeking families will be heading: the top of the Dulais valley, famed for opencast mines.

Sunday, 04 July 2021 09:34

A Football Homecoming

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SATURDAY 3rd JULY 2021. Ruabon Recreation Ground: mild, cloudy, thundery.
RUABON ROVERS 2 BRYMBO LODGE 1 (North East Wales League, Championship Division)

It’s a Saturday, and I’m going to a proper grassroots football match. Until early 2020, that would have been an unremarkable and unnecessary statement – it’s what I did just about every Saturday. But the last time was 490 days ago (February 2020) and so today it is worth saying, and celebrating.

In fact, there is more to today’s trip to north Wales than my own personal ‘return to normality’. Something even more important is being restored today – football is returning to Ruabon. In a week when the “Football’s Coming Home” frenzy has been building across the border, here in Wales it actually is returning to its home town, the birthplace of the ‘Father of Welsh Football’ Llewellyn Kenrick, Wales’s first captain and a driving force in the creation of the FAW. Today, Ruabon Rovers, formed a year ago but unable to start until now, are playing the first competitive football match in the town for fifteen years. And I just have to be there.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020 11:41

An update - October 2020

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Blog entries have recently been in short supply. This page used to be fairly straightforward: I’d go to matches around Wales, and when I went somewhere new, or something interesting happened along the way, I’d write about it. They seem like another world now, those carefree days. Well, maybe not always that carefree on reflection, but still.

So conventional blog entries have been in short supply, and rather than leave the tumbleweed blowing across this page indefinitely, I’m writing this to give an update on what’s happening.

2020-21 has been a challenge for everyone. Actually, I’ve been relatively privileged, in being allowed to attend a few games (one Champions League, one international, and a few Cymru Premier League). They’ve all been close to home, of course, familiar venues and no groundhopping, but it’s more than many football fans have been able to do (unless they’re prepared / allowed to cross the border into England, of course, where non-league football with fans has been underway for a while, rightly or wrongly).

Since Cardiff went into local lockdown on 27th September, horizon have become even more limited: I’m fortunate Cardiff Met are in the Cymru Premier, because since then there’s no question of getting to games at Barry or Penybont. I’d hoped that games at the three south Wales clubs would see me through until further options became available either further afield or in lower tiers, but recently it’s been a case of Cyncoed Campus on repeat.

Now Wales has entered it’s 17-day ‘fire-break’ lockdown and Cardiff Met are among the Cymru Premier clubs (the majority) who won’t be playing at all. What happens after 9th November, when that lockdown period ends, remains to be seen.

Behind Closed Doors
In the circumstances, I’ve been happy to get my entertainment from games at Cardiff Met. After the goalless draw against Haverfordwest (the subject of the previous post), the visit of Connah’s Quay almost provided a shock result, and although the champions asserted late on, it was a good chance to see them at close quarters. The most recent game before the current hiatus was a visit of Flint – memorable for the first half being among the worst 45-minute spells of CPL football I’ve seen, but also thankfully for three quality goals in the second half, and a deserved home win.
Although there has been less football to watch and write about, Welsh Football magazine has continued to appear regularly since March. I know, from feedback, that’s what readers wanted. We’ll keep that going one way or another (more below on plans for the rest of this season). After all, what else is there to do?

Side Projects
In fact, there have been unexpected positives to take from what initially seemed so brutal, the withdrawal of routines and ‘normality’. The extra time on my hands undeniably led me to branch out into projects that might otherwise have remained as vague ideas.

So, we’ve experimented with a different type of publication, one that can run alongside Welsh Football magazine. It’s published digitally and will contain longer, feature material (the pilot issue contains ten essays on Lost Welsh Grounds). Please give it a go – your best option is to read it on the MatchDay digital app, although there is a limited edition print run for those who can’t, or who must have a physical copy.

Secondly, instead of bewailing the fact that there’s no art featuring Welsh grounds, I’ve done something about it and launched a competition. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Publication Schedule
Issue 225 will appear in November. It will be a couple of weeks later than intended – that’s unavoidable unfortunately, because of the effects of lockdown on our suppliers.

After that, there will be five more editions during the 2020-21 season. In a normal season, we produce on just before Christmas, and then four over the next six months. The schedule has been slipped a little this season, in the hope that there will be more domestic football to cover and feature in early 2021, though even if there isn’t, we’ll still publish. There’s always plenty of content.

So WF 226 will most likely be published in mid January – unless anything happens to disrupt that plan. Thereafter, 227 to 230 should be issued at intervals of roughly every six to seven weeks. Given the levels of uncertainty at the moment, it almost seems like tempting fate to put this out there. But I’m sure you’d rather know what the plan is.

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