Let there be light – Port Talbot 2 Airbus Broughton 2

 Port Talbot: the dramatic soul of Wales and  producer of Michael Sheen, Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins.

And today, unwanted football drama as visiting director of football Andy Preece threatened to take his team off the pitch after he was called a black bastard.

Freakishly, I happened to be walking past the dugout at the point when the insult was hurled his way. I heard the words ‘Black bastard’ loud and clear, and wished I hadn’t.

It registered strongly because I hadn’t notice any black people at the game on the pitch and hadn’t examined who was on the bench.

I looked up and Mr Preece, in the away dugout area, was clearly engaged in an exchange with a man, 55-60, standing not far from the dugout, in the stand.

I moved on, out of earshot of the arguing pair, to photograph the Port Talbot ultras’ flag, and noticed that the game had come to a halt.

 It wasn’t immediately clear why but the referee was dealing with the Airbus bench and players from both sides for perhaps two minutes before Mr Preece pointed out a spectator, who had moved from his original position and this man, in a Swansea City coat, was escorted from the ground.

The FAW delegate to the game, who looked like he’d wished he had never turned up, told me Mr Preece had threatened to take his players off the field.

Just to be clear, I witnessed no other person abusing Mr Preece and have no allegiance to either club playing in this match. I was there as a ‘groundhopping’ spectator.

So there you have it – how one person can turn what had been an enjoyable day out into a heart-sinking fiasco.

The game kicked off at 5.20pm and ended nearly two-and-a-half hours later because, believe it or not, that wasn’t the only drama. You might even call it quite a good game if it didn’t have the reek of racial abuse attached to it.

The floodlights failed after about 37 minutes and it took 20 minutes for that to be rectified.

By this time, it was 1-1, Broughton took the lead and their keeper knocked a corner into his own net.

Some highlights

Call me mad, call me sad, call me twat and you’d be right – but I’d wanted to visit Port Talbot for a while to take in the game and the industrial scenery. It’s just like Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, you know, before the Ukrainians and Russians started shelling each other.

The video doesn’t show any of the flashpoint between Mr Preece and spectator – it has two goals and a penalty save on it. Former Welsh international Brian Flynn was among the spectators.

The Port Talbot ultras were surprisingly boisterous and amusing for the most part and that helped create a good atmosphere.

And the lowpoints

Well I’ve filled you in on Mr Preece’s contretemps and the more I think about it the more I understand why he would not let this go.

The second-half was clearly eventful.

Challenges had been getting more robust as the half wore on and you could sense the needle building and it was clear a sending-off was on the cards.

Broughton’s Ryan Wignall was the offender and as he trailed off looked bewildered by the punishment for his lunge. Here’s why, butty: it was stupid, it was bit late, it was dangerous.

The abuse of his dire or of football followed shortly after.

Port Talbot’s Jonathan Hood was later sent off for a similar lunge. With the ref clearly in ultra-tough  mode, it was silly. Two goals were also scored, one by each side but by then, as a neutral, the charms of the visit had totally worn off and, frankly, who cared?

People may well blame the refs – fans usually do. But here in Steeltown he brought steel balls to some of the most difficult situations I’ve ever witnessed at a game. Many would have crumbled. Next Saturday, he either deserves double money or a weekend off. I hope he got out all right.

He gave a controversial  penalty on the linesman’s say-so (it was saved), sent two players off (don’t bother appealing lads), booked the local crowd favourite for diving and the outcome of the Airbus threat to quit was handled in such a way that the match actually finished when perhaps it might have been abandoned. He probably couldn’t get out of town fast enough.

A terrible advert for the Welsh Premier League and in a town which needs all the good news it can get – as  Tata Steel are about to announce more redundancies in an area where jobs are scarce.

I say again, only one fan was responsible and no other Port Talbot supporters, that I saw, misbehaved. So please don’t conflate this into a problem the club has.

But boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, wish I’d gone to Carmarthen-Rhyl instead.

 

 

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