All you need is love: Cyprus 0 Wales 1

EF843944-542E-422C-B397-B2E7B324BAB6You-know-who put us in tantalising touching distance of Euro 2016 – guest post by ALAN LEWIS (@ABERTEIFI_) who was smitten by what he saw 

A land of never-ending sunshine, olive groves, amber nectar and all the kebabs you can eat.

The place where Aphrodite, goddess of love and dazzling beauty, emerges from the foam of the sea enchanting anyone who sees her.

Continue reading All you need is love: Cyprus 0 Wales 1

Hampden Spark – Scotland 1 Wales 2

 

 Staring up into the sky at Hampden was to be mesmerised by nature.

Dancing, darting, dazzling snow swirled in the floodlights like a billion fireflies.

It cavorted up, down and sideways before descending slowly and settling gently, apologetically, on your clothes or face. No cheek-chafing sting from this ‘blizzard’ – the flake caressed your skin, it felt like your mum dabbing dirt from your face with a wet hanky.

You’d think these would have been the worst conditions to watch a game in and, had we lost, maybe you’d be right.

But the snow, the difficulties it caused and the sheer thrill of Hampden meant it was like no other Welsh win I’ve witnessed on the road.

Hampden Park. For me, the most glorious mecca of football in Britain. Yes, even better than Kenilworth Road. Always wanted to go. The lore of the famous roar. Di Stefano. Real Madrid. 7-3. Jimmy Johnstone. Haggis and ‘chupps’ £3.80 in the chippie next to the ground.
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Weather-wise, the closest rival to this match was the Bulgarian blizzard in 1995 when the Sofia pitch was cleared, 65,000 crammed in, teenagers were mainlining heroin in the bar next to the ground – here it was Irn Bru that was being ingested – and Ryan Giggs was pelted with an avalanche of snowballs every time he took a corner, sparking police charges into the locals to disperse the culprits. We lost 3-1.

Standing in our end, we shifted constantly, like a horde of penguins nursing their eggs, to keep warm.

The game was nearly thrown away in the first 25 minutes and nervy Scots did everything bar score an own goal to make it easy for us. Rarely have Wales looked classy. But that was the appropriate word.

Then of course Hanley’s opener looked like it would turn Scotland round and the obvious gulf in class appeared to be temporary by half-time.
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We took refuge from the fast-melt flakes on the concourse above the seats.

Half-time ‘entertainment’ was provided as a leading Keep Cardiff Blue campaigner was accosted by a Redbirds supporter.

Repeatedly pushing the victim (a friend of mine) he kept up a goading cascade of vicious bile, trying to provoke a fight. “You anti-Cardiff English cunt,” he snarled, wholly inaccurately, in his face from two inches, before my pal headed back for his seat. No punches thrown but a rare sour note.

Cardiff idiots have occasionally targeted other Welsh club’s fans at Wales games. This took the biscuit.

It didn’t get any better. Bale was off, though he hadn’t been brilliant. The Tartan terrors next to us roared their delight.

And unlikely heroes sprang from the sleet to join the roll call of honour. Our own heroes of Hampden.

Gunter and Robson-Kanu can’t be classed in the same galaxy as Di Stefano but both had marvellous games – Gunter back to his best of three/four years ago with a sporrantastic surge and cross to win the game-changing penalty.

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RK got the winner in style after Jonny Williams (isn’t ‘Joniesta’ the worst nickname ever in Welsh football?) and Andy King (presumably known as ‘Kingy’, which wouldn’t be far off Williams’s ranking).

All over and time time to reflect. Glasgow, one of the great football cities of the world. The sport enhances the city and the sectarian rivalry poisons it.

Great players adorn its history.

I can remember Gordon Strachan in his pomp – a one-man riot of small-man chippiness. He was in the same squad as David Speedie, whose visible agitation made him stand out every time he played. Only gabbling Gascoigne ever matched him for watchability. It was like there were more molecules, including ones that have yet to be discovered, inside Speedie fighting each other to get out and express themselves.

Souness, well let’s go there briefly – no one in the world has matched his ogre-like presence since Roy Keane retired. A man who would happily look the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the eye before setting about them with extravagant, moustachioed glee.
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And now the Scots are rock bottom. They must be, because they’ve been badly beaten by us – Wales, for God’s sake – four times in the last ten years. You have to laugh.

This week the Kelvingrove ARt Gallery opens a six-month exhibition “More than a Game – How Scotland shaped world football.’ Shame it didn’t start a week earlier as I’d love to have seen it.
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It’s almost a recognition that there’s not much else to offer. You have to cry.

Strachan afterwards did a good line in gallows humour. To paraphrase one of the papers I read: “I slept three hours. I didn’t say anything to Snodgrass. He couldn’t have felt worse than he already looked. I should have invited him into my room – we could have just sat there for hours, saying nothing.”

At the end I feared some locals might be a bit miffed after the game. They looked a bit cranky.

But they trooped out dejectedly. Not angrily so, as though they had expected to be dejected and came well prepared for a bitter setback. It was a bit like us after a lot of Wales games. No one bitched or sought excuses. All, like Strachan and Snodgrass, saying nothing. As silent and benign as the snow.

Fortunately there was to be no Glasgow Kiss, just Glasgow bliss.

Phil Olyott, founder of the Wales away fans' team and now living in New Zealand , at the pre-match game. We lost 7-1
Phil Olyott, founder of the Wales away fans’ team and now living in New Zealand , at the pre-match game. We lost 7-1