Like grandfather like grandson

Graham Jenkins and Liam Cullen Those younger footballing people in Pembrokeshire who support Swansea City and are delighted to see Kilgetty’s Liam Cullen emerging in the Swans’ first team might not know that his amazing scoring feats throughout the time he first played for The Cygnets as an eight year old more or less mirror those of his grandfather, Graham Jenkins.
‘Jenks’ also set out at eight years of age, scored goals for fun throughout his teen years, had a season apiece with Swansea City and Cardiff City, and was offered a three-year contract at Elland Road with Leeds United – but he turned it down because he was very much a Pembrokeshire boy and hated the thought of not being with his family and friends.
“Things were different in those days,” Graham admitted, “and I’d already had a taste of the travel with Cardiff and Swansea and knew it wasn’t for me.

Different time – and training attitudes

“That is the major difference between Liam and me because he was always totally focussed and even now stays behind to put in extra training sessions whereas I wasn’t fussed on the hard graft and just wanted to play.
“He’s amazing and deserves a big reward and I look back on my playing for Pembroke Borough and Carew and have no regrets because it was a different time and there wasn’t quite the same care for youngsters.”
There is no doubt that Graham Jenkins was one of the top goals scorers ever to come out of Pembrokeshire in his younger days, both in Pembrokeshire and Welsh League, resulting in the chances to play at a high level,  and a Welsh under 19s cap – and as Liam Cullen’s grandfather he is understandably proud of Liam’s achievements.

Graham Jenkins presented the Guardian Cup by Emrys Inker

Both could score goals for fun as a nipper!

“Liam has shown total commitment from the time he was about eight years old and like me was scoring goals for fun; but I was just happy to play locally and wasn’t the best trainer – but I certainly knew how to score goals.”
That is something of an understatement because the striker known to all as ‘Jenks’ caught the eye at eight years of age when he scored EIGHT goals in a 12-4 win against Milford Central School and picked up a Wiltshire Youth Cup runners-up medal at 12 years old as his team lost to the under 18s from Hakin United.
Graham told us,
“I first really saw Liam play in a match for The Cygnets against Yeovil Town when he was nine and he scored a scorcher from 20 years out and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand out.
“From then on he had to attend training four nights a week and had matches every weekend and he never missed a session as my daughter Louise and her husband Brian Cullen were fantastic – and if they were unable to make the trip then my wife Rose and I stepped in.

From there he moved to Swansea, stayed with a family and went to school in Pontardawe.
Even now that he’s in the Swansea first team he often stays behind for extra training sessions for things like taking free kicks.”

Graham JenkinsHat-tricks for fun – and Welsh League goals galore

Graham also scored goals in his early teens and 14 he helped Pembroke Borough win the first division of the Pembrokeshire League alongside veterans of the calibre Billy Reed, both Tony Scourfields, Ray Asparassa, Barry Stubbs, Mal Morris, Brian Manwaring and David Morris; all of whom had been very good Welsh League players in their prime.
And when The Boro travelled to Narberth for a senior cup tie he slammed home 12 goals! Small wonder then that Joe Vernon, the Pembrokeshire League secretary who reported on local football in the old ‘West Wales Guardian’, wrote,
“Jenkins scores hat-tricks and more like other players score single goals.”
He eventually made his debut in the Welsh League at London Road when he was 15 and in his first full season at that level certainly made his mark in the traditional local derby matches against Milford United as he found the net five times in an 8-2 home win and added a hat-trick when the teams met at Marble Hall.

Jenks turns down a chance whilst Liam has certainly taken his!

As a nipper he spent a year each with Cardiff City and Swansea City and was eventually offered a contract at Elland Road with Leeds United.
“Youngsters today might not understand that but it was a different world then.  I had already had two years of non-stop travel ‘up the line’ and wasn’t allowed to play with my mates – and I wasn’t the best trainer so after talking it over with my dad Gwyn I decided to stay home and enjoy playing here.”
Graham recalls that when Liam was 13 he played against Exeter City and his two goals took him to the century mark for the Cygnets – and at that same age he played for Swansea under 23s against Haverfordwest County on The Bridge Meadow.
“I couldn’t go to the game but a local sports reporter called Bill Carne phoned me up to tell me that Liam had just scored a cracking goal!”
The next occasion that Graham’s belief in Liam was even more heightened came when Liam was 14 and he was selected for the Welsh under 16s against Scotland in Aberystwyth and showed his nose for goals with a delightful chip from 25 yards.
“That was some skill,” ‘Jenks’ told us.

Welsh recognition for grandfather and grandson

‘Jenks’ marked his 18th birthday with two goals for The Boro as they beat Merthyr Town 4-2 – and that same season he was thrilled to be chosen for the Welsh Under 19s team to play England at Ninian Park.
“I had to go to loads of trials and was taken to them by my dad and Frankie Donovan, the local footballing ‘legend’ who looked after me so well at London Road.
“We drew 3-3 and it was fantastic that I was presented with my cap by another amazing personality in Welsh Football in Des Shanklin, alongside Ivor Pursey from the Welsh FA.”
Liam has, of course, played for Wales at under 16, 17, 19, 20 and 23 levels and has 60 caps and 18 goals as his reward, with 11 of those Welsh appearances coming for the under 23s – and he’s still only 20 now!
“I think Liam’s greatest achievement in those matches was being part of the Welsh under 16 team which became the first since 1948/49 to win the Victory Shield competition against Scotland, England and Northern Ireland – and our whole family was in Belfast as he scored the winning goal!”

‘Jenks’ has a season with The Bluebirds and steps back down to Pembrokeshire football at Carew

Graham did have one season at Haverfordwest County and played alongside famous players like Ivor Allchurch and Mel Charles but he confessed,
“I didn’t really settle because there were only a few local players and we had to travel to train in Swansea, which I didn’t enjoy.”
When he stepped down from Welsh League football he joined Carew and in his time there helped them to five Senior Cup Finals and several league titles.
“I loved playing with real characters up front like Peter Hall and Dai Sefton, who helped me score 50+ goals every season I was there alongside other quality players like Martin Cole, Mike Allen, the two Tony Scourfields, and David Morris.”

Martin Cole and Graham Jenkins

Liam starts to shine at a higher level

Of course Liam has, unlike grandad, played for just one club and a major step forward for him came a year ago when he played his last game for Swansea City under 23s against Everton and as they won 4-0 he scored them all!
“He came back to find Swansea had extended his contract for another two years and instead of training with the youngsters he found himself in the senior squad.
Liam made his senior debut on the 28th August 2018 against Crystal Palace in a 1-0 defeat and after a couple of other appearances in the subs’ role made his first Championship League match appearance in a 1-1 draw against Preston North End – and a huge highlight came in the final game of last campaign when he scored the third goal in a 4-1 victory over Reading that helped The Swans gain promotion on goal difference!
He’s now made three starts at this level after his full debut came in a good 1-0 against Rotherham and he was due to start up front in the recent FA Cup third round match at Stevenage but had only recently recovered from Covid 19 and so the manager decided he should start as a sub and came on for goal-scorer Wayne Routledge after 64 minutes.

Graham Jenkins  - was also a top cricketerAnd finally . . .

Small wonder that grandad Graham is thrilled about Liam’s progress since he is still only 20 and ready for any work needed to establish a regular place. The pair are great pals but they do have one major point of disagreement - ‘Jenks’ has been a confirmed Cardiff City supporter for as long as he can remember whilst there is no doubt where Liam’s allegiance is!
  • Editor’s note: It is also worth recording the fact that both are also keen cricketers, with Liam having excellent batting skills and Graham having a bat which allowed him to bludgeon a heap of runs for Kilgetty and make him one of the most feared run-makers of his time.
  • But Liam would have to give way to granddad in this area at the moment – and we’ll be featuring Graham Jenkins’ cricketing exploits in the nearby future!