Stuart MacDonald loves his football in the Milford area

Stuart - a happy family man Stuart MacDonald loves his football and has an unusual claim to fame with regard to Hakin United because he won his first title with them as a 12 year old and then 25 years later, at 37; he picked up his second as a player in the Third Division, playing for The Vikings’ second string.

Then he enjoyed three seasons as assistant manager with the first team to Kristan Bennett, where they won the first division twice and the Senior Cup on one occasion before children came along and he decided he couldn’t focus fully on his role at The Obs so stepped down.

Impromptu games at The Mount and an early start at The Obs

As a nipper Stuart loved most sports but football was always his favourite as he played on the grass outside of the Mount Estate with the likes of Anthony Boast, Scott Lewis and Mike ‘Ginty’ McCarthy, and plagued nearby occupants late into the evenings with their noisy play.

“When I was 11 I started to play for Hakin United under 12s alongside ‘Ginty’, Kristan Bennett, Shaun Mills, Gerrard Grey and Paul Chapman but quickly realised that they had so many quality players that I was likely to be a fringe player, but I just got on with things until we won the league at the end of the season.

Switch to Marble Hall in search of regular senior football

“But when we finished our under 16 age-group I knew that if I wanted regular senior football, which I did, I would have to move and crossed the Victoria Bridge to join Milford United, where I enjoyed playing for the likes of Ian Sturley and Dai Reynish.

“I made my debut for the seconds at Marble Hall in Division Five against Tish and can vividly recall an early 21-man mass brawl breaking out as the referee and I stood watching from a safe distance until we got on with the game – and a nicer memory came a little later when manager Gerald Hicks called me into the Welsh League side when they must have been a bit short and I played against BP Llandarcy.

“Gerald played me up front with Leighton Edwards and although we lost I could say that I had been a semi-professional for one match as he thrust a brown envelope in my hand afterwards, which had three crisp £5 notes tucked safely inside!”

Stuart MacDonald as a skilful player

Moving across town to join The Athletic

Stuart got a job as a lifeguard at the Meads Sports Centre in Milford Haven and football had to take a backward step because he often worked Saturday afternoons as they also took bookings for The Thornton Hall in Milford Haven School.

“But as things gradually resettled I started playing football again after bumping into Alan Frank at The Meads and he asked me to play for Milford Athletic – and after a short time to think it over I started playing at Pill Lane – and scored for the seconds on my debut at Saundersfoot.

“It proved to be my only game for the second string because team manager Simon Clarke, who was an unbelievable player, called me in the firsts and although we were relegated, we managed to climb back a few years later after Alan took over. I felt privileged to play alongside players of the calibre of Martin Robinson, Lee Nicholas, Richard Hull and Steve Parkes – and I played at right back alongside Dai ‘Boxer’ Griffiths, Adrian ‘Boo-Boo’ Hutchings and Gareth Jones forming our back four.

17 great years at Pill Lane

“I was lucky to have 17 smashing years at Pill Lane, especially when Dai Davies and Nicky Beavis were in charge. In seven of those seasons I was captain after taking over from Steve Parkes, the only break coming when I joined the Fire Service and was stationed in Milton Keynes; but when I came home I helped The Athletic win the Second Division Cup, which was great!

“There were some great characters there like Rob Hewer and Eric Alston, a Scot who became a good friend and someone from whom I learned a great deal about man management.

“I was there until I was 36 and in 2012 I was player/manager when we managed to reach the second division cup final before just missing out to Prendergast Villa, as well as coming fourth in the table.”

A chat to Daisy takes him back to The Vikings

But then a chance conversation with Daisy Picton, a stalwart of Hakin United, at the British Legion in Milford Haven, saw his footballing skills return to The Obs after a phone conversation the next day with manager Gary Dawes, saw him decide to end his playing days with The Vikings’ seconds managed by Wayne Morgan, alongside former first team stars like Paul ‘Jonah’ Jones and Jason ‘Bomber’ Morgan.

“We got promoted from the third division but if I’m honest I realised it was time to retire because I was beginning to feel the injuries more and more.

“But at the start of the next campaign I was watching a Joe Lennon Cup match when I was told Kristan Bennett wanted to talk to me – and I discovered he was taking over the reins of the first team and he wanted me to be his assistant manager.

Stuart with Kristan Bennett

Taking over the first team coaching reins

“I had no formal coaching badges and hesitated but ‘Benny’ told me to stop making excuses and have a go – so I took the plunge, with Johnny ‘Bap’ Lewis as Hon Secretary and our flag man. The three of us made a great team and have given me memories to last a lifetime, best of all I have made two of the finest friends!”

“It was brilliant that the squad gave us total support and I tried to use my playing experience to provide a structured approach to training and pre-match warm-up sessions.”

And things went well for the Bennett/MacDonald duo they won the league at their first attempt and in their second season completed the league and Senior Cup double as they slammed Clarbeston Road at the Bridge Meadow Stadium as Nicky Woodrow fired home a superb hat-trick. And Ben Fawcett was chosen as man of the match for his two goals and all-round performance.

“We just missed out on trophies in our third campaign as we came third in the league’ lost to Goodwick in the Senior Cup quarter-final and missed out on a place in the West Wales Cup Final as we lost a penalty shoot out to Merlins Bridge, who went on to win the competition.

“At this time my partner, Vicky Lloyd was expecting our daughter and so I decided I couldn’t devote enough time to my role at Hakin and concentrated on family matters. Kristan also stepped down and Scott Davies took over as a very good young manager and The Vikings won the league crown.”

Loved being involved with the Hakin Over 40s . . .

At one stage Stuart also enjoyed two seasons with the Hakin United over 40s team that was managed by Gary Dawes and Malcolm ‘Jimmy’ Jones and he readily admits it was good fun, mixed with Gary’s inspirational demand for success.

“I played at full back or out wide with quality players like Paul Jones, Nigel Armstrong, Adam Collins, Matthew Price, Richard Bland, Richard Nash and ‘Bomber’ Morgan in goal.

“We came runners up in the league both times and also lost in two consecutive cup finals which was obviously disappointing but also a great experience just to get there.

 Stuart (front centre) in the Hakin vets team

. . . And the Young Vikings too!

But Stuart still had one more memory to add to his many others when Hakin United under 16s won their third successive age-group West Wales Cup Final at Stebonheath, Llanelli, as they beat Dafen Welfare 2-0 thanks to goals from Camron Thomas and Jack Wilson as Jake Merry and Ben Fawcett were other terrific players.

“I was asked to help warm up the team pre-match by Colin Fawcett and Daisy Picton and this talented team responded superbly to all I asked and I was a very proud man that evening.

“It nicely rounded off my very enjoyable time and I thought it was the end of my coaching career but with the children starting to grow up I find I have a small amount of time on my hands and have been asked to get involved alongside an old pal.

“Nothing is decided yet but I still have that enthusiasm I had when I kicked a ball around on the Mount Estate so who knows what will happen but if I decide to take the role on I can only give one promise – and that is that I will give it 100% commitment, as I have always done as a player or coach!”