Sporting Snippets - Part 26

‘Coddie’ was a tough guy on the field – and could carry coal like a man possessed!

John CoddTalk about hard men in local football in the past and the name of John Codd would surely be in the top five – but he was also as mentally strong as he was when he was centre half for a terrific Johnston team, as the following little story told!
Big John Codd was as hard as nails in his long service at the heart of Johnston’s defence in one of the most successful eras the club has known: very strong in the air, a thunderous tackle but also able to distribute the ball far better than he was ever given credit for.

‘Coddie’ loved a challenge and when he heard that a Pembroke ABC boxer called Mike Morrison (another great character) had raised money for charity as he carried a hundredweight sack of coal from Bethany Corner in Pembroke Dock to The Lion Hotel in Pembroke and back, a tortuous route that included a couple fearsome hills, John decided he could beat Mike’s amazing time.

He smashed Mike’s time but what made it even more amazing was the fact that he did it on a Sunday morning after ‘The Tigers’ had won a West Wales Cup match in Swansea the previous day when the bus arrived back in Johnston around 4am!

I had taught Big John in Milford Haven Central School and so I was delighted to follow his progress and he looked in good shape when he climbed the Darklyn Hill from the Mill Pond Bridge to The Lion Hotel.

But then he had to make the return trek via the much longer Bush Hill and I drove to Bethany Corner expecting him to slow down – but if anything he increased his pace and arrived far quicker than I anticipated.

It was one of the feats of strength I witnessed that I will never forget – and further increased my admiration for a former student whose bark was definitely worse than his bite!

John was a top boxing official – and ace quiz contestant on sport!

John PhillipsLooking back through our archives on amateur boxing we came across an article we had written about Narberth’s John Phillips, who made an outstanding contribution to amateur boxing but was also as knowledgeable a man about sporting facts as anyone I have ever met, before or since then!
John Phillips has been an amazing servant of amateur boxing in this county, across Wales and in top events like the UK, European and World Championships, only missing out by a whisker in travelling to The Olympics by the fact that the officials were chosen at that time by a quota system, rather than on ability.

In his long and distinguished career he reffed at almost 17,000 bouts and was also in charge of tournaments in his later days – but he also had an encyclopaedic memory for sporting facts and figures, as he showed when he once appeared on ‘Double Your Money’ with Hughie Green.

John flew through the questions to answer the one that took him to £1,000 but the route to win the top prize of £64,000 was blocked because someone was already on the way to big bucks!

Mackie takes another dive

Mackie HartsMackie Harts was up to his antics again recently as he has made a successful transition from playing football for Lawrenny Seconds to becoming a respected referee . . .
It seems that our old friend Mackie Harts is still trying to run backwards as a new referee but not always proving successful with those little legs of his – and his latest tumble came at Lamphey, who were entertaining St Clears.

Prior to the start he had both teams chuckling because he was standing in the centre circle, whistle in hand, when he suddenly realised he had left the match ball in his changing room and had to put up with comments from supporters as he trotted back to fetch the ball.

Even worse happened when he tried to follow play in reverse at some speed and Lamphey manager John Donnachie and his smashing wife Jill joined others in awarding Mackie 5.9 out of 6 for his ‘reverse dive’.

One Lamphey supporter told us, rather cruelly, that it was the second time that they had to repair the divots this campaign but he agreed, like everyone else I spoke to there, that Mr Harts had a very good game in the middle!

Riath learned lots from his mentor Gordon . . .

If you read the sports pages in the ‘Daily Mail’ on Wednesday, 30th September 2020 you would have seen a comprehensive report of the Tottenham Hotspur versus Chelsea match in the Carabao Cup where Spurs won a tense 5-4 penalty shoot-out after the teams were locked on 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Writing that excellent report which covered all aspects of the tie, including Eric Dier nipping off the pitch to go to the toilet and being chased back by Jose Mourinho, who also fell out with opposing manager Frank Lampard, was Riath Al-Samarrai, who originally hails from Haverfordwest.

Riath has become a superb feature writer who has interviewed some world-famous personalities but also loves his football and writes colourful reports – and it is great that he is proud of his roots at The Western Telegraph, where he says he learned so much from the Sports Editor, Gordon Thomas.

When asked to provide us with a couple of stories for ‘Sporting Snippets’ in the past he has been delighted to relate some of the funny stories about the larger than life characters he has encountered – and really is a top man, in and out of work!

Riath and Gordon

. . . But Gordon’s not so good on gardening

Gordon Thomas has been an outstanding sports editor at the ‘Western Telegraph’ for many years after being a superb rugby player with Wales Youth (where he was captain), Llanelli, Tenby United and Haverfordwest, as well as being an excellent footballer with Merlins Bridge and Prendergast Villa, and a more than useful athlete.

Hugely respected across the sporting community, Gordon’s first mention in ‘Sporting Snippets’ came when he was a compositor on the old ‘West Wales Guardian’, and just moved into his new home with wife Diane and baby son Josh . . . who also became a talented all-round sportsman . . .
Gordon Thomas has earned his sporting reputation in rugby and football but it seems his skills do not yet extend to horticultural matters.

Flushed with enthusiasm, Gordie decided to lay a new lawn for his young son Josh to play on - and all went well with his debut in gardening with the digging and raking of his soon-to-be lawn.

He was carefully applying the grass seed when his neighbour popped his head over the fence to ask what he was doing and Gordie said he was just putting the finishing touches for his new lawn – and his neighbour almost choked with laughter before telling Mr T that what he was applying wasn’t in fact grass seed but ‘Growmore’ fertiliser for the brightly-coloured box!

Gordon vowed that his faux pas would never escape but a friend from the ‘Guardian’ let the cat out of the bag and he’s been told there to focus more on his rugby, and leave the skilful gardening stuff to old timers who know what they are doing!