Sporting Snippets - Part 27

Danny Thomas, Pedr McMullen and Graham Shepherd 

Referees’ trio better than ‘last of the Summer Wine’!

If you were to ask me for the three greatest characters I have been lucky to meet in Pembrokeshire Football’s refereeing circles I would have no hesitation in nominating Danny Thomas, Pedr McMullen and Graham Sheppard, who all officiated at around the same time in our county as well as travelling as a trio for Welsh League games up the line.

The stories that they gave me about these treks along the M4 corridor were amazingly funny in the Eastgate Hotel in Pembroke on Saturday evenings were amazing.

Pedr had a sporty-type car they jammed themselves into and one of its many idiosyncrasies was the fact that when you put the car into reverse gear the radio came on.

They also got into loads of scrapes (no Sat Navs in those days!) where they used to get lost in the Rhondda Valleys so always left early – and odd bits of forgotten kit were left at home.

But above all there was a great camaraderie amongst Danny, ‘Shep’ and ‘Welsh Willie’ – and they have remained great friends despite all being close to their 80s now and we have been lucky to have their like in Pembrokeshire Sport for so long!

George North, Fraser Watson and Sam Warburton

Special day for The Saints at The Vale

I was once lucky enough to travel with St Davids RFC to the Welsh Rugby Union headquarters in the Vale of Glamorgan where they had won a special day out as a prize.

Let me explain: Someone from St Davids had spotted a competition in a Welsh national newspaper asking rugby fans to nominate their team if it was thought they would most benefit from a special day with some of the WRU’s staff coaches alongside having two top international players to help out.

The St Davids team was duly nominated and to their utter surprise they received a letter inviting them to enjoy a special day which also included the provision of the bus and some food!

As well as some very experienced staff coaches they were thrilled as they found Wales skipper Sam Warburton showing them how to ‘jackal’ properly and top winger George North demonstrating the way to twist out of tackles. Both really made everyone welcome and posed afterwards for photographs, including this one with top sports writer Fraser Watson, until they were whisked away by a rather bossy lady who was the only one who didn’t seem to enjoy herself.

Everything Sam and George did was put to the test in small match situations and there was a great intensity and some sheer joy from all The Saints’ squad, with a few obligatory stops on the way home at a few hostelries.

Chris Tansey, Paul Jones and Andrew Postlethwaite

Three of the Vikings’ stars pop up at The Bridge Meadow Stadium

On one occasion at the Bridge Meadow Stadium it was great to bump into three of the great characters who have served Hakin United so splendidly as Chris Tansey, Paul Jones and Andrew Postlethwaite were watching their second team in a cup final.

‘Tans’ set the target for other successful managers to follow at The Obs as he followed a long spell as a player by taking over the reins as manager and winning an amazing SEVEN league titles and FIVE Senior Cups. Not content with that little lot, he also managed them in victory in the West Wales Intermediate Cup and also took charge on the touchline when for another West Wales Cup success when Colin Fawcett took over as manager but played in the final.

‘Jonah’ was a remarkable goal-scorer who was so good that he won the ‘West Wales Guardian Cup’ as top scorer in division one on at least NINE occasions and he also scored the winner in a West Wales Final, as well as gaining a Senior Cup Final hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Merlins Bridge where he touched he the winner in the last seconds.

‘Possie’ was once described to me by manager Tansey that he was ‘the complete footballer’ who could play full back, sweeper, midfield or up front, where he scored some fantastic goals, not least in a win at Carew where he spotted the home custodian off his line from the first kick-off and almost casually hit a goal from 50 yards! He also helped coach for a while but as a fireman in a specialist role he had to travel all over South Wales and so football was the loser with this last one of a smashing trio!

David Hughes and Paul Merson

Merson made me laugh as one of the best speakers I’ve heard

David Hughes did a wonderful job over many years as chairman of Haverfordwest County and even today, now that he has stepped down, is still helping out there in any way he can. His role there had many important parts but one aspect that rarely receives a mention was his ability to get top footballers to attend the club’s annual dinners.

Prior to his involvement The Bluebirds had World Cup winner Nobby Stiles as a wonderful guest and when David took over the reins we were treated to the attendance of the likes of John Charles (still rated in my age group as the best Welsh player ever), Peter Lorimer, Dion Dublin, Mark Delaney, Duncan McKenzie (fantastic at imitating Brian Clough), Steve Staunton, Chris Coleman and John Toshack.

Dave’s philosophy was simple but definitely worked – he obtained their phone numbers and gave them a ring!

Most of them were brilliant but Paul Merson was amazing in his honesty and some of the sagas relating to him and Paul Gascoigne when they played together at Middleborough would make your hair curl – definitely not ones to let anyone squeamish hear.


Mike showed them our Pembrokeshire rugby talent in Bridgend

Mike GriffithsOne of the best rugby fairy tales came about when Neyland scrum half Mike Griffiths wrote to Bridgend  RFC asking for a trial and eventually finished up playing for them, Llanelli, Tenby United and finally back with the Pembrokeshire All Blacks in a glittering career.

Easily one of the most modest and likeable men I have ever met in sport, Mike turned up and it was ages before he was called on to play at No 8 (that was another Mike Griffiths) – but when he eventually pulled on the No 9 shirt he scored two tries and was quickly signed up by Bridgend officials.

Going to watch him at matches was a real treat because the bus left Neyland, picked me up at the Silcox Roundabout in Pembroke Dock and I joined in a trip alongside Mike Hughes, Harry Howells and all the Griffiths’ family on a laugh-a-minute night.

Mike’s parents ran their bakery in Neyland and there were loads of pies, pasties, sausage rolls and other tit-bits baked for the evening matches at the Brewery Field – and the cost of travel and food was £2!

Then Mike moved on to Llanelli and his outstanding moment came when he played against the touring All Blacks at Stradey Park – and another wonderful evening was enjoyed by us all.

He also played superbly well for Tenby United as they were the top side in Pembrokeshire and returned to the Athletic Field in Neyland to round off his playing days.

He can still be seen there for the annual final of The Griffiths Cup, presented by him or sister Jennifer in memory of a great rugby family, with his dad Dennis just one of six brothers who played for Neyland RFC!