My trip to the Liberty Stadium with two top blokes

Fraser Watson, Gordon Thomas and Bill Carne.

If you know a sports reporter or two in Pembrokeshire who try to tell you what hard lives they have then remind them that they have a few perks in the process of work, not least in the fact they sometimes they can go in the press box at well-known venues like The Liberty Stadium or Parc y Scarlets, be fed, watered and mingle with the great and the good.

Earlier this week I was honoured to go with two of them to watch Swansea City draw with Blackburn Rovers and we sat in the press gallery (not a proper press box) with supporters all around us but being able to enjoy the relative comfort we had pre-match, at half time and even when the players left the field and we were able to all meet with Swans’ manager Steve Cooper for his thoughts on the game.

Swansea City manager Steve Cooper talks to the press

Brilliant pre-match welcome

Match programme, team line-ups and press passBut first the pre-match stuff, where we were registered for parking and after a short stroll to the ground we turned up at the press gate to be greeted by a lovely feller called Phil who gave us our passes and programmes before a 10-metre walk to the press room, where the aroma of chicken curry and rice wafted across us.

Throw in ciabattas, samosas and onion bargees and it was quite a meal which one devoured with gusto and the other declined because his body is a temple!  Throw in tea, some very nice cup cakes (plain or chocolate, or both), coffee, bottled water and soft drinks and you get the picture. Oh, before I forget, there was also a special sweet stand with bags so these hard-pressed guys could fill their faces with wine gums, pastilles and some other tasty sweeties – I’m sure you get the picture.


Swansea City legend Leon Britton in the crowd

Seeing the stars in an exciting first half

On the way to our seats we saw Sir Gareth Edwards sitting in the upper tier and right behind us were Swans’ Chairman Trevor Birch and football director Leon Britton, and we also bumped into a few of the ‘Pembrokeshire Jacks’ who go to every home match.

A really tough spell on their lap tops for 45 minutes saw some excitement as Danny Graham gave the visitors a lead after three minutes and Andrew Ayew equalised for The Swans seven minutes later with a cracking header – and then it was back to the press room where there warming cups of tea and coffee, some excellent hot pies which contained turkey and cranberry (very seasonal!)

Players greet at start

Old stager advice refused

Back for an enjoyable second half where I heard the reporter next to us ask his equally young colleague for a word to describe the atmosphere, which he felt was on the over-competitive side of the spectrum.

“Fractious?” I offered timidly, using my MA in English. “Nah,” he answered, “this is for ‘The Sun’ and their readers wouldn’t know what that meant. I tried again. “Petulant?”

“That’s even worse – I wouldn’t know that word myself!”

I swear it’s true!

The final whistle went with the teams still locked on 1-1 and off went the lap tops before back we trod to the press room. Sadly no food this time (I was disappointed now because I had grown use to the treats!) but eventually out came Steve Cooper to answer questions.

A lovely earnest bloke, he felt the ref wasn’t brilliant, The Swans might have had two penalties (I agreed there) and neither team’s red card was deserved (Not quite so sure of that one!)

Action between Swansea City and Blackburn Rovers

Final goodbyes to round off a great night

Then there were a few goodbyes to the likes of Steve’s dad Keith, who was a top-class referee in his time, and Mike Davies, who was actually brought up in the same street where I was born (Oxford Street, Treforest, near Pontypridd), and knew my late Auntie Violet and her daughter Julie!)

After this clear case of ‘Small Worlds’ . . . it was back to the car for the trip home.

We got home just before midnight and I was tired but happy – and had to tell these intrepid gatherers of sports news for their living – Can I go with them again please when there’s a floodlit match involving The Swans – or even a slightly shorter trip to see my local hero Rob Evans scoring tries for Llanelli RFC!