Monday 31st August 2015 ko 14.45
Welsh Alliance “Mawddach” League Cup First Round
LLANLLYFNI 4 (A.Owen 3 90 C.Parry 49 Daniels 57)
TREARDDUR BAY UNITED 1 (Moore 42)
Every single groundhop that’s ever been organised works only due to co-operation. There are different ways of putting these events together, I know one organiser that pays the away clubs to turn up, we don’t by the way, but if an away club doesn’t want to play, then putting it bluntly, there is precious little anyone can do about it.
The original idea was to start the Bank Monday at Bethesda then on to Pentraeth and finish at Penmaenmawr, but it quickly became clear that couldn’t happen. Chris Berezai emailed all the prospective clubs, and we heard nothing back from Bethesda. Chris attended the Welsh Alliance’s AGM and it became obvious that Bethesda had problems. So we switched round the planned tie so league newcomers Llanllynfi would host with Bethesda visiting. Problem solved you’d think, but that would prove to be miles from the truth.
3 weeks before the event Bethesda and Gaerwen applied for and received 2 weeks’ grace as they lacked either a manager or team. We talked to Ron Bridges at the league and he took the view that whilst Gaerwen would start the season, the problem with Bethesda was that no communications of any kind had been received from the club. With that situation we had to act.
At this point its worth commenting on one point that many hoppers and some leagues forget. By and large its straightforward to get a club to host a game on a hop, if nothing else there’s a payday involved, but getting a team to play away at odd times is much more difficult. I know the Northern League had a terrible time finding away clubs on their Easter Sunday hop games in 2014 for example.
Ron Bridges’ idea was to have Nefyn play a friendly at Llanllyfni which we rejected out of hand. I am happy to watch a friendly, but enough hoppers are not to make that idea a non-starter. With that advice ringing in Mr Bridges’ ears he approached Halkyn United to visit Llanllyfni for a Division 2 fixture. And that dear reader is where the next principle comes in.
It’s as simple as this, who runs a football club? If it’s a professional club then its the board of directors, and in the local league its the team manager, and as you rise through the ranks the power gradually shifts from one to the other. But when the club is semi-professional you get the board hiring the manager knowing that if he leaves he’ll take most of the team with him.
And that is exactly the problem Halkyn had. The board was happy to take the fixture, knowing how well the club had done from their hop game the previous year. However the manager took the opposite view, and what the league and we at GroundhopUK were faced with as we kicked off at Mochdre was a power battle and we all could do was only hope at what the outcome would be.
Eventually it fell the wrong way for us, Chris receiving the phone call from Ron Bridges as the coach pulled into Llanberis on Sunday morning. With Halkyn gone, we needed a new game and fast. The obvious answer was to look at the Friday fixture as that would allow the new visiting team maximum rest time. We looked at who had played at Llanllyfni the previous Saturday, that’s right Mochdre! Other teams turned the fixture down, seemingly forgetting the windfall they’d received when they’d hosted.
With the friendly out of equation, Ron had pulled something of a rabbit out of the hat. He phoned Trearddur Bay United literally straight after the final whistle at their hop game and asked them to play a League Cup fixture, pulled forward from November at Llanllyfni. I remember overhearing Chris taking the call from Ron.
“So its Trearddur Bay, thank goodness”
“Wait a sec’ they’re in different divisions, we can’t have a friendly”
“Oh, the Mawddach Cup- good, competitive, that will do nicely thanks”
For the record Mawddach is a river running through Snowdonia reaching its estuary at Barmouth. The League cup is sponsored by a Barmouth-based firm, who decided that rather than rename the trophy after the company to name it after the town’s river.
It was clever thinking by the Welsh Alliance as Ron knew the club had both done well as hosts, and had won the game so would be happy to send a team. It mattered not that the cup is normally played in November, the game was to be competitive and let’s not forget the people who could easily have been forgotten in all this, the friendly club of Llanllyfni.
They’d done absolutely nothing wrong in all of this, and secretary Kim Warrington had more reason to host than most. She used to be on the board at Bodedern, and was looking forward to hosting her game in due course, but the club folded, so she went to Llanllyfni. She ended up in the ridiculous position of having 3 different opponents in less than a week, and had delayed printing 250 or so programmes while Bethesda was replaced by Halkyn! She ended up spending all of Sunday night printing a 5 page insert for the programme to bring it as up-to-date as possible, so when a couple of hoppers whined that their programme was for the wrong game they were guilty of crass selfishness… at best!
But in the final analysis we at least got 2 clubs on a pitch that wanted to be there. And while a couple of hoppers made idiots of themselves, the vast majority of them understood the situation, and when we did an impromptu collection at Mynydd Llandegai to thank Trearddur Bay we expected to make enough to buy the team a crate of beer. What we got was £174.05 (who put the 5p in?), so the local Tesco stood agog when we bought 14 cases of beers and ciders, and still had £30 left over! The money we gave to Kim to pay for the extra printing, and we put the alcohol in the two changing rooms but only when the game had kicked off! But our problems were not entirely at an end.
We seldom put cup games on hops, because of the possibility of extra time and penalties, off-hand I can only remember three, a Welsh Cup game at Llanidloes, a Welsh Trophy game at Trelewis, and a Berks and Bucks Intermediate Cup game at Didcot Casuals. All of those were either one-off games or the last games of a day, but this game would throw the final game at Penmaenmawr, if it lasted more than the regulation 90 minutes. We could only hope the footballing gods were on our side. The other issue was that 5 of the Trearddur Bay team were stuck in traffic getting over the Britannia Bridge from Anglesey.
The solution was a sensible one given what was riding on it. The referee GT Evans consulted with both clubs (while i was loading beer!) and allowed the visitors to use rolling substutions so that the missing players could still play once they’d arrived.
I started to breathe again once we’d completed the head count and shared a joke with a club official who hadn’t read the briefing notes and did his own count, he got 312 by the way but I only started to relax when Colin Parry scored the hosts’ second and after that the Gwynedd League champions pulled away and won well. It did help that the visitors were hugely changed from their game on Saturday, but Chris, Kim and her club, I and around 230 hoppers were just pleased that they were able to help us out at short notice.
By and large people were very kind, I even had a message from Maesglas of the Ceredigion League offering to come and play which is typical of them, so forgive my short temper when a hopper came up to me during the second half to demand a programme without Halkyn United’s name on the front. Kim sorted him out, knowing that I would have been tempted to have sorted him out in an entirely different manner…..
Thanks to Paul “Splodge” Proctor for the use of one of his pictures
UPDATE FROM GROUNDHOPUK 16th September 2015
Well – this is becoming a tale and a half. There are developments here, and I’m not too happy about it, so here’s the full story.
As you may be aware, we originally scheduled Bethesda for a Hop game on the Monday. When the club repeatedly failed to answer my emails and to turn up for a hop meeting, it became clear they were struggling. The upshot of this is that they were replaced as a host club, with newly promoted Llanllyfni stepping up to the plate. I had no concerns about Llanllyfni and their ability to host, as in Kim Warrington they have a hugely-respected Secretary, with a reputation for getting things done (she was the former Secretary at Bodedern).
However, I was somewhat surprised to see Bethesda listed as the opposition! Again, as time went on, it became clear that they were struggling to even field a starting line-up, pleading that they had no Manager and no players. They were given the first two weeks of the season off to sort out the problems, but I asked immediately for them to be removed from the weekend and replaced with another side. I suggested either Mochdre or Prestatyn Sports (both were on Friday evening’s game, so would have had two days off)
I was therefore very pleased when Halkyn’s name appeared. They weren’t scheduled at all for the Saturday as their Manager had asked for the Saturday off. However, rumblings began to surface the week before, when the Halkyn manager started to claim that he had asked for the entire Bank Holiday weekend off, rather than just the Saturday. The League held the opposite view and were adamant he had requested only the Saturday and it seemed that all had calmed down and that the game would happen.
On Sunday morning, just as the coach was pulling into Llanberis, I received that call from the Halkyn manager, telling me his club weren’t fulfilling the fixture. I took it really well, they heard me swearing at him twelve rows behind. With this as a definite scheduled fixture, I expect the League to deal with Halkyn accordingly (the Handbook rules say £100 fine, three points deducted, costs of disciplinary hearing, plus compensation to the “disappointed club” – for a hop game that could be interesting).
Now is where it starts getting a little….murky. I immediately spoke to Ron Bridges, who already knew the situation, and had scheduled Trearddur Bay to go to Llanllyfni instead. “Hang on” says I, “they are in different divisions!”. The reply was that this was a Mawddach Cup (the League Cup) match, pulled forward from it’s regular slot of November. Brilliant! Problem solved (unless it went to extra time of course!), and everyone was informed accordingly.
The following day, with a much-changed Trearddur Bay line up (understandable as they had played on the Saturday afternoon), the game was played. No extra time, so all was good.
At a later point someone asked me about the Cup draw – the Welsh Alliance website showed both clubs being drawn away to different opposition! I checked, and they were quite right – so I fired this email off to Ron Bridges on 2 September,
“The game at Llanllyfni is drawing some confusion. We have been telling people this was the Mawddach Cup game pulled forward (as you explained to me), but there is a contrary version on the Welsh Alliance website that shows different opponents. What’s the score with this?”
To date, no reply has been received to that email. However, Jack kindly emailed Ron and asked him, and this was the reply he received:
“It was a friendly match as Halkyn Utd pulled out at last minute.
And I wanted to make sure that a match was played after all the hard work
That Llanllyfni F C had put in to stage a match for the ground Hop”
So, it appears that we were totally misled. I can kind of understand it – Ron sums it up by saying “I wanted to make sure that a match was played”, because if he had been up front about it and said it was a friendly, he well knows that we would have rejected the idea. This begs the question of what would we have done? Probably tried to persuade as many as possible to go anyway because of the time scale – this was probably the best option available, BUT we were denied a choice in the matter. We could have offered the game at Llandudno Junction or taken time out and gone to the Electric Mountain or maybe a few pubs? Trouble was, we didn’t know ourselves!
I suspect the answer, with circumstances being as they were, would have been a mix of the three, with one coach sent to one place, and the other to Llanllyfni. But – that wouldn’t have helped Llanllyfni at all, who remember are the innocent party in all this. For that reason, it’s clear that Ron thought it best I didn’t know.
However, by giving us misinformation, we now have in turn inadvertently misled everyone ourselves. For that, I can only apologise, but rest assured that I’m probably more angry about it than you are.
So – what’s next? I suspect that a fair number of you will simply nod and say, “yeah, fair enough, not a lot else that could be done in the circumstances”, and leave it at that. After all, they hosted very well, the food was great, and let’s be fair, the game itself was actually very good. However, I also suspect that some of you won’t be very happy about it at all (and that includes me!). So, I’ll let you lead me about this, and I’d like to see your comments about it all, and I’ll take it from there.
From my own point of view, after such a brilliant weekend (the best yet many people have said) – and indeed three great years with the Welsh Alliance – this has put a real downer on it, especially after the collection from the hoppers for the large amount of beer we bought for the two teams to show our appreciation for them getting the game on. I have yet to talk to Ron Bridges about it – I’m still too angry – but be in no doubt that I will be doing so.