Saturday 14th April 2018 ko 11.00
FA Premier U18 League
SWANSEA CITY 0
LEICESTER CITY 0
Att 113 @ Landore Training Centre
With the Welsh Spring Hop almost completely rejigged we left our hotel at Carmarthen a little earlier than usual. With the loss of the Carmarthenshire League’s fixtures I found myself feeling a pang of regret as the coach turned left out of the hotel and headed towards Pont Abraham and the M4. I remembered our 4 year stint in the Ceredigion League where we turned right and headed north; I don’t remember a club on those hops who didn’t host beautifully. It’s a shame we’ve completed the league and there’s no new grounds to visit. But that’s in the past sadly, and there was a trip to Swansea City’s training ground to ponder.
The Landore Ground is close to to the Liberty Stadium, so close in fact that on match days the first XI parks here, then takes a coach the few hundred yards to the main stadium. I’d wanted to to visit here for quite some time, way before we took advantage of the morning kick off.
Not that you’d recognise it now but the ground as staged no end of senior football in the past with the likes of North End and Landore FC using the facility. Nowadays the place is a vision of the largesse of the Premier League and all that comes with it.
We arrived around 45 minutes before kick-off but the doors only open to the public a few minutes before kick-off. So ingrained is that culture that a transport cafe in a caravan 100 yards away from the entrance has learned this, and did a roaring trade selling coffee and bacon rolls to the people waiting.
Eventually we were allowed in and the place does impress. As is usually the case there are two pitches, one for the U16’s and one for the U18’s with the clubhouse providing cover for one pitch and a line of “Arena” stands the other. But it’s the largesse that manages to both impress and grate in equal measure. It’s the pitch that was billiard table smooth, the branded water, and even the stewards paid to stop you standing behind the goal for more than a few seconds. I rather threw them- I sat down on the asphalt, rather nonplussing my steward, I got quickly moved on the second I stood up.
In the end I found myself looking to place some humanity in the photos, rather than just take yet another choreographed action shot. Perhaps that steward was wondering why I wanted to put a train in the background of one shot!
The game was as you’d expect- two skillful sides, with the passing and moving culture drilled into them, but with absolutely no end product and a large slice of petulance too. It’s odd how a petulant 18 year old manages to make throwing a tantrum at a referee look even more contrived than his older counterpart in the 1st XI! What was utterly lacking was any sense of adventure, these lads had their instructions and followed them to the letter, with no deviation at all. You got the sense that there would have been a hefty price to pay for any spark of individuality.
The nil nil was inevitable from very early on. You hoped for something to turn up but just like Mr Micawber, nothing did. In the end we headed back to the coach glad we were heading for a more normal kind of game. It was interesting to see how “the other half lives” but the main thing this game served to do was to give us all something to compare the other games on the hop to. The fact that the comparison was almost invariably an unfavourable one speaks volumes for what we saw here.