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It’s Coming Home

Today football really does come home, and I can’t wait.

I’m a news junkie, I know I am, it’s a problem but I can’t help myself.  It started in junior school with a requirement to watch the six o’clock news every night to prepare for the following mornings ‘NEWS QUIZ’.  Lots of kids hated the quiz, I loved it. 

Swansea Fan -Ellis James

The interesting thing about growing old is that your experience teaches you that life is never really normal, there is always another crisis waiting in the wings.

In my time I’ve lived through the 3 day week when we had no electricity and studied using candle light, hose pipe bans, the Vietnam war, The Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Falkland’s War, the UK almost going bankrupt and interest rates of 15%…and that barely takes us to the start of the 90’s. 

Carolyn Harris MP and Jeremy Charles

This week I’ve been presenting a daily radio show. Even as a news hound I’ve found myself a bit battered and bruised by the headlines.  There is an election going on for the Prime Minister of my country and I’ve got absolutely no say in who it will be.  There’s a war in Europe and a looming cost of living crisis that really does threaten to tear apart our communities in the coming months. Maybe with all of this awful news going on we cling for little pieces of light coming into our lives.  Maybe we cherish them more now than we would in the ‘Good Times’.

Karl Marx is quoted as saying,

‘Religion is the opium of the people’

These days it might be more appropriate to say sport has taken over the role of religion and to be honest, without making light of our current situation, I completely understand why people are looking to sport to bring them joy and help numb the pain of world events.

Esme Allchurch – Swansea Fan and Football Pundit

Over the past month I’ve lost myself for an hour and a half on many evenings watching the UEFA Women’s EURO Championships.  The thing is, male or female, I don’t care.  I just love the ‘beautiful game’ and in many ways this tournament has shown itself to be really beautiful in so many ways. 

Gabriella Francesca Jukes – Football pundit and commentator

The games themselves seemed to be less physically confrontational meaning that the skill of the players was given room to shine.  As I watched the passing and movement and the way most teams played out from the back I kept thinking it reminded me of the way Swansea City men’s team play.

The other thing of beauty for me, especially being the father of girls, is seeing a stadium full of families and kids and especially girls loving life.  Supporters of different nations sitting in the same rows, laughing and joking and singing together, was such a stark contrast to the way the Men’s Euros played out last year. It showed the world that there is another way.

Wales Goalkeeping Legend – Neville Southall

For many of us the highlight of the tournament wasn’t the goals or raising a cup it was seeing that little girl singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ at the end of the semi-final.  It was Gabby Logan calling her up at home and telling her they had tickets for her to go see the final at Wembley.  It was seeing Ian Wright almost in tears as that little girl was presented with an England shirt just before the final. 

Wales and Spurs Legend – Cliff Jones

And now its our turn to welcome football home with the first game of the season at the Swansea.com stadium. It was only 3 months ago when we played our final game of the last season and it is an earlier start than usual because of the winter World Cup but I’ve missed it.

Today brings back so many memories of the start of a new season.  I will always remember the excitement of queueing up to get onto the North Bank with my mates and then the sight of a pristine green pitch greeting you as you crested the short incline onto the terrace itself.  Of course that grass didn’t last long.  Give it a couple of weeks and a few rainy days and most of the pitch was brown mud with only the flanks covered in grass but that didn’t matter.  We just loved being there seeing our heroes.

Arsenal fan with a soft spot for the Swans – Actor and Pundit Tom Watt

It’s amazing how quickly we have got used to having a perfect pitch to play on all season long at the Swansea.com Stadium. That together with the facilities makes watching football a very different experience compared to how it was back in the day.  Obviously, the rose tinted glasses we use to look back in time mean we forget the loos and the smell of cigarettes (amongst other things) that greeted us on arrival.  Those days were amazing, but the world has moved on.  As someone once said I like visiting the past, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Over the past few seasons I’ve become part of the hospitality team at the stadium for the Swansea home games and I really look forward to match day.  Over the past few months I’ve missed chatting to the lads on the car park as I try to see if they can find my name on the car park list.  I’ve missed catching up with Lee Trundle on how many goals he has scored this week for Ammanford or chatting to Kev Johns about Dynevor, or Pantomime or old school friends.

Lee talking goals scored for Ammanford and what will be the score today.

I’ve missed that moment when Kev announces that the teams are in the tunnel and he encourages us all to ‘Make some noise’.  I’ve missed everything about match day, even the disappointments when things don’t quite go our way on the pitch because, well, there’s always another game next week.

Swans Fan and Table Tennis Champion Paul Karabardak

Of course this season is going to be very different to past seasons.  In November we will all stop for a month so that we can watch Wales win the World Cup.  Then come December we start again with a home game against Norwich.

There is a different feel to the start of this season compared to the last few seasons.  We were all sad to lose Flynn Downes but I think we’ve been delighted that so far we’ve been able to hold onto our prized assets and add some new talent too. 

And then there’s the arrival of Joe Allen. 

When former players return to the club they quite often get a bit of a rough ride from their old fans.  It’s a bit like seeing an old girlfriend out and in love with a new fella.  Jealousy can be a strong emotion.

Not with Joe.  I think the strongest emotion I felt seeing Joe play for Stoke was sadness.  It seemed all wrong that he wasn’t wearing white.  The other thing I noticed when he played against us was that he used to run the game.  He was always the best player on the pitch.  This season I’m sure that will still be the case but this time he’s home and he’s one of us.

Hey, do you know what, I think I’ve just proved my case.  For the past 15 minutes all worries about dismal news has been forgotten.  All I’ve done is think about football.  Now that doesn’t mean the troubles of the world have gone away.  We will still need to face them with fortitude and by standing together over the coming months but just for a few hours today the Swans will be the focus of my attention and I think that’s probably the best medicine to get me ready to face next week…unless we lose of course!!!

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