Ian Plenderleith delves into the highs and lows of Welsh football online, from Simon Davies's enthusiastic views on Qatar to Porthmadog's inexplicable rejection of after-match hospitality
The Welsh national side’s excellent start to the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign seems as good a reason as any to have a look at that nation’s web presence, starting with the quite tasty Dragon Soccer – Welsh International Football Online. It could also claim to be the Website Least Read By Welsh Internationals, judging by the answers given by leading players on the site’s question and answer pages, which always start with the touchingly hopeful: “Have you ever visited the Dragon Soccer website?” The kindest answer is Andy Melville’s “Not yet”.
Players also tell of their favourite foreign destination with the Welsh team. Rob Edwards sounds like an enthusiastic schoolboy when he explains the reason Cyprus touched him so: “The weather was brilliant and we stayed in a lovely hotel next to a massive beach.” Simon Davies explains that Qatar “is just a very nice play to be at”, while Carl Robinson enjoyed Norway because “it is similar to Wales”. Meanwhile, Grimsby goalkeeper Daniel Coyne is surely being a little bit cheeky when, asked to name a Welsh player from any era whom he would have loved to have played with, he responds by naming the often absent Ryan Giggs.
Dragon Soccer also offers comprehensive stats, match reports, a little-used fans’ forum, and even a section for fans to profile themselves. And why not, for who among us has not fantasised a thousand times about filling out a Shoot! questionnaire to tell the world about our favourite pre-match meal? However, these questions concentrate more on favourite beer and worst ever Welsh player. “There is no worst ever Welsh player,” replies one staunch fan indignantly. And at that point you can almost hear Robbie Savage’s mum standing up to applaud.
It’s worth logging on to the web pages of Denbigh Town, of the Welsh Alliance League, if only to enjoy the spectacular moustache and defiant expression of their manager Roy Cook-Hannah. The site also boasts one of those bare bones, economically written news sections where the readers are not told any more than they need to know: “Denbigh are dumped out of the Welsh Cup by Porthmadog.” Who cares by how many? (Although the guestbook does reveal a sad side-tale: “What a pity that Porthmadog did not return to the after match venue, where a nice spread had been laid on for them.”)
The news goes on: “More vandalism at Central Park. A section of the pitchside barrier in front of the stand has been severely damaged.” Were the perpetrators caught and punished? Will repairs be completed before the clash with Llandudno Junction? You will never know, as this site lifts two minimalist fingers at the restrictions of conventional reportage. Or perhaps the deeper secrets of the Welsh Alliance League are simply not there for the pleasure of prying strangers.
Not so at Port Talbot Town, which has its own supporters’ club, Forza Town, in Chile, for no discernible reason. This would also explain why Daniella, a student from the University of Santiago, is seen modelling a Port Talbot Town away shirt on the “Town Babes” section of the club’s official website. And to think such things would never have been possible without the internet.
If you’re a believer in the myth that footballers were tougher in them days, or even if you’re not, the Legends of Farrar Road section of The Citizens Choice, a fine unofficial Bangor City site, makes for lively reading. From the 1960s you can read about Albert Jackson, “a centre-back who could and would tackle a runaway rhino”, or George McGowan, the “growling Scot… who had been a promising amateur boxer”. And you must have heard of Tony Coleman, “famed at Farrar Road for once bursting a ball with a fiercely struck shot!”
Welsh Football Magazine, the online home of its celebrated print version, offers a scantling of tantalising articles to persuade you that the real thing is probably worth subscribing to. Although the news and results are updated conscientiously, the site itself is unfortunately thin for the understandable reason that the independent magazine needs subscribers in order to survive, and thus holds back most of its content. However, the editorial “Is football the new rugby?” is well worth reading, whichever way you might wish to interpret the question.
From WSC 189 November 2002. What was happening this month