Archive for October, 2016

Goodbye to an old Friend

Friday, October 7th, 2016

I recently received news that an old friend of mine, Barrie Jones, had passed away on 17th August. I hadn’t seen Barrie in over 40 years, but for nearly 2 years (1972-74) he, David Owen and myself were virtually inseparable on weekends.

We must have hit practically every night club in South Wales. Our favorite haunts were usually Stoneleigh’s in Porthcawl on a Friday night and Jack Mason’s in Gorseinon on a Sunday night. I asked a girl to dance there once and she replied that she was “sweating a bit so ask me later when I’ve cooled off.”

David was a weightlifter and had represented Wales while Barry was a body builder. To say I looked puny in comparison would have been an understatement!!! We went on a  fortnight’s holiday to Yugoslavia  together in the summer of ’73 accompanied by another macho man Les Hale. Les was in his forties and was totally crestfallen when a young girl asked him if we were his three sons.

We stepped off the plane and walked down the stair case onto the blazing hot runway. The three amigos were wearing matching blazers while I was wearing my much maligned salmon pink denim suit with flared trousers and wide lapels. I should have worn a sign around my neck proclaiming: “I’m not gay, I just look pretty in pink!!!”

My memories of that trip were taking a hydro foil across to Venice for the day, and eating fabulous kebabs at a local restaurant. Oh, and the Germans nabbing all the deckchairs around the hotel pool first thing in the morning. I was later to discover that that they weren’t Germans but Danes.

Barrie didn’t say much; he was the strong and silent type. He had a fabulous sense of humor whenever he lowered his shield. He use to chauffeur us around in his ford Cortina to all the night spots in South Wales without a murmor of complaint.

I was with Barrie one Sunday night when he met his wife  at one of our favorite haunts, Jack Mason’s. David had broken the band of brothers by going on a date that evening and was not with us on that momentous occasion. Barry’s wife took an instant dislike to me probably because Barry and I were like chalk and cheese. I might also have been wearing the pants from my infamous suit  which would have been sufficient to put off any self respecting female.

Barrie had an unusual technique for a chat up line. He zoned in on a girl he was attracted to, and proceeded to stare at her in Rasputian fashion. Invariably the girl would  stomp across the floor towards him and demand: “Who do you think you looking at?” He would calmly reply: “You!!!” The bait was cast and the prey was caught.

Not to be outdone, I attempted the same method one night and began staring across  the dance floor at girl I thought reasonably attractive. Next thing I know, a great brute of man is snarling in my face: ” If you don’t stop staring at my girlfriend I’m going to punch your lights out.”

Barrie had a  blazing smile and a wicked laugh  and once he realized there was more to me than that damn pink suit we became great friends. Inevitably, it was not long before we were all seriously dating girls, and the band of brothers quickly disintegrated. But it was  a fun period in my life, even for such a short time, and I was grateful to have known Barrie and proud to have called him a friend.


Swansea Way BecomesThe American Way

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Swansea City have enjoyed the last six seasons in the Premiership. However Cracks began to appear last season and in January Francesco Guidolin replaced the hapless Gary Monk with a remit to save them from relegation. He did so with three games to spare and was given (unwisely in my opinion) a two year contract. Seven games into the new season, and we have one win and one draw leaving us hovering perilously near the relegation zone.

Guidolin tinkered with the tried and tested  Swans system of playing without much success. He made bizarre team selections omitting a current Welsh international, and playing individuals out of position. Even so, he still enjoyed the support of most of the fans, but significantly there was unrest within the players and staff with regard to his coaching and training methods. He was summarily dismissed yesterday (3rd October,) and American Bob Bradley was hired as his replacement. The Vegas money was on Ryan Giggs getting the nod for his first managerial position having served as assistant manager at Manchester United for two seasons.

Apparently the new American owners, and allegedly Chairman Huw Jenkins, were concerned about Giggs’ inexperience as a manager, and plumped for Bob Bradley. And article was written in the Guardian yesterday which avails us the opportunity to get to know Mr. Bradley, and it is posted below:

Swansea City have sacked manager Francesco Guidolin and replaced him with the former USA head coach Bob Bradley. Ryan Giggs, perhaps, would have been the easy appointment for Swansea City. Bob Bradley, however, was the interesting appointment. He’s always the interesting appointment.

The 58-year-old becomes the first American to manage in the Premiership, and has forged a career for himself by refusing to accept the orthodox. Few managers can boast the US national team, the Egyptian national team, Norway’s Stabaek and Ligue 1’s Le Havre all on the same CV, but Bradley is a figure who thrives on the offbeat. It’s what gives him his cult status.

Bradley’s career has skirted the mainstream, but now he finally has his chance at the big time. That opportunity is one he has desired for some time: he’s long bemoaned the nature of the Premier League’s tedious managerial merry-go-round. “There’s certainly a network,” he explained in an interview last year. “There are some very good managers but also some others that aren’t very good but still manage to get jobs and opportunities.”

Now he has that platform. Swansea City are a club accustomed to making interesting appointments, and their hiring of Michael Laudrup and Francesco Guidolin both came from left field. Bradley can be classified in the same way. Yet with the Swans enduring something nearing a crisis, their American owners Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan have decided their American compatriot is the right man for the job. He is a crisis manager, after all.

Given all he faced as Egypt manager, Bradley will likely view Swansea’s current troubles as a storm in a South Wales tea cup. Appointed the Egyptian national team boss in the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring and the uprising that engulfed Cairo, Bradley drew plaudits for the way in which he galvanized a divided country, becoming a symbol of hope and transcending his role as a football coach. Consider that the Egyptian Premier League was also suspended during his time as manager, following the Port Said Stadium riot of 2012, and his stewardship of the national team, only missing out on World Cup qualification in the play-offs and finishing with a 67% win percentage, looks even more impressive.

From there, Bradley took charge of Stabaek, a club that at the time had only just won promotion to Norway’s top flight. He left two seasons later, having led a club whose stadium only has room for 7,000 fans to the Europa League. France was the next country stamped on his passport, taking charge of Le Havre last December, having been sought by the Ligue 2 club’s millionaire American backer Vincent Volpe. What is it they say about American football coaches not travelling well?

He just missed out on promotion with Le Havre, but in truth, it felt like something of a holding pen until something bigger and better came along. Swansea City are that bigger and better thing. This is the opportunity Bradley’s career has been building up to, but with that comes the pressure of not fluffing his lines. A public speaker of conviction and presence, lines are unlikely to be an issue, but with Swansea taking just four points from their opening seven Premier League fixtures, the task to avoid relegation is a sizeable one.

There has been backlash to Bradley’s appointment. Prejudice or not, the appointment of the Premier League’s first American manager has provoked a skeptical reaction from some. “It’s baggage,” former USA international Alexi Lalas said in light of Bradley’s appointment at Swansea, referencing how American footballers and coaches have to handle the burden of stereotype. “US players know it well. Performance can confirm/change perception and open/close doors.”

Indeed, there is a greater significance attached to Bradley’s appointment. Along with David Wagner, Huddersfield Town’s manager and a man currently linked with the vacancy at Aston Villa, there is a sense that a breakthrough for American coaches could be close. As Lalas says, success for Bradley at Swansea could open doors. Equally, failure could close them.

Of course, questions over his suitability are entirely reasonable. Bradley possesses no previous Premier League experience, and the majority of his background rooted in American soccer – stints with Chicago Fire, Metro Stars and Chivas preceded his appointment as US national coach. Many insist his dismissal from the top job, having led USA to the last 16 of the World Cup in 2010, was harsh, but it’s true that his success, by and large, has come with small clubs in small leagues. Swansea fans are entitled to reserve judgment.”

Ryan Giggs may not have sufficient managerial experience, but he played in the Premiership for over 20 years and knows the league inside out. He also has player contacts which Guidolin did not, and neither does Bradley. Bradley has a colorful resume as a Coach, but he hasn’t coached in any of the elite European leagues, let alone the Premiership. It is no coincidence that the Swans now have American owners who just happen to hire the first American to manage/coach in the Premiership. It just reeks of nepotism to me.