The Tattoo I Don’t Regret Not Getting

It’s been a long time since I got my first tattoo. I remember it clearly, being nervous as I took my seat, hoping that I wouldn’t be such a wimp that I’d cry or have to stop. I hadn’t made it easy for myself by choosing a big piece to pop my ink cherry. Thankfully, it didn’t hurt that much and I’d go on to get more tattoos over the years.

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My first four tattoos. More will follow.

My first tattoo wasn’t what I’d originally wanted. While I am still a fan of Motorhead and  their late singer Lemmy, I’d originally wanted something else.

I’d wanted a Welsh dragon. I was a recent convert to Welsh patriotism, and of all the Welsh logos, the red dragon was the coolest. I wasn’t sure I could pull off a daffodil, and I’m not sure anyone could pull off a leek tattoo.

However, in the run up to booking my first tattoo, I started to notice that a lot of people had the dragon tattoo. And many weren’t people I wanted to have more in common with. There was something a little chavvy about it, or so I thought at the time. I’ve changed this opinion and think the traditional red dragon actually looks good. But unfortunately, at the time the only examples I could see were on the flesh of Nessa from Gavin and Stacey and a guy I knew who had his own initials tattooed on his neck. No, I never found out why.

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And so, I got the Motorhead tattoo, and while it might be a bit more metal compared to the rest of me, I dig it. In fact, I’m tempted to get some more music related tats around it.

Over the years I’ve added to my tattoos, and occasionally turned back to the idea of having something in honour of my Welsh heritage.

For a while, I was thinking about getting a three feathers tattoo.

Boy, am I glad I didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when I daydream about wearing a shirt with the badge on, and scoring a World Cup winning try for Wales, but as much as I love our national side, I can’t deny I have issues with the WRU logo.

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The problem is it’s based on the emblem of Prince Charles, in his role of Prince of Wales. And frankly, I’m not impressed.

I’m not hugely fussed on the royals, I’m not calling for us to build guillotines or anything, but they do seem like a frightful waste of money and it’s kinda ridiculous to still have such an archaic institution going strong. And I’m not fussed on the fact that the ruling monarch can just make their oldest boy the prince of my country. It’d be like my Dad deciding to name me Duke of Neath, only instead of it being an inside joke he’d demand that other people go along with it all.

The fact the Welsh rugby team wear this emblem is kinda like legitimising Charlie’s nickname. He’s not my prince.

Hell, he didn’t even bother getting a Welsh motto for it. He stuck on “Ich Dien”, it’s German for crying out loud. At least Latin is classic.

Nope, I can’t get behind the three feathers or the idea of someone being made prince of my country. Prince Charles? Well, I didn’t vote for him.

So I’m kinda relieved that I didn’t get the logo tattoed on me. I’d never be able to look at it without a tinge of regret. I love my country, I love our rugby team, even if they don’t always treat me right, but I don’t love what that badge stands for. I just think the WRU should ditch it and get something that’s actually Welsh.

If they don’t want a dragon because the football lads have it, then why not a daffodil? Hell, I’d even take a leek.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 

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How I learnt to Love Wales and Being Welsh

I think one of the things that would surprise sixteen year old Chris the most is how much thirty-three year old Chris feels about Wales. I wasn’t a patriotic kid, and didn’t feel any real affection or pride in my Welsh heritage. Welsh was the language of school, and the books we studied there. Sure, there’d occasionally be something which broke through like Pam Fi, Duw? but a lot of the Welsh things I was exposed too were kinda naff.

The change has happened slowly over the years, partly because of my time at university. Although I attended a Welsh university, we Welsh students were the minority, and most of the students seemed to be English. It was these English students who shaped my growing love for Wales.

There was the normal things you expect from English students- sheep shagger jokes, whining about the bilingual signs and, of course, telling us we weren’t a real country. English people then get really huffy when you point out that if Wales isn’t a country, then neither is England as both are part of Britain.

The Welsh students banded together, especially when the Six Nations started up, and we were lucky enough that our first year, 2005, saw Wales win the Grand Slam.

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It wasn’t just the rugby victory that started to win me over, it was starting to realise just how Wales had been treated. South Wales, the area I grew up in still bore the scars of Thatcher’s war on the unions, with mass unemployment and closed down factories, mines and failing steelworks.

As time went on I learned more about how Wales was routinely overlooked, poorly funded and treated as a poor relation or joke. Finding out about Welsh towns literally flooded to create a reservoir to serve England, about attempts to kill the Welsh language and how Wales was just used for it’s resources. It made you realise how hard people had worked and fought to keep Welsh culture alive.

It made me proud. It made me angry. For me the words of Phil Bennett before a match against England captured my feelings towards Westminster and how Wales was treated:

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It made me appreciate the Welsh language more, regret all the times I saw it as a pain or dismissed it as a dead language, cursed my parents for sending me to a Welsh language school and complained about the dire novels we had to read.

There are still English people who complain about the Welsh language. Laughable arguments about the signs being too difficult for them and dangerous, when all they need to do is ignore the first line. Who grumble that they go to places and the Welsh speak Welsh. Who whinge about how money is wasted on Radio Cymru and S4C.

Sod them.

The Welsh language has endured similar attacks over the years. Banned in schools, marginalised and underrepresented, those channels and stations were the result of hard fighting and lengthy campaigns. The bilingual signs a massive victory in ensuring our heritage was respected and returned to prominence.

I’m glad every Welsh kid is taught some Welsh now, I only wish they were taught more about the attempts to destroy it. How speaking Welsh is a sign of rebellion, of resistance, of a culture refusing to let itself be erased to satisfy it’s oppressors.

I’ve tried to embrace Welsh in new ways. I watch S4C when I can, I’ve sought out Welsh language music and even looked into reading some Welsh books.

I’ve even been inspired to find a new way to engage in the language thanks to an anti-Welsh tweet. Some gammon who chose to live on this side of the bridge but refuses to respect his new home made a sarky point about how the buttons for the Welsh option on ATMs is never as worn as the button for English. Well, since reading that I always pick the Welsh option now, so that they know it’s used and appreciated, and as a thank you for all the people who stopped it from dying.

In the words of Dafydd Iwan, “er gwaetha pawb a phopeth, ry’n ni yma o hyd” (“in spite of everyone and everything, we’re still here”)

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 


Book Review: The Binman Chronicles by Neville Southall

Everton and Wales goalkeeping legend Neville Southall’s career was winding down when I started watching football. I can remember him doing a decent job for an uninspiring Everton side and playing for Wales quite a few times. But it would only be later that I came to appreciate how successful his career between the posts had been.

Southall is Wales’ most capped player and won several trophies at Everton, becoming their most decorated player. This book charts his career and life after football, and is a decent read throughout.

He’s quite direct and open in his analysis of his career, acknowledging that the discipline and dedication which made him so successful also contributed to problems in his personal life, due to his selfish focus.

Southall talks about the players, managers and coaches he worked with, at times with unflinching honesty. He lifts the lid on behind the scenes politics and changing room rifts, as well as the unprofessional chaos of the Wales set up.

He’s also not shy in offering his opinions on problems in the sport. When discussing the banning of English clubs from European competition in the ’80s there is an anger which remains fresh, anger at the impact this had on the careers of a generation. And it’s hard to dismiss that UEFA’s frustration at English dominance may have had a part in the decision.

Throughout this book Southall is a down to earth narrator and seems a decent bloke, if a bit curmudgeonly. And it provides an insight into the drive needed to be a top athlete and the challenges faced, particularly with regards injury and navigating a world of big characters and egos.

And it shows the cutthroat world of football as various players and managers are cast aside unsentimentally. In fact reading about the end of Big Nev’s time at Everton after 17 years provides a sad example of how, despite a player’s contributions and history, clubs are quick to move on and replace players.

A good read for football fans, and Southall had a good life after football, using his experience to teach and help disadvantaged youths.

Verdict: An honest and direct read from a man who opens up about his career and peers. Southall is a likeable writer and provides a detailed look into what was going on in the teams he played for. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Would You Rather? Part 6: Spam, Porridge and Glass Houses

…would you rather go to jail for 4 years for something you didn’t do or get away with something horrible but spend the rest of your life in fear of being caught?

This is a pretty tough one, because I have no desire to go to prison. I don’t think it’s the kind of situation I would thrive in. That being said four years isn’t that long, relatively speaking and compared to spending the rest of my life feeling (a) guilty for my horrible crime and (b) constantly afraid, would be far more stressful.

So, strangely I think I would have to go with the prison for a crime I didn’t commit. At least I’d have something in common with the A-Team then.

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…be transported 500 years into the past or the future?

This is a pretty tricky one. While 1517 would be grim as hell, at least you kinda know what you’re getting and you’d be more advanced than them, knowledge wise. I mean, sure that might lead them to burning you as a witch or something, but it beats the alternative.

Who knows what kind of almighty mess 2517 is going to be? And you’d be 500 years behind them, they’d view you as some sort of backwards fool. Nope, in this case, I’d go back.

…be free from junk mail or be free from spam?

Spam. Junk mail is a pain, obviously, but it’s less frequent, I get junk mail once, twice a month at most, but spam is a daily thing. Also, as far as I know, junk mail can’t install a virus in your house or drain your bank accounts.

…live in a house with see through walls in the middle of a city or the same house but in the forests far away?

Obviously in the forest. Sure, you’d be miles away from everywhere, but the chances of getting looked at are less. I’m guessing the question means all the walls are see through, so there would be no privacy anywhere.

I’d rather not live my whole life like some kind of strange art exhibit, and that’s before we even get into the territory of the bathroom and the bedroom. Nope, I’d rather not shower in front of a whole city, thank you.

…wake up every morning to find a random animal appendage has replaced your non dominant arm or swap your bottom half permanently for an animal of your choosing?

This is brilliantly bizarre.

While the animal appendages might be quite interesting and a good talking point, some of them would probably be massively useless/inconvenient. So, I’m probably looking at going half animal. I think a centaur would be too impractical and take up too much room.

So, maybe a faun? With goat legs? Or maybe kangaroo legs, because then I could get some impressive jumps in. Although it might make me look like second string Spidey villain the Kangaroo.

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….spend the rest of your life with a sailboat as your home or an RV as your home?

RV. It’s just more practical isn’t it? You can go more places, with a sailboat you’re stuck on the coast all the time.

…be unable to move when it rains or unable to stop moving when the sun shines?

I think the obvious one is be unable to stop moving when it’s sunny. Isn’t it?

I mean, paralysis whenever it rains seems more of an inconvenience, especially as I live in Wales where it rains a lot of the time. Also, at least some kind of weird, twitchy dance movement would be embarrassing, but imagine freezing up in the middle of town when a shower starts.

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Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Euro 2016 Part 7: Proud

said I’d cry and I did.

Wales’ Euro 2016 dream came crashing down in three minutes, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani both scored for Portugal. After the first I thought we could get back into it, but the second was a devastating blow and Wales couldn’t recover.

Ronaldo heads home

On the night Portugal were the better team and deserved the win, but it still hurt.

As the seconds ticked away and a comeback looked less likely and I teetered on the brink of despair. And then the Wales fans in Lyon started singing.

There was frustration. There was disappointment. But the emotion that pushed me over the edge was the pride. Pride in the Welsh players and fans who have carried themselves so well throughout the tournament. 

On the field there have been great moments, the victories against Russia and Belgium being the highs, but the attitude of the team has been amazing. There has been a genuine feeling of camaraderie and pride in representing their country, exemplified by the sheer joy that has followed every goal and Chris Gunter’s “chin up” gesture following the loss to England.

Gunter gestures to the fans to keep their chins up

The passion on the field has meant that the Welsh team have connected with the public as never before, and they have been taken into the hearts of the Welsh people. The fans have sung, cheered and tweeted their support, filling fan zones across the country.

They have behaved and enjoyed, earning the respect of their hosts and opponents, and have been an important part in driving the team onwards .

They have sang the national anthem, a rallying cry, an inspiration for the eleven men on the field. The connection has been made and will endure long after the tournament, earning the team new fans.

For older fans it was a moment of glory after years of disappointment and failure. Building on the work of the late Gary Speed, Chris Coleman has built a team that works as a unite who have become a true team and who have reached heights Welsh football never has before. From ranking the wrong side of 100 to the final four in Europe it’s been a sensational story.

It may not have ended the way I would have liked, but Wales have done so well, and I feel nothing but pride and love for a team who have come so far. They leave the tournament able to hold their heads up and the future for the team looks bright, with renewed confidence before we start on the road to Russia 2018. Wales at the World Cup would be a great thing indeed.

The Wales team salute their fans

They will return to a heroes’ welcome and it will be justly deserved.

They did us proud. Cymru am byth.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Euro 2016 Part 6: Oh, me of little faith

Crying like a toddler, and I don’t care. Magnificent. Utterly bloody magnificent – Gary Slaymaker

I haven’t cried yet. But it’s been a close thing ever since hearing the Manics blast out “Together Stronger” at the Liberty.

Welsh football has been a cruel mistress. Letting you down right at the end, embarrassing you in front of your English friends, never taking you anywhere nice, sometimes not even showing up at all. But then, like the hero of a romantic comedy who makes the grand gesture at the end, Wales came through.

The qualifying campaign was a dream. Making Euro 2016 a massive high.

A middle aged customer said to his friend a while back “We made it. Everything else is a bonus.”

And what a bonus.

Winning the group. Edging out Northern Ireland to make the quarters.

After dismantling Hungary, I thought Belgium were going to be too much for us. And in the early stages they bossed the game, with only heroic Welsh defending keeping them out.

But the line couldn’t hold indefinitely and finally they broke through when Nainggolan was given far too much room and fired in a cannon like strike from distance.

They could have fallen apart there, but part of their success is due to resilience and passion, and Wales not only getting back into the game but started dominating. An equaliser looked likely and arrived from a fitting source, captain Ashley Williams heading home.

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Williams in wonderland

Scenes of joy followed and Wales were in with a chance. After the break, Belgium regained a little bit of momentum but it was open play.

And then a moment of utter genius. Surrounded by three defenders and with his back to goal, Hal Robson-Kanu got the ball in the penalty area, and could have struggled. But with a clever flick he turned, wrong footing the defence and slotting the ball home.

2-1.

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Robson-Kanu

Then the tension set in, Belgium throwing everything forward and Wales surviving through gritty defending and, yes, luck. With ten minutes to go I was perched on the edge of the sofa, a bundle of nerves and anxiety.

And then Sam Vokes, on as a substitute scored his first goal in a Wales shirt, a magnificent header to seal the deal at 3-1. Cue Wales, and me going into meltdown.

The semi-finals! We’ve made the bloody semi-finals!

A lump in my throat, joy in my heart.

Whatever happens against Portugal, the players have done amazing and I’m proud of the boys.

And whatever happens, I’ll end up in tears at the final whistle.

I just hope they’re happy ones.

Quarter Final Round Up

Portugal beat Poland on penalties to go through, and it went the distance between Germany and Italy. Germany, the penalty specialists, progressed but only after a laughably bad shoot out that featured some of the worst penalties I’ve ever seen.

The quarters also saw the end of the tournament’s great underdog story, as Iceland were demolished 5-2 by hosts France. It was a disappointing conclusion for the Icelandic team, who had been a surprise package and the small nation had rallied behind their players, bringing with them a small, vocal support who’s almost primal chant was awe inspiring.

They kept fighting, but were outclassed by a rampant French team, but saluted their fans and could be damn proud of what they achieved.

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Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Euro 2016 Part 4: Agony and Ecstasy

“Football is football, it is cruel”- Arsene Wenger.

Gareth McAuley had to act.

When Bale whipped the ball in front of goal the Irishman knew that Hal Robson-Kanu was behind him and positioned for an easy tap in. And so McAuley dived in, trying to stop the danger and only succeeding in sending the ball into his own net.

A goal that sent his country home.

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Nobody can blame him. The attacking movie, with Ramsey setting Bale free down the left was quick and beautifully executed, the ball into the area a masterpiece. Robson-Kanu was in a good position and most likely would have grabbed his second if McAuley had just hung back.

The Northern Irish fans, devastated by the loss will probably forgive him. They’ll remember the moment, in the masochistic way sports fans never release their painful moments, but they’ll know he tried. They’ll also be able to remember a decent campaign in their first tournament in 30 years.

By all accounts Wales only just edged what was a cagey game, but either way it had gone one underdog story would have been put to sleep. I feel for the Irish players and fans, but I can’t lie and say I’m not happy with the result.

Wales’ Euro dream lives on, with Belgium or Hungary awaiting, and the team find themselves in the last eight. It has been a good run and the team and fans have done us proud, how long it will last is unknown, and I think we should all enjoy the ride while we can.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Euro 2016 Part 3:

I refreshed for what felt like the hundredth time. There was no change. Wales were up two-nil, and the second round was less than half an hour away.

MWF and her cousin were talking, I have no idea what about, I was staring intently at my phone. I’d missed the start of the second half, having been at bingo (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). An error on my part, forgetting that Monday was the day. Wales one match from the knockout stages.

A win and we were through. A draw and what happened in the other match would decide our fate. A loss and it was home time.

Wales had bossed the first half, with Aaron Ramsey giving his best performance of the tournament, passing well and piercing the Russian defence with some good runs. He’s opened the scoring after Joe Allen fed through a gorgeous pass and Ramsey calmly chipped the keeper.

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Ramsey!

I’d been happy. But one goal is not safety. Wales were all over the Russians, attacking with menace and looking solid in defence.

Breathing space arrived as Neil Taylor, making up for his poor showing against England cut into the penalty area. His first shot smacked into the keeper, but the rebound fell kindly and he bashed it into the net.

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Not bad for a man who’s last goal was six years ago against Grays Athletic. His joy mirrored everywhere and my bellowed “YESSS!” startled the blue rinse brigade.

Russia looked to be losing their cool, but despite repeated attempts a third was not forthcoming.

Gareth Bale had the look of a man on a mission, and you would have put good money on him finding the back of the net. The only downside being his desire to score made him selfish at times, trying too much when support was to hand.

I hoped that we wouldn’t be punished for this individual drive, and that Chris Coleman could calm him at the break.

A little over twenty minutes now.

Another refresh.

3-0.

Bale the scorer.

The tension unwound. The Russians were reeling before and a third effectively killed the match. Wales were in charge.

Arriving for the finish revealed Wales passing the ball with ease, the crowd giving an “ole!” to each move. Bale was taken off and the attacking edge still there, but with the game in the bag the intent was dimmed. Russia were done. A fourth would be slightly mean.

“Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” rang out from the stands, and shots of the fans was an insight into the feelings I went through. Joy. Disbelief. Relief.

The final whistle blows.

Wales are through to the last sixteen. And with England held to a goalless draw by Slovakia, we finished top of the group. The party was on in Toulouse, and I was buzzing.

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Who Wales will face next isn’t decided yet? But as group leaders it will be an easier match. Could we make the quarters? Well, a man can dream.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Euro 2016 Part 2: Back to Earth

When Daniel Sturridge found the back of the net in the dying moments there was a sense of crushing inevitability. Of course we would lose to England, of course our progression to the knock out stages would be a tense, down to the wire affair.

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In fairness England deserved the win after a Welsh performance which left the air blue and my nerves frayed. The attacking spirit and tough defending of the Slovakia game a distant memory as Wales adopted a defensive strategy with an eye on the counterattack.

The problem was that attempts at going forward were infrequent and lacked teeth, in fact that the opening goal belonged to us was a surprise and felt undeserved.

Wayne Rooney had needlessly fouled Hal Robson-Kanu, but it seemed too far out even for Gareth Bale. But a powerful strike from distance found the bottom corner and after half an hour of attacking England found themselves losing.

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With a goal advantage Wales should have looked for a knockout blow, but continued a dull strategy which seemed doomed to fail. As strong as a defence is, when facing wave upon wave of attack the odds slip in the attackers’ favour and so Jamie Vardy, on at the break buried the ball in the net to restore parity.

Even losing the lead didn’t change the Welsh game plan and it remained a tough watch. The defence looked shaky, particularly on the left where Neil Taylor gave Kyle Walker time and space and seemed unable to do anything other than backpedal.

Aaron Ramsey frustrated again and substitute Johnny Williams took to the field and blatantly dived when a little bit if work might have led to a shooting v opportunity. There was little to no pressure on the English defence when they had possession and they easily cleared their lines.

And then the Sturridge goal.

2-1 to England a fair result, they having created chances and attacked better. Wales had noone to blame but themselves for a poor display.

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From riding high to this gut punch of a defeat Wales now find themselves under pressure as they prepare for Russia Zealand and just get a result. It can be done, but it requires the team to remember the opening game’s fire and drive, and to actually go for the win.

Both home nations in group B can progress, and the last round of their games should provide some entertaining matches.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Euro 2016 Part 1: Shout, shout, let it all out!

I made a noise yesterday I don’t think I ever have before. I didn’t know I could and I don’t know what it was exactly.

It was a weird shriek that burst forth unbidden and unstoppable. A primal cry of joy and relief.

It happened after Hal Robson-Kanu scored a winning goal for Wales. It was a moment of surprise and Glee, Joe Ledley threaded a lovely pass to Aaron Ramsey, who looked to have fluffed it before the ball found HRK, who found the net.

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Robson-Kanu celebrates

In truth it was a clumsy strike, the ball coming off his shin to go between a defender’s leg and past the keeper. It was not a classic goal, but they all count, and for Welsh football fans it counted for a lot.

The English talk of “50 years of hurt” but that follows a massive high, for Wales our previous best was playing at a World Cup 58 years ago. Playing in, not winning.

During the nineties I watched as Wales failed to make tournament after tournament, starting to wonder if I ever would. But now it has happened, and like most of my countrymen I am just enjoying the experience. Winning the Championship is too much, a far off dream that seems to remote to ever come true, like the man who imagines dating a Hollywood starlet. It would be nice. But it won’t happen.

What we can take is an experience of tournament football. Of knowing that we have a squad and a manager who can grow and develop, that the gap between this and the next tournament won’t be as long (I’d like to see at least two before I shuffle off this mortal coil).

The experience began with a nervy start in Bordeaux. The players seemed shaky and doubt grew. Was the occasion going to get the better of them?

Gareth Bale gave away possesion easily, and they let the Slovakians run at them too much. It was only Ben Davies’ defensive heroics that kept us in it, tracking back he stretched to hack a goal bound shot away.

A few minutes and the team was starting to calm down. Bale and Aaron Ramsey had glimpses of skill, Joe Allen chased the ball with energy and Ashley Williams looked solid at the back.

Around the ten minute mark Jonny Williams was brought down some 30 yards out. Gareth Bale country.

Wales’ most famous and skilled player stood over the ball and then struck a superb free kick, curling it in at the far post and the stadium erupted. I leapt from the sofa, a roar of victory on my tongue.

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Wales 1-0 up.

Wales dominated for the rest of the half, but couldn’t land a second blow. Every Slovakian half chance pushed me to the edge of my seat, a one goal margin is not a calm state of affairs. One slip and it goes. Nerves wound tight, muttering encouragement and prayers. Prayers to the footballing gods not to be cruel, to not build us up just to smash us back.

The stadium fills with songs and chants. Tributes to players on the field, and an old player gone too soon. Hymns and arias as the fans make their presence known.

A second chance appears. A clear cut penalty somehow not given. A clear elbow from Skrtel. Bad enough the ref misses it, but the official behind the goal is mere feet away, and does nothing.

Frustration building, until the half time break and a brief respite. Fifteen minutes to savour the lead, knowing it will be safe and then back in, a further forty five of tension ahead.

Wales still on top, but struggling to make an impact. The newly blonde Ramsey playing well but frustrating with simple mistakes and needless attempts to be clever. Intercepted flicks, passing when he should have shot, shooting when he should have passed.

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Good players, bad hair

And then disaster. Fresh legs bringing renewed energy which paid off almost immediately.

Ondrej Duda letting the ball run across him, Ashley Williams not in the best position and the ball driven into the goal.

1-1.

Slovakia rose, fired up by the equaliser and took charge for ten minutes, and Wales could easily have come undone. But they steeled themselves, rode out the storm and began to take charge again.

A second Bale free kick easily gathered by the goalie. Ramsey unable to direct a header toward goal. A draw would be fine, but Wales deserve more.

The final ten minutes.

Substitute Ledley finds Ramsey. It falls to HRK, and he scuffs it home. Euphoria.

2-1.

Wales reach the 90 and the four additional minutes tick by agonisingly slow.

And finally the whistle.

The tension evaporates and the sheer, mad joy floods in.

We’ve won.

Our first game a good one. It won’t be a whitewash, nobody can say we don’t belong here.

After Russia snatch a late equaliser to earn a draw with England and Wales are top of the group.

A few days to enjoy the other games and relax. And then Thursday and the big one. Wales vs England.

Who knows what will happen? But it should be a cracker.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.