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.


…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.


….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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Gig Review: Manic Street Preachers at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea

At the age of eleven I watched the 1997 Brit Awards and came away with three clear impressions- the Bee Gees were awesome, Geri Halliwell was a goddess and that I quite liked Welsh rock band the Manic Street Preachers. I asked for, and received, the Manics’ Everything Must Go album, which was the fourth album I ever owned.

I listened to it a fair few times and loved a couple of tracks from it (“Design for Life”, “Australia” and the title track) before it slipped down my rotation list as my collection grew. However, I was pretty excited when the band announced a 20th anniversary tour where they would perform the album.


Unfortunately, the tickets were released when I was asking and watched as my friends celebrated getting their tickets. Thinking I had missed out I was a little glum but moved on. Then at Christmas, MWF revealed that she had got us tickets as a present to me. This was very cool of her, especially as she’s not a Manics fan at all.

And so having just turned 31, I finally saw a band that I’ve liked since I was eleven. And they did not disappoint.

They played their classic album almost in full, which meant their set kicked off with the anthemic “A Design For Life”, a bold choice to use one of their best known tracks as an opener. I stood and sung along as best I could, helped by a couple of ciders and enjoyed hearing half forgotten songs like “Kevin Carter” again. The band played with practised ease and obvious enthusiasm, with front man James Dean Bradfield chatting easily with the crowd and introducing the songs.

The crowd responded well and even darkening clouds and distant flashes of lightning didn’t effect their enthusiasm. Even when the clouds opened later on during the set it had no noticeable effect on the mood of the crowd. But then this was an open air gig in Wales, it wouldn’t be the same without the rain. JDB stated “I love the rain” adding that some of his happiest memories are in the Welsh rain.

The first half was Everything Must Go and the second saw them branch out, revealing just how many amazing songs they have in their back catalogue. The guitar led early work like “Motorcycle Emptiness” and “You Love Us” sitting comfortably alongside more poppy later work like “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough”.

As expected for a Welsh gig by one of the pillars of the 90s “Cwl Cymru”, patriotism was running wild. JDB wielded a guitar bearing the red dragon, Welsh flags and shirts were abundant and it reached it’s peak during their performance of “Together Stronger” the band’s rousing theme for the Welsh squad’s Euro 2016 campaign. Featuring a summary of the national side’s past misfortunes and a tribute to Gary Speed, it proved a very moving experience and I’m not ashamed to say I got a little choked up.

They closed their set with one of my personal favourites, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, leaving having been reminded of just how good a band they are and the quality of their back catalogue and filled with renewed affection for the group.

I spent much of yesterday with “If You Tolerate This…” and “A Design for Life” vying for playing on my mental jukebox and I fully intend giving their albums a spin in the coming days.

Support was provided by Public Service Broadcasting, who we missed due to arriving late and the psychedelic, progress noodling of Super Furry Animals, who were quite fun with a set ranging from cheerful Beach Boys style efforts to full blown trippy excess.

All in all, a good night out, even if it highlighted my age. Not just because an album I loved has turned twenty but because I happily spent some of the gig in a seat. Although I did relish what may be my only chance to step onto the Liberty field.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

6 Nations 2016 Part 4: Too Little, Too Late

Today, with three matches remaining, the Six Nations Championship was pretty much resolved. The Scots upset the French, handing the title to England.

It followed a tense game between Wales and England at Twickenham. In truth, England deserved the win having dominated for the majority of the game, but they still contrived to throw away a nineteen point lead and finish kicking for touch in relief.


Triple crown confirmed yesterday. Championship today. Next week the Grand Slam?

Wales had been shaky, and it was only an individual moment of skill from Dan Biggar that got them back into it. Biggar charged down a kick and chased the loose ball to touch down beneath the posts and then converted.


Biggar scores

From then Wales began to edge it, and added two further tries from George North and Taulupe Faletau. Owen Farrell added two penalties to keep England ahead, and Wales piled forward at the end until England turned it over and put the ball over to finish it.

There were a few dodgy referee decisions and bad luck, but the Welsh can’t complain as they simply didn’t turn up for over half the game. A strong finish made it a contest, but it was England’s day and their performances throughout have been solid and they deserve the championship, even if it means enduring smug gloating for at least a year.

So, well done England, deserving champions.

Wales however need to address their problems and get to a stage where we maintain decent form for the full 80. There was also the worrying sight of captain Sam Warburton being stretchered off, but thankfully he seems to be okay.

Ireland thumped the Italians after a weak start to the tournament, but the surprise result was Scotland getting their first win over the French since 2006. It meant nobody can catch England and barring an upset Wales will be in second place.

It’s a bit of a disappointment that the last round’s matches are all but meaningless, with only the middle places left to be decided. The only questions left to be answered are whether England can complete the Grand Slam (likely) and whether Scotland can make it three wins in a row (less likely).

But it has been a good championship, with a few upsets and some cracking matches.

Round 5 Predictions (current score- 8/12)
Wales vs Italy
Ireland vs Scotland
France vs England

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.