Q: Isn’t this all a bit.. sad?
A: Of course it is. Anyone who tells you groundhopping isn’t a bit sad is probably deluded or in denial. There’s always going to something fairly ‘anorak’ about travelling up and down the place going to all these grounds. I’m comfortable with that as I’ve always been a bit of a nerd. You don’t spend over 11 years in the IT industry without being a least some sort of a loser. I’d rank my anorak level somewhere between train spotter and stamp collector, although I rank myself lower than people who collect Star Wars memorabilia and refuse to take it out of the packaging.
Q: So what is Groundhopping?
A: I could give you a really long answer, but in simplest terms. Groundhopping is a name given to the act of visiting different football grounds and taking in matches all over the world for the sole purpose of visiting grounds and different teams rather than a named specific team. It’s a cross between football and trainspotting, if you will?
Is there a difference between supporting one named side and going to all of their away games at different grounds and the act of groundhopping? I would say yes.
Q: What made you start doing this?
A: I expand on this on my “What’s This All About?” page, but in a quick sentence or two. I felt a sense of guilt regarding my lack of support and knowledge of the Welsh football pyramid, despite being from the country. I was part of the problem with Welsh football at the moment, a keen football fan who follows the national team, but supports a club playing in the English pyramid, filling the pockets of a Malaysian businessman who had no connection to Wales in anyway. This was the best way I could think of to repay Welsh football for my years of neglect.
Q: So what is the point of this?
A: I’m a big fan of the comedian Dave Gorman. For those who don’t know of Dave Gorman, Dave is a geek of a similar nature to myself. Some of his previous comedy shows have centered around fairly obscure adventures, presented via the medium of Microsoft PowerPoint. One such adventure, and my introduction to Dave Gorman was a show where he placed a bet with his flatmate that he would be able to find and meet 54 other people named Dave Gorman in the world, one Dave Gorman for each card in a full deck (including the jokers in the pack!).
I found this hilarious, whereas other people I know found it to be the most tedious thing they’ve ever known.
I’ve also always admired the adventures of a guy called Geoff Marshall who made a bit of name for himself by setting the world record for achieving the shortest amount of time to visit every single station on the London Underground network. It’s not related to football in any way, but seeing the passion Geoff felt regarding his adventures inspired me to do something similar, albeit a much easier challenge!
Whilst on holiday in New Quay, West Wales around the Christmas of 2014. I’d come up with the idea of setting myself a tough new year’s resolution. I’d done all the others before, run a marathon, lose some weight, etc, etc. I needed something different.
I set the blog up as a bit of a fun, to document this journey I decided to go on. My target is to attend 100 live football matches in the 2015 calendar year. I haven’t set myself any specific rules, but I would like to attempt, as far as is possible to only attend matches involving the Welsh pyramid or Welsh teams as far as is humanly possible.
Q: What if you don’t get to 100 matches?
A: It would be lovely to reach such a milestone. I realise that there are some pretty seasoned ground hoppers out there, to whom 100 matches in a calendar year is a very easy task. As a newbie to all of this, having only really held a Season Ticket at Cardiff City and done 10 or so away games every season, it’s a bit of a challenge.
If I don’t get to 100 matches? It’s not the end of the world. I guess I’d only really be gutted if I got to 99 and the last match I planned to attend on New Year’s Day or something got postponed!
Q: You should go and watch Team X, or visit Ground B!
A: Excellent, if you have any suggestions then please let me know. Please drop me an email or leave a comment on this page. I’m open to attend games of any level, whether it’s a game at the top of the Welsh Premier or The Dog & Duck’s C team game in the Brecon Over-60’s Reserve Walking Football League.
Q: How do you decide what games you go to?
A: I tend to use Google Calendar a fair bit, as it synchronises with my mobile phone. I tend to look at fixtures in the Welsh League, Welsh Premier League and the South Wales Amateur Leagues a month in advance. Then I add any games that interest me to my Google Calendar to remind me on the morning of the match. It’s then a case of finding out which matches are still on (Wales in the Winter is a dismal place weather-wise) and make a decision there and then. Here’s an example of my Google Calendar entries for a weekend in February.
Q: Your other half must hate your guts!
A: That’s not really a question but I catch your drift. My wife thinks it’s a fun idea and actually attends probably about a third of the matches with me. My wife has, like me, been a season ticket holder at Cardiff City for the last five years and is one of the biggest football fans I know, without the doubt the biggest female fan I know. My wife, like me, is just amazed you can actually go to a football match and pay less than £3 for a good coffee.
Q: Do you support any of these teams?
A: I came into this ‘adventure’ with no support for any of the Welsh pyramid teams really. I had a bit of a soft spot for AFC Porth because I played for them as a teenager. I also tended to have a soft spot for any other Rhondda teams, due to the fact I am by birth, a Rhondda boy.
Pontypridd Town were one of the first teams I watched doing this blog and I would be lying to my core if I didn’t say that I consider them to be my favourite team now. I won’t come out and say they’re my team, because I think that shows a little disrespect to the guys who have been following the team for years, only for some geeky blogger to come along and claim to be a massive fan. My wife and I do hold season tickets for the club and I do admit that if they have a home game scheduled, it tends to take priority over all other fixtures unless I really cannot make it.
So yes, I am definitely a Pontypridd Town supporter now. The same probably goes for the likes of Aberystwyth Town and Port Talbot Town as well mind you. It’s so hard, especially when you meet so many great people and lovely clubs along the way.
Q: Do you watch these games as a neutral or what?
A: I try to, but I challenge anyone out there to watch a football match as a neutral! It just doesn’t happen. At every match I’ve watched so far, I’ve always found myself backing one side over the other, even in the most slightest way or tedious way. Whether it’s because one team are closer to where I come from, or whether a side has one of my friends playing for them, or my family has connections to that town, or even just that I’ve been to the town once before and quite liked a certain pub on their high street. It may even be something really tedious like supporting the underdog. Who knows!?
Q: Why are you bothering? These teams and grounds are all crap!
A: See, this is part of the reason why I’m doing this! The Welsh pyramid is criminally under-exposed in the media. It’s a sad situation when football fans in Wales watch Sky Sports Premier League matches in their millions, whilst Sgorio on S4C gets perhaps a few thousand viewers of top flight Welsh football.
I’m the first to admit that some of the grounds aren’t the greatest and most of the teams aren’t as good as Chelsea or Manchester United. But in the grounds I’ve visited I’ve found more honesty, integrity, friendliness and love than I ever did in my 25 years of watching live football in the English pyramid. I’ve never felt as welcomed at a ground as I do when I walk into Welsh League matches, clubs are genuinely pleased to have you in their company. These clubs exist to serve their community and not as a money making exercise for an owner in the Far East who has no connection with the community at all.
Attending 100 matches in a year is a selfish act, of course it is. But if one person reads this blog and decides to attend just one match at any of the teams mentioned, then it still won’t be worth it (I bet you had to re-read that sentence).
In all seriousness, as an example – if just one person reads this blog and decides to take in a Welsh League game instead of watching a match on Sky Sports 2 down the pub, or adopts one of these sides as their ‘second team’ then my goal has been achieved.
Q: What’s your football story?
A: I attended my first Cardiff City game with my Dad in 1990. Until then I’d kind of supported everybody. I held a season ticket as a kid, gave it up before University due to my lack of money at the time and then got my season ticket back when I started earning enough money as an adult.
In terms of playing, I played for Penygraig Boys Club, Black Diamond (Edmondstown), Penrhiwfer AFC, Williamstown Wanderers, AFC Porth, Tonyrefail BGC and Rhondda Schoolboys as a teenager. I had trials at Cardiff City and Stoke City before a knee injury and the associated operation forced me to stop playing competitive football for the best part of two years. By the time I started playing football again for my school and county I’d truly lost the interest in playing competitive football. I continued representing my school until the age of 18, but never played non-school competitive football again.
I started playing 5-a-side again in 2007, turning out for my works team ‘Real Madras’ in Swansea. I’m trying to set up a similar 5-a-side team at my current job, but no-one seems to want to get involved at the moment!
Q: Why is the blog called ‘My Year in the Welsh League’ when you attend games in other leagues?
A: I’ll be truthfully honest with you. The blog title is what it is because it sounded better than the others I considered. I thought of ‘My Year in Welsh Football’, but then that sounded a bit too ‘big’, if that makes sense. Likewise, ‘My Year in the South Wales Alliance’, ‘My Year in the Rhondda & District Football League’ and ‘My Year in the Costcutter Ceredigion Football League’ didn’t sound as good.
I also debated going with a Welsh blog title but since I can’t speak Welsh I thought the idea would be a bit hypocritical.