Aidan Smith: You can't call me a Barnett formula-loving poisonous dwarf for supporting Wales

Prince William has managed to upset Wales – well, chiefly Michael Sheen whose actory bellow can carry right across all of the valleys – for the heinous crime of handing over a bunch of kit to England’s World Cup squad.

Prince William, Prince of Wales during a visit to England's national football centre at St George's Park.
Prince William, Prince of Wales during a visit to England's national football centre at St George's Park.

Is this a story? Well, Wills is president of the Football Association. He supports Aston Villa and doesn’t confuse them with West Ham United, unlike that clown David Cameron. And he’s often seen at games with his kids, though not yet Prince Louis, possibly because even at four this one appears to be a hooligan in the making. So, sound football credentials unlike just about every member of the Royal Family there’s ever been – and specifically sound Three Lions ones. Therefore what’s the problem here?

Ah but he’s the Prince of Wales. In any normal World Cup year he could have got away with this kind of send-off for the whiteshirts. But, blow me down with one of Max Boyce’s giant comedy leeks from the boyo funster’s biannual rugby pilgrimages to Murrayfield – are the Principality’s football team not in the finals as well?

Hide Ad

Sheen is raging, tweeting about the prince: “He can, of course support whoever he likes and as [FA pres] his role makes his visit [to the England training centre] understandable – but surely he sees holding the title Prince of Wales at the same time is entirely inappropriate? Not a shred of embarrassment? Or sensitivity to the problem here?”

Sheen is viewed by the screechier, Royals-ra-ra-ra-ing newspapers as the winner of luvviedom’s equivalent of the Palme d’Or in perpetuity. His critics will have pounced on the fact Wills has stressed he’s supporting both England and Wales in Qatar and would view a final between them as the “dream ticket”.

Hide Ad

But I like Sheen – he was brilliant as Tony Blair, Kenneth Williams and David Frost, if less so as Brian Clough – and I admire his passion. (Check out his rousing speech to Gareth Bale & Co: “When the English come knocking on our door, let’s give them some sugar, boys - let’s give them some Welsh sugar!”).

And if you think it’s only the Scots who have a strained relationship with the English then witness Welsh First Minister Mark Drayford’s condemnation of the Boris Johnson era (the lack on contact, the size of the Union Jacks mandatory for government buildings) or the continuing anger over Welsh villages being hollowed out for second homes and holiday lets. So at the very least Prince William should have looked in on Wales to wish them luck, just as he did with England. It’s a total PR clanger that this didn’t happen.

Hide Ad

For your correspondent, though, this World Cup presents no such dilemma. Indeed the “Who to support?” quandary when Scotland aren’t competing – which is, sad to say, most of the time – is beautifully straightforward. I feel as if I’m striding out along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path listening to Richard Burton read Dylan Thomas, in awe of “the darkest-before-dawn minutely dewgrazed stir of the black, dab-filled sea”. Oh yes, it’s Wales for me.

Well, why not? I can cheer for a British team and, for once, duck accusations of being a racist, Barnett formula-loving, poisonous, subsidy-junkie dwarf because that team are not England.

Hide Ad

My Welsh credentials? None at all, but at the dawn of the football obsession – British Home Championship, why ever was it stopped? – the Welsh strike double-act of Ron and Wyn Davies were the subjects of considerable intrigue.

Were they brothers? How tall were they – 9ft, 10ft? Did Wyn mind being called Wyn when his first name was also Ron? Could they – though I admit I didn’t know any Dylan Thomas back then – head the ball right into the middle of the black, dab-filled sea?

Hide Ad

Before the fabulous Davies boys, who was the first Welshie to impact on me and can I still say Welshie without causing offence? It must have been Johnny Morris who made creatures talk on Tales of the Riverbank and Animal Magic, back when no one on TV looked under 45, not even on kids’ shows.

Then came long jumper Lynn Davis, showjumper David Broome and Adrian Street, the hilarious effeminate wrestler requiring me to nip round to my neighbour Mark’s house because World of Sport was an ITV programme.

Hide Ad

Then - adolescent stirrings - Rachel Roberts in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Nerys Hughes in The Liver Birds and Angharad Rees in Poldark.

In the course of work I’ve interviewed Welsh comedians (Terry Jones, Paul Whitehouse, Rob Brydon) and Welsh musicians (Tom Jones, John Cale, Manic Street Preachers, Duffy) and they all gave good quote. Then there are those rugby boys.

Hide Ad

Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, John Taylor and Phil Bennett, who passed away in the summer. When the Six Nations comes around my duties require me to major on Scottish notables but when no one has been looking I’ve sought out these Red Dragons, legends of the 1970s, the Harlem – or Carmarthen – Globetrotters of the oval-ball code. They were all great storytellers; it’s a national characteristic.

I loved their memories of the fixtures between our countries. The rumbling minibus convoy. The deep-seam bonds of the miners. The Welsh invasion of Edinburgh beginning earlier and earlier (Taffy: “That’s me off up to Murrayfield, luv.” Mrs Taffy: “Hang on, it’s still only Monday!”). The red river of scarves and tammies surging westwards from Princes Street. And in 1975 the attendance being recorded as 104,000 but, rather like Celtic vs Leeds United in the European Cup, everyone who was sardined into the ground knowing it was much, much bigger.

Hide Ad

So it’s easy: come on, Wales!

Comments

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.