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No Saintly intervention for the Swans

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By Jonathan Twigg

KEEPERS of the faith or a question when football rivalry becomes a ‘Holy War’ where your life depends on it.

Kevin Johns MBE, a pillar of Swansea City, spoke of martyrdom before defeat by Southampton, on Tuesday (May 8). Saint Mary, a team from the Church Young Men’s Association of 1885 born the banks of the ‘Itchen’ currently managed by ‘Welshmen’ Mark Hughes. A eulogy which encapsulates Peter Rodrigues, 1976 cup winning captain and the towering Paul Jones in goal; best of all from the pearly gates, none other than Gareth Bale.

Many thought godly intervention occurred with the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal prior to Christmas, divine intervention immediate, but the current situation, no goals and no points stretching back a month.

Wales and football have always had a heavenly ring when it comes to looking for signs but compare Scotland, Rangers vs Celtic for a view on how religion and sport cannot be separated. After Tuesday evening, a hope for a shared appreciation with Cardiff City in the Premier League once more, now hangs by a thread.

There was no cross carrying to the altar on this occasion, 20,000 white flag bearing emblems whipping the pilgrims to a frenzy. Andrew and Jordan Ayew the early disciples, Ki Sung-Yueng strong like St Barnabas, allowing Andy King having space to go for goal.

Luigi Scrosoppi (1804-84) the patron saint of footballers extended his care to all players but maybe, just maybe he had an inkling of companionship with George not David for the night. He was a battler against the strong anti-clerical feeling in Italy to bring hope and comfort to the poor; boy did Luigi, the son of a jeweller know when to kick sand.

The business of global football is humungous, still growing, the Premier League of course the place to be. Thursday, June 14, the start of the 2018 World Cup wouldn’t be able to match the energy of the Liberty Stadium, viral electricity in the form of a ‘berating Sparky’.

Kevin Johns’ reverence a catalyst for a chapel just off the players tunnel, encapsulating the imagery of ‘Camp Nou’? Peering back a replica of the Virgin of Montserrat, Catalonia’s most famous religious icon and its patron saint, with Baby Jesus on her lap exchange for St David, proudly inhaling a full choral rendition of ‘Land of my Fathers’. The Swans held sway, thirty minutes of football to their advantage, but no goal, Fabianski, the ‘big pole in the goal’ a saviour from Charlie Austin; twice.

One part of the epiphany, patron saint of the lottery, ‘Pantaleon’ although the Swansea players inspired by Saint Sebastian, extremely fit and able to withstand long physical endurance. Praying didn’t win the crunch game, when it mattered.

the ‘Jack Army’ a congregation of little ill repute registering the pressure, heading every ball, drumming pace and trickery. Sam Clucas saw his header slide across the face of the Alex McCarthy’s goal, the throng now not committed to the Sunday service Kevin asked of in his prayer.

The second half tension, flaring tempers and Jordan Ayew off like the clappers in tune with the stand, Austin chance after chance, enter Tammy Abraham, a tactical change replacing wing back Martin Olsson, Kyle McNaughton flying as Tammy called the tune, Jan Bednarek flattened by his own goal keeper, left to take a seat on the pews, Abraham cranked up the crescendo before substitute Manolo Gabbiadini broke the deadlock and the spirit.

Narsingh came on for McNaughton in the final quarter, Tom Carroll for King, Ki wasteful with Michael Oliver awarding six minutes of extra time, Abraham close before the emotion drained away.

The singing voices now clearly ‘the saints come marching in’ reminding us of St. Jude Thaddeus, cousin of Jesus and one of his Twelve Apostles, the patron saint of hopeless, desperate situations and lost, impossible, or forgotten causes. Read, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Kevin Johns, a Swan through and through and hope reigns eternal, perhaps with some ‘Hail Mary’s’ church bells will continue to ring loudly across West Wales.

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Alun Wyn Jones to lead Wales against England

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CAPTAIN Alun Wyn Jones returns to lead Wales against England in Cardiff on Saturday (Feb 23).

Jones will make his 122nd Welsh appearance, his 21st as captain, at Principality Stadium as the two remaining unbeaten teams in the Guinness Six Nations go head-to-head.

Jones will pack down with Cory Hill in the second row with Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty forming the back-row. A front-row of Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis complete the forwards line-up.

Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe are named at half-back with Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies partnering again in the midfield.  Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams make up the back-three.

“We are really happy with the experience we have got in the side,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

“We have been on the road for the first two weeks, we are looking forward to being back at home and to build on those first two wins and to build on our performance.

“We’ve had a great two week lead up to this game, we’ve looked really sharp and the squad are incredibly motivated to kick on.

“We know how important this game is for the rest of the championship.  It’s a massive challenge playing against an England team that is playing really well and with a lot of confidence and we’ve got to make it difficult for them on Saturday.

“We are looking forward to it and we know the Welsh fans are too and it’s going to be a huge weekend in the Six Nations.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis provide Wales’ front-row replacements with Adam Beard and Aaron Wainwright completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Dan Biggar and Owen Watkin provide the backline cover.

Wales Team to play England – Saturday, February 23, KO 16.45 – BBC ONE & S4C

15. Liam Williams (53 Caps)

14. George North (80 Caps)

13. Jonathan Davies (70 Caps)

12. Hadleigh Parkes (12 Caps)

11. Josh Adams (8 Caps)

10. Gareth Anscombe (23 Caps)

9. Gareth Davies (38 Caps)

1. Rob Evans (32 Caps)

2. Ken Owens (61 Caps)

3. Tomas Francis (37 Caps)

4. Cory Hill (23 Caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (122 Caps) (CAPT)

6. Josh Navidi (13 Caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (61 Caps)

8. Ross Moriarty (28 Caps)

REPLACEMENTS:

16. Elliot Dee (15 Caps)

17. Nicky Smith (25 Caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (9 Caps)

19. Adam Beard (10 Caps)

20. Aaron Wainwright (5 Caps)

21. Aled Davies (13 Caps)

22. Dan Biggar (67 Caps)

23. Owen Watkin (10 Caps)

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Collins’ stunner earns win for Veterans

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A STUNNING strike from Hakin left back Adam Collins ensured that the Veteran Vikings earned maximum points and remain top of the Welsh Veterans League after a hard fought 4-3 win at home to Coedeva Athletic last Sunday (Feb 17).

However, on a very windy day, the Vikings found themselves behind early on as Gareth Hinwood scored from the penalty spot.

Hakin were soon level though, when Stuart MacDonald set up Matthew Price to score from close range.

Richard Nash gave Hakin the lead scoring via a deflection and Paul Andrews levelled matters for Coedeva before the break, as his shot from distance also took a deflection.

Early in the second half, Michael McCarthy beat the Coedeva keeper to a ball to make it 3-2 from close range and almost immediately, Coedeva were level after another Gareth Hinwood penalty.

Inside the final quarter, a stunning left footed strike from Adam Collins found the top corner from distance to give Hakin the win.

Hakin next play on Sunday, March 3, at home to Swansea University in the semi-final of the Welsh Veterans Cup.

Hakin United: Jason Morgan, Nigel Armstrong, Richard Bland, Nigel Delaney, Adam Collins, Shaun Mills, Richard Nash, Stuart MacDonald, Michael McCarthy, Matthew Price, Leighton Edwards. Subs: Leigh Walters, Simon Rocke, Jamie Phillips, Gary Dawes.

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Saints do the double

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ST CLEARS completed the double over Neyland as they earned a 4-0 win on Saturday (Feb 16).

The Saints, who were forced into a re-shuffle at the back and without one of their midfielders, had beaten them 5-2 at home the previous week and Neyland would have been looking for some revenge.

However, it was the Saints who started strongly and took a deserved lead from a short corner. Jonny Thomas found Steve Thomas unmarked in the box and he headed home.

Both teams had chances to score but Saints keeper James Dickson made a few good saves to keep their 1-0 lead in tact.

The visitors eventually got the second goal of the game following good individual play by Will Evans.

Evans then added his second directly from a free kick to make it 3-0. They then rounded off a good day as Sean Seymour Davies latched onto a long ball to score and make it 4-0.

On Saturday (Feb 23), Neyland are away to Goodwick while St Clears welcome Merlins Bridge.

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