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Sport Roundup Spring 2017

Forget snooker,
Ray Reardon
once got
stuck down
a mine! Riath
explains all

Swans need a leader
Of all the lessons learned from Swansea’s horror show of a season, one is that you should never underestimate the value of the obvious. Namely, if you take away a team’s leader, you are in serious trouble. Quite aside from his merits as a centre-half, Ashley Williams was the heart and soul of that side. It is true that they did not want to sell him to Everton, but once it became apparent that he was going, heaven and earth should have been moved to find a personality capable of plugging the gap. If they had succeeded, it is a fair bet the campaign would not have been such an appalling mess.

The Warnock effect
Neil Warnock will have to wait at least a season to deliver the record-breaking eighth promotion he craves, but given where Cardiff were headed before he arrived, he can take a tremendous amount of credit for their mid-table finish. He riles people, but there can be no doubting he is among the very best men working in the second tier. He calls the Championship his ‘muck and nettles’ and he is a specialist at cutting a path through a uniquely difficult division that has made fools of many bigger names.

Rewriting the marathon rulebook
How tremendous to see Josh Griffiths rewrite the rulebook of marathon running. To recap, he is the 23-year-old club runner who was part of the mass start at the London Marathon and made himself a star a little more than two hours later. He not only caught the elite athletes who had set off before him, but he passed them, one by one, until he finished 13th, one place behind the Olympic silver medallist. RedHanded spoke to him moments after he crossed the line, when he explained he was a student from Cross Hands without a coach. He also revealed it was his first attempt at the 26-mile distance. What he didn’t immediately realise was that by being the first British runner to cross the line, he secured himself a place in Britain’s team for August’s World Championships. To illustrate the scale of that achievement, an official from British Athletics who was on site at the time had never heard of Griffiths.

Warren picks Wales
Warren Gatland must be the most loyal Welshman in New Zealand. It caused quite a stir that he went with 12 Welshmen for his 41-strong British Lions squad and only two Scots, with the rationale that Scotland’s form away from home was concerning. It seemed strange for him to consider such minutiae when set against an even more glaring statistic that shows that his Wales teams have lost all 10 of their games against New Zealand since he took over in 2007. After finishing fifth in the Six Nations, a few Welsh players can probably feel slightly fortunate to have been selected.

The ultimate rematch?
There are talks over bringing Anthony Joshua’s proposed rematch with Wladimir Klitschko to the Principality Stadium in October or November, owing to the fact it is just about the only arena big enough to host it. If the noise levels are anything like they were at Wembley, the ground might not have that roof much longer.

Old guys rule
A recent conversation with Tredegar’s Ray Reardon was wonderful on a couple of levels. One was because the six-time snooker world champion explained how, aged 84, he is still hitting centuries at a rate of one a fortnight. Another was because he proved once and for all how younger sportsmen simply cannot compete with the old guard when it comes to quality story telling. In the space of two hours he detailed how he was once trapped underground for three hours when he was a miner caught in a collapse. From there he shared a tale from his time as a policeman, when he walked in on a theatre nightwatchman who had ‘engaged in an act’ with a fire extinguisher. It was only towards the end of a long chat that sport even came up. Compared to chats with the over-protected sportsmen today, who have been raised in sport academies and tutored in how to say nothing, it was a magnificent change of pace.

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