Jack The Lad: Poetry in motion

4th October 2017

With international matches on the menu this week, supporter-turned-blogger Jack The Lad looks at the links a former Swans youngster and Wales call-up has to the city along with revisiting John Toshack's attempt at mixing football with poetry.

In the build up to the last international break I mentioned players in the Wales squad who had Swans connections.

Ashley Williams, Jazz Richards, Joe Allen, Ben Davies and even Ethan Ampadu, the son of former midfielder Kwame "Pat" Ampadu, were included.

But I omitted another player named in squad who has Swansea connections . . . Marley Watkins.

The Norwich City midfielder was on the Swans' youth books from 1999 to 2007, when he was released by the club at the age of 17.

But that isn't Marley's only connection to the city. Despite being born in Lewisham, he grew up in Swansea and is the grandson of one of Wales' most famous poets.

Watkins' grandfather is the late poet Vernon Watkins, who was a good friend of fellow Swansea wordsmith Dylan Thomas. His death 50 years ago is currently being commemorated by a number of events in and around the city

Vernon Watkins' widow Gwen is now in her 90s but keeps up to date with grandson's footballing progress from her home in the Mumbles.

Since leaving the Swans, Marley has played for a number of clubs including, Cheltenham, Bath City, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Barnsley, before moving to East Anglia in the summer.

Speaking about his call up for Wales recently, Gwen Watkins said: "I am so proud of Marley's achievements, and I follow every one of his games, and every kick, from my home in Mumbles, through my computer. We're all very proud of him, and know he'll give 100 per cent for Wales."

Watkins isn’t the only link between the Swans, the Welsh international team and poetry.

Many Swans fans may not realise that former Swans player manager and Welsh international John Toshack had literary leanings.

Before he joined the Swans, Toshack penned a poetry book entitled Gosh It’s Tosh!

Some unkind reviewers, misinterpereted the title to claim the collection of verse “was indeed Tosh”!

Here’s an example of his work for you to make up your own minds, it recounts Wales controversial European Nations Cup quarter-final against Yugoslavia back in 1976, which sparked a pitch invasion at Ninian Park.

"The Yugoslavs were a skilful side,
But we had to salvage some of our pride.
An early goal we badly need
But what we got was a shock indeed.
A bad decision that really hurt
A penalty kick the Slavs convert.
The second half was really confused,
But the Welsh supporters weren't amused.
Gloeckner chalked off two of my goals,
The crowd poured on 'God Bless Their Souls'!
A five minute break and order's restored,
But in spite of it all we still haven't scored"

Tosh had put down his pen by the time he came to the Swans and concentrated on producing poetic play on the pitch instead as he steered the Swans from the Fourth to First Division.

Just as well really as I’m not sure his work would have been included alongside examples of Vernon Watkins and Dylan Thomas’s material in Swansea’s latest bid to become the UK’s City of Culture.

Having already failed once to earn the title, we really wouldn’t want the latest bid to go from “bard to verse” thanks to Tosh’s crimes against rhyme!

C'mon you Swans!