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PHIL BENNETT: The Autobiography by Phil Bennett

PHIL BENNETT: The Autobiography by Phil Bennett

Author:Phil Bennett [Bennett, Phil]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers
Published: 2015-07-20T16:00:00+00:00


CHAPTER 11

Scarlet Fever

My father was a steel man. Others worked in the tin-plate industry and some down the mines. There were teachers, preachers, farmers and a few first-timers like me who had never been to Stradey Park before. But even though I was only seven years old and these men looked like giants as I held my father’s hand, I could share their sense of excitement at going to see Llanelli. It’s a feeling I’m sure Derek Quinnell, Scott Quinnell, Ieuan Evans and others have all felt over the years.

Up until then I had only heard the stories, listening in fascination as the men in my village of Felinfoel discussed the legends and characters of the club. The talk was always passionate and lively even if those telling the stories might have felt tired after a hard-grafting shift. We were only a mile-and-a-half away but it somehow made Stradey seem distant and exotic. Three names were always mentioned. There was Albert Jenkins, who supposedly used to drink five pints on the morning before a game to give him strength. Then there was Ivor Jones, a flanker who toured with the Lions. Finally, there was the great Lewis Jones, the golden boy who became a Lion at the age of 19. These were men who I had never seen play but who I knew plenty about.

Everyone remembers their first time. Mine was against Cardiff. The week had dragged but finally Saturday had arrived and my father let me go with him to see the Scarlets. Cardiff had Cliff Morgan playing for them, while Llanelli’s own outside-half was Carwyn James. Little did I know what an influence Carwyn would have on my own rugby career and what a colossal figure he would become in the club’s history. I don’t remember the score, or even who won. But I can still picture the animated faces in the crowd, the vibrant atmosphere generated by their shouts and urging on of the Scarlets. It was frightening but also wonderfully exciting for a youngster whose only rugby experience had been in the local park. I was hooked.

We went every other week soon after that. When Llanelli were away, then we went to see the soccer team, instead. The Reds might not have had quite the pulling power of the Scarlets, but they could play a bit and they had enough sway to attract a young man down from Scotland called Jock Stein. My hunger for both forms of football was therefore met by what you might call a balanced upbringing: rugby one week, soccer the next.

The only away games my father took me to were the big local derby matches when Llanelli were playing Swansea at St Helen’s. There would be a mass exodus from Llanelli station on the train and again my main memories are of intense-looking faces, jokes cracked on the walk to the ground, and blood-stained bandages worn by hard Llanelli men like Howard ‘Ash’ Davies and RH Williams who would rather lose pints of the stuff than come off the pitch early against Swansea.



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