Even though I’m a rugby man through and through, and my ‘This is not soccer’ comment during one game went viral on social media, I’m actually a fan of Welsh football.
Whenever myself and Derek Bevan used to go abroad to officiate in Heineken Cup games, we always kept an eye out for the results and fortunes of Cardiff City, Swansea City, Newport County and Wrexham.
Those were the big four when I was growing up. Indeed, I was a Wrexham fan. When we played football at the bottom of our street, I’d always be Wrexham, while my mates would be Liverpool, Manchester United or Spurs, who were big and seemed to have quite a bit of success back then.
So I will take quite a bit of interest in the Wembley play-off finals this weekend and hope Swansea beat Brentford to get into the Premier League and Newport overcome Morecambe to clinch promotion to League One.
I understand the rivalry that is in Welsh football – that some Cardiff fans will want Brentford to win today, one or two Wrexham supporters might want Newport to lose on Monday.
But I will be fully behind the two of Welsh teams heading to Wembley because I support any Welsh sporting success. That includes our rugby sides, football teams, Glamorgan at cricket, Welsh individuals at the Olympics.
We’re a small country and you’ll always find me backing our own. Next season I hope Cardiff are promoted and that Wrexham continue to make strides under their exciting new ownership.
I watched on with great interest at the cup exploits of Newport in recent years when they pulled off so many shocks against bigger clubs from the higher divisions. These kind of David versus Goliath upsets are what the romance of the FA Cup is about and where rugby has lost out to football in recent times.
There used to be magical days in the old Welsh Cup, when a village side would welcome one of the giants like Cardiff RFC, Llanelli, Swansea, Newport, although I do fully understand the potential crowd issues we might have today were one of the regions to suddenly descend upon a small village ground for such a match.
Good luck to the Swans and County though – and even if things don’t go right at Wembley, I do hope their players show a bit more maturity than I felt we saw from a few of the Manchester United stars after they lost the Europa League final to Villareal the other night.
There was talk the following day about how the United players went up to the podium to collect their medals and some of them then promptly took them off from around their necks.
The context is important here. If they just found it uncomfortable, like when you wear a tie and sometimes can’t wait to get it off, then fair enough. I’ve even seen some players take off their winners’ medals for this reason.
However, if they were taken off just because Man Utd had lost the game, come on, show a little bit more maturity than that, surely?
I fully understand the intense disappointment. That’s fair enough. United were favourites to win, they’d just agonisingly been defeated in a penalty shootout, emotions were still running high. I get that.
Of course they wanted to win, of course they didn’t like losing. Everyone wants to come first, that’s totally understandable.
But whether they won or lost the game on Wednesday night, Man Utd still reached the Europa League final, a major UEFA competition which received huge worldwide TV coverage, a fine achievement in its own right. They deserved a medal for doing so.
On the Olympic podium, you don’t see the individuals winning silver and bronze ripping off their medals, even though they are desperate for gold.
They accept the medals around their neck, show respect to the event, even though many of them too badly wanted to win, rather than come runners-up or third.
I’m not convinced taking off a medal just to make a point of showing finishing second isn’t good enough is a particularly good example to set for youngsters watching across the world. There are ways and means of getting rid of your medal, if you wish to do so. In private, within the confines of the dressing room.
I wonder what UEFA and their many commercial partners thought about the actions which were so public on the night?
Come on, I believe we have to be a little bit more mature and set a better example than that, whatever the level of deep disappointment.