Sport

How an Englishman’s love of Welsh football changed his life forever

19 Sep 2021 4 minutes Read
Englishman Paul Burns who fell in love with Welsh football and Llanfair United in particular (Credit: Paul Burns)

Paul Burns

I’ve lived in Llanfair Caereinion for nearly 19 years. I don’t ever see myself heading ‘home’, which is just outside of South West London.

It was a move that happened from meeting a girl – isn’t that always the way? She’s also from the South East of England, but she’d been coming to this part of Mid Wales for years before we met.

One trip to Mid Wales was enough to suggest we move.

I always had the view that English people were disliked by everyone in Wales, and yet that one weekend changed my view in the blink of an eye.

Six months after our first visit, we had moved to a new town and community. This is where my love of local grassroots football really took off.

Love of Wales

I could have always jumped on a train from Welshpool to follow Shrewsbury or I could have driven to Wrexham to support my nearest professional Welsh side, or even take the short drive to watch TNS in the then League of Wales, who were at the time playing in Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, but that was always a non starter for me. Who names a club after their own company anyway.

In the end, I opted for the 300 metre walk up the hill to the Mount Field ground to watch Llanfair Utd (who play in the Ardal League North East) and so started a connection to my local club that now spans just over 18 years.

Llanfair United in action at Mount Field (Credit: Paul Burns)

I’ve gone from just turning up to watch, to being a pitch marker, to being a linesman for the reserves for four seasons. I would get more grief from my own team than the other team.

I was also the fine collector at the club (what a way to make yourself popular!) I have been on the committee for 15 years and at one time I was Vice Chairman but I have now found the job I love, being on the gate.

You get to chat to the away fans, ground hoppers and see the regular home fans. But the real highlight for me is the social side. After a game on a Saturday, a group of us head to the local and discuss the game. I’ve missed these Saturdays over the last 18 months and I hope to go back to the post match analysis soon.

My time following and helping out with my local club has opened new friendships, and has made me feel part of the wider community in Llanfair. Whilst I am most likely preaching to the converted, I would urge people to get involved in local clubs. For me, it’s given me something that I could never have imagined after the first time I saw Llanfair Utd play.

I am now confused. I know I’ll never be Welsh. My birthplace and accent will show where I’m from, but yet I love watching Wales play with my mates in the pub.

Photo David Owens

During the Euros I found myself getting annoyed with how much TV coverage England was getting, especially when Wales’ games were on. Then, in the last couple of years I have found myself being more open and supportive of Welsh independence, a thing I never thought I would have said 19 years ago. I have kids born in Wales, and they are super proud of being Welsh, and that makes me proud of them.

So my dilemma is this, can you be Anglo-Welsh? Because I have found since moving here and joining in, I have become part of a community that I don’t think I would have found just outside of London.

Whenever I go ‘home’ to see friends and family, I find myself sticking up for Wales, and arguing against the normal stereotypical jokes about sheep, rugby and rain, and now independence, which until I moved I’m ashamed to say I probably made the same stupid boneheaded remarks.

I hope now that I’ve seen the light, people who read this will forgive me.

This article first appeared in the latest issue of football culture fanzine Alternative Wales.

Find out more about Alternative Wales and subscribe HERE

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Lolly Mountjoy
Lolly Mountjoy
1 month ago

It’s not where you were born or what nationality your parents are it’s what’s in here ❤️

Tim
Tim
1 month ago

what a lovely man

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago

Croeso, Paul. You’re a welcome example of how incomers should be.

Gerwyn
Gerwyn
1 month ago

Lovely story – football is the common language – great guy, good attitude to life and his ‘new’ community

Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
1 month ago

Croeso i’n byd ni – pobl fel ti dan ni eu hangen, a mwy ohonyn. 🙂

More power to your elbow, fingers on keyboard and general positive. Bring as many of your compatriots with you.

Diolch am y gefnogaeth.

Alwyn ap Huw
1 month ago

I went to a school that had pretensions of grandeur. It was a comprehensive founded in the 16C and because of it’s pretensions saw rugby as the school game. Boys were caned for playing football in school time. Because of such pretensions I played rugby and know rugby better than i know football. My local football club was in danger of folding, for financial reasons. I was a community councillor who had found funds for other organisations, and was invited to be chair of the club. Because I know f… all about football I refused twice. But after insistence I… Read more »

Paul Stephens
Paul Stephens
1 month ago

What a top fella.

Rhys
Rhys
1 month ago

I know that for some people, Welshness is a matter of birth, or who your parents were, or what you sound like.

For me, though, it’s all about what you think you are. Nations are imagined communities: they exist because we believe they exist. Things like culture, language and accents help us to believe, as do being part of the community and feeling at home in the country.

So if you feel Welsh, or even Anglo-Welsh, then you are in my book!

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
1 month ago

Yes you can be Welsh 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Good pubs in Llanfair…I bet that helped…

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