Football: Fan's Eye View: Caersws - Europe via the village green

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The Independent Online
"WHAT AM I doing here," said Brian. It was dark, damp and cold on the South Wales coast and we were watching the referee who had dismissed Vinnie Jones days before now presiding over the efforts of an Afan Lido team who had recently got beaten up in a Latvian night-club on their first foray into Europe.

But we, I pointed out, were there to support Caersws, founder members and the only village team in the League of Wales (Llansantffraid came later and soon sold their soul to a sponsor with an even longer name than themselves). The Bluebirds' custodian that day,Russell Cadwallader, has long since given way to Matthew Griffiths but my infrequent visits still find a Caersws team with a percentage of locals to make your average Chelsea fan green with envy.

Having first propped my chin on the railings at Aldershot's Recreation Ground next to the railway 48 years ago, I know where my loyalty lies but, with Isthmian League locations failing to satisfy my other passion for mountains, where better to turn than Wales and a team that plays at the Recreation Ground beside the railway.

Following the Shots home and away leaves only rare Caersws titbits like Sunday dashes from the Brecon Beacons to Inter Cable Tel's echoing athletics stadium, treks through the Elan Valley Dams to Friday night games at Aberystwyth or early morning ascents of Pumlumon - source of the Severn that flows past the Bluebirds' ground.

Mid-table respectability has mostly been the L of W lot of a club with a proud regional history. When you hear football scores taking second place to rugby on Radio Wales, you might think pilgrims should be journeying the other way but passion for the game is surely alive and well when a village with a three-figure population can log a four-figure gate for a local derby against Newtown.

Perhaps the departure of the son of manager Mickey Evans to Aston Villa means it will be a while before we follow Newtown into Europe but, with talents like Sean Jehu (able to drop inswinging corners on to a sixpence at the far post), I may soon have to start studying the mountain contours on Latvian maps.