It is often said that “Football without fans is nothing”. So we thought here at Y Ddraig why not engage with the fans who follow their teams, through wind and rain, week in week out, across the country. In the first of hopefully what will become a regular feature, we take time, to catch up with two supporters, whose passion is Welsh Premier League football and watch Cardiff Metropolitan University FC. In the first instalment, we speak with Ian Campbell who is involved in matchday hospitality at the club.
Y DDRAIG – We understand Ian, that for many years you were an avid Cardiff City fan but like many supporters fell out of love with things at the Bluebirds. What made you make the switch from watching the Bluebirds, to embrace and follow a Welsh Premier League team in Cardiff Met?
IAN – I supported City for many, many years. I travelled all over Europe following them as well as home and away in Britain. I saw some shall we say interesting owners in my time of supporting the Bluebirds, including Kenton Utilities, Tony Clemo and the Kumars, but when Vincent Tan came along he found a way of upsetting the fan base better than any of the previous attempts. That was partly by changing the clubs colours from blue to red. I did try to embrace it, but I just couldn’t enjoy it.
Reflecting back, the club was heading to the Premier League, and I couldn’t enjoy it, as I felt it just wasn’t the team that I had supported for the previous 40 odd years. I know Tan’s mother told him off, and eventually, he changed back to blue, but the damage was done by then and I just couldn’t go back. I had a couple of years away from watching football but had been keeping one eye on the Met’s progress as they are only 300 yards away from my home. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about going up to watch as I didn’t know as a University club how I would be accepted. However, one pre-season I bit the bullet, went to watch a match and I haven’t looked back since.
Y DDRAIG –One of the benefits of following a Welsh Premier League team, is, of course, you can embrace many facets of it, and volunteer for various roles at the club and really feel part of the heartbeat of the club. I understand, on match days you are involved in matchday hospitality. How have you enjoyed this opportunity and how did you actively get onboard helping the “Archers”?
IAN – I had followed the Met for a season, and had been welcomed with open arms by all the staff and players. By November of my first season, I was travelling away with the team, popping over to training, all sorts really just connecting with the club. Our club is totally different to any other club in the league as everyone there is a volunteer including the coaching staff and players.
You have to believe in what the club is doing. In pre-season Christian Edwards said to me, they wanted to find me a job at the club, which obviously brought me into the group even closer and of course, we are known as the Archer Family at the University. I really enjoy helping out at the club and felt privileged to manage my role as it is very important to the club. In essence, I am the face of Cardiff Met FC when the players and VIP’s arrive at Cyncoed Campus. As a friendly person, I love helping people so looking after the VIP’s suits both myself and the club perfectly.
Y DDRAIG –Something you often see levelled on social media, is that “The Met are just a bunch of students”. It is evident to myself that many people looking in, do not understand the dedication and work that the players put in, and of course full credit to Christian Edwards and the support team for the Archers success. Does it frustrate you following the Archers, when seeing such comments from supporters of other clubs in the Welsh pyramid?
IAN– Ah just a bunch of students. I sometimes use this as a joke when we have done something particularly good. A tongue in cheek comment, because we hear it so much. Yes, they are a bunch of students but they are a bunch of students that give up so much to play for the club with no personal financial gain. Its a unique situation in the league.
As I mentioned previously, we have to believe in what the club is doing. The players we have, give up a lot of social life and holiday time to play for the club. The academic year finishes in mid-June and re-starts in mid-September, but the first team players at Cardiff Met FC come back at the start of July for pre-season training.
Of course this season they are back for pre-season before the academic year actually finishes so they will be in Cardiff throughout the summer. During the season they study hard as the educational side obviously is the most important, but then twice a week they spend an hour and a half training as well. We are very lucky to have the students we have as they are passionate, and care about what the club represents. I have seen some WPL supporters say we shouldn’t be in the league because we are just a bunch of students but that bunch of students have been in the WPL for three seasons now and achieved twice top-six finishes.
The icing on the cake is now winning the European play-off final. The club has also been in the Nathaniel MG Cup for the last two seasons, and are the current holders also getting to the Welsh Cup semi-final this year. Not bad for what some call just a bunch of students.
We are lucky to have performance analysis students that volunteer there time to help the players with that side of things and help provided from the strength and conditioning side of things during training. If people didn’t volunteer their time though we would not be able to have any of that.
Y DDRAIG – After narrowly failing to qualify in recent seasons for Europe, how much did it mean to you personally to finally see the Archers qualify after beating Bala Town at Maes Tegid. I can imagine it was a lively return back to South Wales?
IAN – European playoff qualifying games are now a regular finish to our season, but sadly we have narrowly missed out during the last two years. We have lost 1-0 twice, away at Bangor City and Cefn Druids respectively. This season for some reason I felt good about them going into the final. I guess beating most peoples favourites, Caernarfon Town on their own turf helped me to really believe we could do it.
On the evening of the match, I thought the game was going the same way again, with the number of times we hit the woodwork, although I know Bala Town fans also thought the same as well. Thankfully this time we got over the line, with the drama of a penalty shootout. I struggled to watch the shoot out and was relying on the crowd’s responses to the shots. I did, however, watch Eliot’s winner, and the cloud that has hung over me for the last two playoff finals suddenly lifted with the and it was an unbelievable feeling. I was cwtching everyone I could find, whether they wanted it or not.
Some of the players were in tears which shows how much it meant to everyone. Yes, it was definitely an interesting trip back on the bus. a few of the reserve players and friends of players joined us on the team coach on the way home. We stopped at a pub that’s owned by one of the player’s father’s and had a buffet and a few drinks there before continuing home. I think I got home around 4am if my memory serves me right.
Y DDRAIG –Finally Ian, I am sure you’re checking your passport is ready, and that you are looking forward to the draw for the Europa qualifying fixture. Is there a particular team you are looking forward to hopefully drawing? The Archers certainly look well drilled and have a tremendous work ethic being realistic can they look to progress in the competition?
IAN – Funnily you should ask about my passport, In fact, I had renewed it online about a week earlier, as noticed that it was due to run out on June 6th. Within five hours after arriving home from Bala, I had a knock at the door, and it was my new passport being delivered. As for the draw, I have been studying as much as I can about the teams. I think my perfect draw would be SP Tre Fiori of San Marino as it will be a nice place to go and maybe if we are on our game over the two legs, there is a fair possibility of maybe getting through to the next round.
However, we have to take one game at a time especially with the amount of money that is on these ties. The one fixture that I do not want although, I would love to go there, is FC Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg. They are by far the best team in the round and even beat Rangers over two legs a couple of years ago.
I feel however wherever the game is I will enjoy the experience but more importantly, it is a massive reward to Christian, Robyn, Taff, Dai, Jenks, Daz the kitman, Graham and every single one of the players that have worked so hard to get to this stage. Quite a few of the players that played in that game at Maes Tegid were playing with Met in Division three of the Welsh League only a few years ago. That’s a testament to how far they have come.
A big shout to Ian for talking to Y Ddraig and also for providing the photos, stay tuned for our next Cardiff Met fans focus article when we will be featuring the clubs PA announcer, and supporter Matthew James.
Author: Andrew Evans @therovingsheep