The Black and White Army.

In the latest fan focus article, we catch up with Richie Phillips who is part of the Ammanford Town FC supporters group the Black and White army.

Y DDRAIG-  Ammanford Town now certainly seem to an upwardly mobile club, the recent infrastructure improvement in the stands, for example, being one example of many, and the marquee signing of Lee Trundle this season has certainly got people talking. Many fans of local Welsh league clubs have often swapped the higher profile clubs such as Swansea City and Cardiff City behind to embrace their local team. Is it a familiar story for yourself Richie? And what is the appeal, or attraction of following a local team in the Welsh League?

RICHIE – Absolutely it is pretty much similar to me. I have always been proud to be Welsh and everything that means to be Welsh. I think it is the sense of being the underdog, the outsider, the ‘Rocky Balboa’ if you like that nobody gives a chance too. Everyone loves an underdog, and that’s what being an Ammanford supporter is all about! I’ve supported them from a young age, whenever I stayed over my grandparents I use to go over to the club and watch them play, I use to be mesmerized with all the aerial battles, fierce tackles, sludgy mud, dodgy barnets, the smell of lager from the clubhouse and the halftime cigarette (occasionally that was the ref! Haha! Joke…) Old school back then see! However, to get the buzz of the bigger stage I sometimes went to the Vetch and the Liberty to watch the Swans.

Back then it was the old third division, nothing could beat the Swans’ climb right through the upper echelons of English football, but once they reached the Premier League, something in me died, I didn’t notice it at first but once all the prices went up, the glitz and glam of the top flight took over, along with all the greed and negligence, I literally fell out of love with the big stage, I felt it wasn’t real, it was all fake, totally out of touch with ‘Real Footie’ where die-hard supporters go week in week out, we call them ‘volunteers’, true characters and the real strength of the local community.

Of course, I am not saying that there are not die-hard supporters at big clubs, I just find it is the clubs themselves and as they progress up the league they often forget where they have come from, and who was there prior to them being in the big time. I’m coming across very deep here (laugh) But it’s true, the football elite is what’s wrong with football today, totally disconnected from the heart and soul of its foundation, its community, its identity and its grassroots! So for me, it’s all about ‘Real Football’ real clubs with real people from all walks of life, all collectively fighting for survival, not to mention punching above their weight from time to time, and that’s what Ammanford is all about  “The Rocky Balboa of the FAW Championship South”

Y DDRAIG – In a statement of intent this season Ammanford Town this season announced the signing of Lee Trundle. The former Swansea City legend has been phenomenal in the last few seasons in the Welsh Leagues, and at the age of 42 shows no sign of slowing down.  How has the signing gone down with supporters? And can you feel a buzz around the club and in the town with people now starting to take note of the club?

RICHIE – We just cannot wait to get started. There is already a massive buzz around the club and for everyone associated with it. I am hearing already that we have possibly sold around 50 plus season tickets. This is a phenomenal start for the upcoming season and shows the enthusiasm that the signing has brought.  Last season on a Saturday we averaged around 150 per game, (except for the Amman Valley Derby where we saw 400+ present, our biggest attendance by far), but it was our Friday night games where we witnessed a phenomenal average of 250 plus spectators.

With our recent successes on and off the field, the club is showing that they want to build on the momentum, and the signing of Lee Trundle is truly inspiring. Last season we finished ninth and survived our first season in Division 1 (Now the FAW Championship South) and we did so without an out and out striker. Hopefully, Lee’s introduction will give ourselves a massive boost going forward on and off the field… Roll on the new season we can’t wait.

Y DDRAIG – It is always superb to see atmosphere on the terraces at Welsh clubs. The Black and White army are certainly doing their best to get some chanting going and bringing flags to the ground. Is this something that you actively encourage? and how important is it do you feel, that fans young or old can come along buy a season ticket for £60 and embrace the club.

RICHIE – The Black and White army have made huge strides, in what was our debut season. Reflecting back, myself and my mates have had this mindset to use our passion to create a supporters group, dedicated to the club and our fanbase. Last season was the perfect opportunity to make our mark on our countries domestic setup and without sounding big headed, we smashed it, far better than we had envisaged.

With our drum, flags, chants, sexy valley baritone voices, beards and beer bellies, we have certainly made an impression, and to get noticed by arguably the two loudest and biggest group of fans in Welsh football Barry Town and the Cofi Army, shows that we must be doing something right. We want to bring the terraces of Welsh football alive, we welcome all with open arms. We want to be the biggest, loudest and famous fan base in Wales and inspire other supporters to do the same with their hometown club.

I believe anything is possible. Ideally, we want to see clubs in Wales filled with fans, flags, club colours, banners, drums and loads of chants, basically a huge thriving atmosphere! On that note, we also want every club to know whenever they are playing Ammanford AFC that they are in for one hell of a noisy time. It really doesn’t matter if we win, lose or draw we love the club. Saying that mind er….we still want to win though lol.

Y DDRAIG – Early days, but ahead of this forthcoming season the club has signed Lee Trundle, Tristan Jenkins from Llanelli Town and announced some friendlies including tough tests at WPL clubs Pen-Y-Bont and Carmarthen Town. The club finished ninth last season in a competitive league. What are your hopes and expectations for the league campaign this season?

RICHIE – Just like every new season, my expectation is to improve on the last, on and off the field, grow as a club, create stability with a prosperous and successful future ahead. Last season we finished a successful ninth, superb for a newly promoted club who didn’t have an out and out striker for most of the season as our main hitman, Craig Frater was still recovering from a serious injury from the season before.

This season I would love for us to push further up the league, I don’t think we’re strong enough for promotion, but if we show a lot more physicality in our game along with our passing philosophy and stop losing games where our performances deserve victories, then it will be interesting to see where we end up. The signings of Lee Trundle and Tristan Jenkins are exciting ones! Trundle will, without doubt, add more firepower up front and hopefully, develop us to be more clinical and ruthless when going forward.

We all hope that Tristan Jenkins will grasp this opportunity, and show us just how good he is. With us losing Liam Samuel, our top scorer last season, Tristan who I am told is a winger, will hopefully slot in on the wing and fill the big boots left by Liam. With the Black and White Army behind him, we will give Tristan all the confidence he needs to fill the void left by Liam. I am pretty certain that if you ask Liam himself or the other players, they will all vouch just how important (we) the ‘twelfth’ man are! What will make my season is a good cup-run ideally facing either Barry Town or Caernarfon Town along the way. The chance to stand toe-to-toe with the Barry faithful or the Cofi army will be a dream come true.

Y DDRAIG – It was noticeable to myself, that at the end of last season the clubs manager Gruffydd Lloyd Harrison took time out to write a letter praising the Black and White army. Reflecting how far the club has come in recent seasons, how rewarding as a fan is it to see the personal thanks, and appreciation from the gaffer?

RICHIE – It was the creme brulee, the bonnet de douche! I have never been used to praise, all a bit alien to me really, but receiving that letter from Don Gruff himself thanking all the Black and White Army for the support throughout the season was a touch of class! We love our club and our town. It is our home, and that will never change! Don Gruff and the club better get ready, because next season my vision for our fan base is to expand and grow further!

YDDRAIG – Going forward what are your personal hopes and aspirations for the club?

RICHIE – We (The Black and White Army) are immensely proud to be part of this amazing club! My vision is to grow this club’s fanbase as big as I can, get huge crowds back to watch their home club, and be an inspiration for all the future generations who want to play for or support Ammanford AFC. The main importance in all this is to bring Ammanford together, the entire community, all as one town! It doesn’t matter whether you play football, rugby, cricket, chess or do ballet! We should all be enthusiastic, supportive, encourage and celebrate every individual or team’s triumphs and achievements as one proud united town!

Big things have small beginnings. Our time will come!

Y DDRAIG – Thank you for Richie for taking time to chat to Andrew Evans @therovingsheep and we would like to take the opportunity to wish the club every success this season.

IMAGES – Copyright “The Black and White Army”