By Jonathan Twigg
IN any sport there are individuals who age like a fine wine and mature from the grape to become, over time, someone who is a respected and admired product, whom many strive to become.
One such full bodied person would be Carmarthen Swimming Club’s John Towle, hailing from Coventry in the West Midlands but now firmly ensconced in the landscape of West Wales sport.
John and his wife Hazel moved to Newcastle Emlyn in 2013 having lived in Bedworth for 32 years, with their two sons Adam, now living in London and Neil who is still residing in the Midlands at Hockley Heath, where John regularly returns for family time and to mix with old swimming friends at galas.
John started swimming in the 1960’s as a teenager at one of the three Coventry Clubs, where the current 50 meter pool stands today in the City Centre. But back in those days 33 yards was a more than a suffice distance for swimmers to train.
As, in all walks of life, choices had to be made when he was growing up and John followed a route into Scouting meaning swimming subconsciously took a backward step for 35 years.
His enthusiasm for Scouting prevailed from being a Senior Scout and gaining the Queen Scout Award, then the next 30 years as a Scout leader, progressing, eventually, to Assistant County Commissioner for Leader Training along with several years of assisting Leader Training course at Gilwell Park in London.
This role entailed him planning and delivering the training programme for all leaders whilst remaining at the forefront of nurturing young people to ‘be the best they can be’.
Eventually the lure of the swimming pool returned as John took his own children to Bedworth Otters Swimming Club. “As a parent I spent hours sitting and watching my two boys swim, so when an invitation was given to train as a technical official I accepted, and the rest is history.”
John committed the same enthusiasm he showed for scouting onto the pool deck and as time passed so swimming took over as his passion where the ‘boredom of sitting and watching the sport now sees him as one of Swim Wales most important cogs’.
His children have moved on from the sport, but John had found his calling and remained actively involved on the pool deck, qualifying as a Referee in 2004.
As part of Nuneaton and Bedworth Swimming Club (they merged late 1990s) he first got involved in training new officials to the sport at the Club, before moving to Coventry Swimming Club, taking responsibility for all their official’s training programme.
This led to an appointment to training officials across the Midlands region, particularly ‘young officials’ which he held until he moved to Wales four and a half years ago.
Short in stature he may be but John makes up for this through a well-spoken dialect, certainly a revered asset when communicating on the pool deck. John is a man who listens, connects and reasons before speaking, which instantly earns him the respect he deserves, in many avenues of life, swimming being just one of them.
He is an active soul, despite his advancing years and the fact he has survived two cardiac infarctions, the second of which now sees him with a refitted heart. He enjoys walking, “primarily with a golf stick for support” he chuckles “and I’m also hands on at present in a major renovation of my garden, weather dependent of course.”
Both he and his wife have embraced life in Newcastle Emlyn, where he is supportive of his wife’s Chairmanship of the U3A, whilst John takes responsibility for producing the monthly newsletter.
He is also a keen clay pigeon shooter, “but like my golf it is dictated by time, weather and other commitments” he smiles ruefully. “Thankfully I get to play snooker on a more regular basis and enjoy the Sunday quiz nights in the local pub where my broad shoulders come to the fore in supporting the teams above us.”
Moving to Wales didn’t end his association with swimming; when he relocated he identified Carmarthen Swimming Club as the ‘right’ club, explaining “naturally I applied for membership and I am currently active in training club officials once again after some persuasion from Denise Conlon”! John is committed to supporting the Club events, Urdd galas, Regional and Swim Wales national events and often finds himself away from home for nights on end.
“I do get tired, but swimming is a family, and everyone is supportive of each other. Those times away from the pool deck are enjoyable and friendships forged which for me have lasted a lifetime”.
John came through the sport and was on the pool deck along with British greats like Olympic British Paralympian swimmer Ellie Symonds, Olympic, European and Commonwealth breast stroke medallist swimmer Adam Whitehead and Olympic, European and Commonwealth back stroke competitor swimmer Jo Deakin.
“Swimming is a very technical sport, where the officials are present to see fair play for the competitors in a sport where the dedication to training can see them spending 16+ hours a week in the pool.
“Technology advancements have helped officials enormously but we had to embrace them as they were introduced.”
Due to his involvement at British National galas John’s experience meant he cascaded the information and technology through the ranks, although he still enjoys the ‘old school’ technique of pen, paper and a stop watch.
The future is one based on tomorrows for John. “My calendar each year is planned meticulously, with swimming taking a primary spot as I enjoy retirement from being a Technical Illustrator and Exhibition’s Project Manager. Evenings spent with fellow swimming officials are a time to relax, reflect and reminisce’ he says with a smile, and enjoying his favourite tipple, a glass of red wine.
He has had offers for key job roles as a double for Santa Claus, notably in the lead up to Christmas “but I turn them down as it’s also a busy month for swimming!” Perhaps then not a humbug as John is a living tribute to the sport of swimming.
Swans still sweet on Premier League survival
By Jonathan Twigg
SWANSEA’s clamber through the trials and tribulations of the Premier League can be compared to that of a child running amok in a sweet shop, so many tantalising favourites to devour, with the occasional reminder that not all sweets are sweet.
A retro walk down the Bridge Meadow Lane would have taken a child past the shop run by Connie Clarke, renowned for her welcome on the bell clanging. Supporters of Haverfordwest County and their opponents on match day, welcomed with few words but with the knowledge her confectionary delights never failed to deliver.
Following Saturday’s (Apr 14) 1-1 draw with Everton, who arrived without former Swans stars Ashley Williams and Gylfi Sigurdsson in their line-up, supporters left knowing the sweet taste of success held by the Premier League is still within their grasp.
With two of the bottom three to visit the Liberty in the final week of the season this point is one gained in search of extending their Premier League status to an eighth season, although manager Carlos Carvalhal nearly led his side to five consecutive home wins, something no other manager has done since the heady days of John Toshack in 1981.
Swansea welcomed Jordan Ayew back from a three game suspension to partner elder brother Andre as Bolton based referee Lee Mason began the game in front of 20,933, the returning brother setting the tone alongside Andy King at a sun drenched Liberty Stadium.
Carvalhal has worked some magic since his arrival on the cusp of Christmas, tactically leaving opposite number former England supremo Sam Allerdyce to venture to the touchline with his pocket ball side kick Sammy Lee to stem the tide; the blues were overrun in midfield, Jordan Ayew having a wonderful chance cleared off the line as was captain Frederico Fernadez header from the resultant corner, before Andre’s sight of goal was saved by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Alfie Mawson has grown to be imperial at the back for the Swans, attracting the interest of Manchester United, one of those mints that the longer you savour, the better it lingers. Luciano Narsingh however can be likened more to a quickly dissolving peppermint cream, releasing the taste with speed, rousing the Jack Army with an immediate hit, succulent whilst it lasts, inspiring the Swans to drive forward.
Former England captain Wayne Rooney had one of those games, like an aniseed ball, many unable to relish his taste as he left his mark, literally with some raking tackles; his class, undoubted, when it finally came to the fore.
An opening goal came with the aid of goal line technology, just before half time, Lucas Fabianski brilliantly making a double save from Bolasie, before a ricochet off Kyle Naughton and a half time lead, Fabianski thankfully however saving from Cenk Tosun a minute later.
Jordan became the first recipient of a yellow card in the second half, substitute Nathan Dyer creating a stir as the game went up by a level with a sugar surge, the vocal chords tingled with honey from a locket, in the form of striker Tammy Abraham’s arrival.
Full backs McNaughton and Martin Olsson created chances, Tom Carroll serving buckets of sweet balls, to no avail; Dyer driving forward over from twenty yards, Abraham and the Ayews creating half chances, Mawson’s header cleared off the line before the full quarter was served, Jordan levelling the game with a right foot half volley.
The final fifteen minutes rocked the stadium once more, after dinner mints were all Swansea’s, although Seamus Coleman thundered a shot against the woodwork, Abraham missed a gilt edged opportunity at the other end, whilst a tall and well positioned defensive wall directed Rooney’s set piece opportunity over the bar.
Extra strong mints were needed, alas unavailable as the toffees held firm, not fudging their lines with Beni Baningime taking a yellow card for the team, the games conclusion seeing a share of the spoils.
Carvalhal’s magic stars will have to be at their best to out fox and unwrap three points on Sunday (Apr 22) when opponents Manchester City will have champagne liquor chocolates on hand, having been crowned Premier League champions.
Swansea then have the opportunity to welcome Chelsea to ‘fortress’ Liberty the week after; wispa it quietly, as many have their eyes on the final weeks’ trio of games, starting with a trip to the South Coast in search of the bounty available at Dean Park, Bournemouth, before a starburst performance at home to Southampton on the Tuesday and Stoke City for a final day picnic. There can be no wine gums on show, just the everlasting gobstopper which is Premier League football.
Super Reds reach Cup final
Report by Alan Evans
LLANELLI Town have their sights firmly fixed on another double to emulate the achievement of last season, as they currently top the league table and look favourites for the title, while they are also through to the Welsh League Cup final, a trophy they won in 2016/17, after comfortably seeing off Cwmbran Celtic at Afan Lido’s Marston’s Stadium in the semi-final on Tuesday (Apr 10).
A dire first half seemed to consist solely of how far downfield either team could send the ball, although the Reds looked the more likely to score in the few chances which were created.
When Chris Jones swung a corner into the goalmouth, Ryan Fleming in the Celtic goal punched it clear where it rebounded off Joe Clarke and then another Reds player before ending in a harmless goal kick.
Chris Thomas brought off a saving tackle on Josh Bull when the Celtic striker threatened to break up the middle, before Kurtis March glanced a header wide from close in from another Jones delivery.
When a loose pass by Jones intended for Antonio Facciuto was instead intercepted by Callum Wakeham, he made ground into the Reds` box, but some good defending snuffed out the danger.
Celtic then suffered a blow when Bull was forced off injured on 38 minutes to be replaced by Lloyd Kinsella, and when Simon Prangley picked out Iolo Jones wide on the Celtic left, he whipped a ball across the face of the goal before it was gathered safely by Craig Morris.
The second half had to be an improvement on the first, and so it turned out with the Reds, at least, displaying some modicum of a passing game, with Lee Trundle accepting a ball from Jones only to see his finish cleared off the line.
James Loveridge, with a surging run, forced Luke Jones to concede a corner taken by Trundle, whose delivery to the far post was met by Lee Bevan who powered his header past Fleming on 56 minutes to put the Reds ahead.
Ten minutes later, March played a pass into the feet of Trundle whose instant reaction to meet it left the Celtic keeper helpless as it nestled in the bottom corner.
Now totally in control, the Reds were looking capable of adding to their lead, with Loveridge forcing Fleming to turn his well struck shot around the post, before the tie was finally wrapped up six minutes from time when Trundle got his brace, picking up a long clearance from Morris before making room and firing into the net.
There was still time for Loveridge to see his finish pushed over by the Celtic keeper, but the Reds ran out worthy winners and now face either Pontypridd Town or Trefelin BGC in the final on Friday, May 18, at a venue still to be decided.
Laugharne too good for Quins
LAUGHARNE now sit third in League 3 West A after they beat Pembroke Dock Quins 55-10 on Saturday (Mar 31), before beating St Davids 10-49 on Easter Monday (Apr 2).
Saturday’s game was well orchestrated by Outside Half Stefan Evans and it was he who opened up the scoring for the afternoon after 10 minutes when he cut through the Quins defence to score close to the Posts. He then converted himself to put his side 7 points up.
The Quins at this stage were matching their bigger and more experienced opponents with the whole pack especially showing full commitment. It was the Quins who were next on the scoresheet with a well worked try for No 8 Harry Owen, as he showed some neat footwork before scoring halfway out, Full Back Lewis Davies pushed his conversion narrowly wide.
Laugharne soon responded with two quick fire tries from Full Back Thomas Davies, Stefan Evans converted both and for good measure kicked a penalty with the last kick of the half to send his side in with a 5-24 lead.
The Quins were under more pressure as the second half started as they were finding it more and more difficult to handle Stefan Evans as they attacked at every opportunity.
On 55 minutes Scrum Half Gethin Jones scored the all-important Bonus Point try which was converted by Stefan Evans. No 8 Mike Williams soon followed with a fine try in the corner which was converted by Stefan Evans with a magnificent kick.
Right Wing Gareth Spiers and Gethin Jones soon added two more tries with the latter being converted by Stefan Evans.
Tom Davies rounded off his sides’ scoring by completing his hat trick for the afternoon, Stefan Evans stroked over his seventh conversion of the afternoon to end with a match haul of 22 Points.
Young Left Winger Will Nicot finished off the Quins’ best move of the Match with a fine unconverted try in the corner with just five minutes left.
The Quins ended the game on the attack and were unlucky not to grab a third try, which spoke volumes for the effort and spirit that the Quins’ young side put in.
Laugharne will look to keep their good run of form going as they travel back to Pembrokeshire on Saturday (Apr 7), to take on a Neyland side buoyed by their last gasp win over Cardigan last weekend.
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