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From Bancyfelin to Wimbledon An Interview with Gerald Williams

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GeraldwilliamsGERALD WILLIAMS has been a tennis commentator for longer than he cares to remember. This modest man from Bancyfelin in Carmarthenshire has been the voice of tennis on the BBC and Sky during some of the greatest tennis matches ever played.

The players and fellow commentators hold him in great esteem and honoured him by presenting him with a picture of all the Wimbledon champions during is career. I interviewed Gerald at his home in Llangynog.

Xan Brooks says that you are a wonderfully erudite tennis commentator and that the BBC has never quite matched the Des’n’Gerry shows of old. What is the secret of your success?

I don’t know I am not sure that everyone would be as nice as that. Desmond Lynam and I were at BBC radio working under Cliff Morgan. Desmond was the first to go across to television and he told me he didn’t think I would like it but we kept in touch.

After a year or so he called me and told me he thought I should go across because TV had changed. Cliff put Des and I together for the nightly Wimbledon highlights programme, which we did for 9 years.

We were just being who we are with each other it was a simple as that. In sport on television I don’t think there has ever been another like Des Lynam. He is good looking he has a good voice and good vocabulary and he looks so relaxed.

You have acknowledged that your relationship with John McEnroe has been a turbulent one. Given that most of today’s top players are so well behaved on court and some might say quite uninteresting do we need another character like McEnroe or Connors in tennis?

No, I think tennis is in a golden era now. I saw and had a brief chat with John McEnroe at Wimbledon this year. It was nothing personal I just felt that in that period where the game had gone professional but hadn’t really organised itself in terms of codes of conduct anything went.

The problem was that the umpires at the time didn’t know what authority they had. McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were raging from time to time and the umpires weren’t sure what they were allowed to do under the rules and the players didn’t know either.

It all came to a wonderful end because it got a lot of publicity for the sport but it also brought great shame on the sport. What happened was an American umpire wrote out a code of conduct. As soon as everyone knew what the rules were it stopped. I think it is a golden age now not only in the standard of play but the behaviour of the players as well.

Your champion of champions is Roger Federer. Having seen Rafael Nadal has your opinion changed?

No, because in the case of Federer he is the most perfect player I have ever seen. I like everything about him, his movement his attitude, his shot making and his elegance and his style.

It has reached a peak where he is perfect as a tennis player. Rafael Nadal is very much a home-grown muscle man with terrific determination never to give in. This golden age is because you now have two really great players at the top who are really very different.

You have covered some of the best and possibly worst moments in tennis. Could you tell me what the best and worse moments have been during your commentary?

I can only generalise really I think the worse was that period of time with all the indiscipline. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes I’d be doing the commentary and criticising the players for their behaviour and thoroughly enjoying it.

I can remember one match that John McEnroe played in the final at Queens club. His behaviour was appalling but there I was sitting there doingthecommentaryandthoroughly enjoying it feeling like a complete sham.

In terms of the beauty of the game it gets better all the time. There have been so many great moments haven’t there but Federer’s years would be the best moments. I hope Federer’s time isn’t over. I was puzzled at the way he was moving on the court this year. I couldn’t make up my mind whether he had begun to lose that intensity. If you haven’t got that you’re not going to be a champion any longer.

When he was beaten this year I was keen to get to the press conference to find out what he said because I felt that I might be able to make a judgement rightly or wrongly. He was asked ‘are you fit’ and he said ‘no I have had problems for several weeks now’. That could be partly losing his desire too event though he might not recognise it as such.

As to whether we will see Federer at his glorious best again we will have to wait and see. The American Open will be an interesting time, that’s the next grand slam.

What do you think of today’s commentary on the BBC?

Commentary styles change. I was bought up with Dan Maskell in a commentary box. Des and I were never in a commentary box together we were in a studio.

There was something about Dan’s voice and his respect for the game and his deep knowledge for the technique of the game and his great memory of great moments. I can remember listening to the commentary of Dan Maskell and Jack Kramer. It never occurred to me that one day I would be sitting in a commentary box with Dan on the centre court at Wimbledon. Dan was sitting there giving his commentary and I thought you’ve made it here mate.

I think there has to be room for styles to change and that’s O.K. Where I would question some of the BBC’s decisions are that they seem to think that if you have been a really good tennis player you’ll make a good commentator.

McEnroe is a great commentator he’s different, he’s his own man. I listen to some of them and I think ‘oh dear, Dan wouldn’t have approved of that.’

The record notes that Harry Carpenter gave you your initial break into sports writing. What are your memories of Harry?

I only have good memories really. I had left Carmarthen grammar school and had a vague idea that I would try to be a journalist. I had written to the four weekly newspapers in Croydon where I had been brought up. We were partly brought up here and partly in Croydon. I offered to work for a month for nothing. Three didn’t reply but the fourth, which was by far, the best the Croydon advertiser offered me a month’s work without pay.

After the second week the old editor called me in and asked me what I was going to do. I told him that I thought that I would like to go to university. He looked down from his office onto Croydon high street and he said the university you want is out there in that street, ill never forget that.

One of our local celebrities was Harry Carpenter and I got to know him and his wife quite well. A couple of years on I worked on the Leicester Mercury and six months on the South Wales Echo. I went back to the Croydon advertiser as a sports editor.

Soon after that Harry was having a liquid lunch with the sports editor on the daily mail. The editor told Harry he was looking for a young chap from the provinces that are really keen and prepared to work all hours. Harry told him that he knew this chap Gerald Williams on his local paper that was terrific and a bit mad.

A series of remarkable things happened. I joined as sports sub editor, which I didn’t like I wanted to get out and be there.

I went into the office one day and there was an awful atmosphere in there everybody was quiet and solemn. I asked what’s the matter then a football writer told me to shut up. I said what’s the matter with everybody and he said haven’t you heard, the Manchester united plane has crashed in Munich and most of the players have been killed and Eric Thompson our Manchester football writer has been killed.

I must admit the first thing I wondered was who would get Eric’s Job and two weeks later I got his job. I was sent up to Manchester to report on the Busby babes and the rebirth of that great club. I had a couple of years there and then came back to London

Your response to the disaster suggests that you have a strong conscience.

I was brought up in a church going family and my parents and older brother David were people of great faith and conscience. I’d like to think that I picked some of that up from them.

Another close colleague of your was player and commentator William Threlfall. You likened your partnership with Threlfall to a marriage. Could you shed some light on some of the highs of your time with him?

Bill and I were made for each other. It was a marriage made in heaven. We could disagree and sometimes quite sharply and yet it didn’t make any difference to the relationship. We loved going around the world following the championships.

Socially after the day’s play and commentary we were good for each other. We liked the same restaurants and same food. He was a great commentator he had a great voice and he had a sense of humour.

I remember we doing some commentary on a match in Düsseldorf one day. Something happened on the court and we just broke into laughter and continued chuckling in the commentary. One of the English papers wrote saying what a nice change it was to hear two commentators laughing.

When he died very suddenly I felt that a bit of me had gone. Our relationship was not as close as Desmond and I at that level but in a commentary box we had terrific rapport.

I grew up in the Bjorn Borg era of tennis. What are your fondest memories of Bjorn Borg?

Sitting on an aeroplane after he had virtually retired. I was going out to Doha to do commentary for one of these over thirty-five tournaments. I went to the business lounge at Heathrow and Bjorn was there.

It hadn’t occurred to me that he might be playing because you didn’t hear too much about him playing in those days. So we had a glass of wine together and sat together in the plane. I said to him ‘Bjorn, I hope you don’t mind me asking you this but one hears about you having had some unsuccessful business enterprises is that why you are playing?’.

I’ll never forget what he said, I’ll never forget it has proven so true in my own life subsequently, he said ‘no, these people are my family’ and I thought ‘wow’ and ‘boy’ have I felt that in the last few years. They become your family you fly all over the world with them you get to know their families.

I was covering Wimbledon for Sky this year and I had along chat with Billie Jean King, she’s always very generous, she tells people I was the first person to take her and see the centre court in Wimbledon. Stan smith and his wife were there and these people are my family.

Can you shed some light on the British belief in Tim Henman and Andy Murray?

Tim Henman has been fantastic in Wimbledon, terribly underrated. His record was Wimbledon semi finalist twice French semi finalist twice, an amazing record.

For a player without a big shot not a big lad who can go in and dominate people he was a very good player. He was also a very unlucky player. He was playing Goran Ivanisevic in the semi finals at Wimbledon in 2001 and he was all over Goran. He had tamed his serve when suddenly the heavens opened and rain stopped play. It was his match and he would have gone into the finals for sure. I remember saying something in my commentary like; the danger is now that Henman having broken him is that Goran will go out with his entourage, which included a priest if I remember. Goran may be told that tomorrow you may get an early break in the tiebreak and that is exactly what happened.

Tim may always be remembered for never having got to a Wimbledon final but he is a remarkable bloke a very nice man and I am delighted to learn that he has got onto the committee at Wimbledon. He is going to be of terrific value to the game he understands the players how they feel about things.

Andy Murray is a better player than Tim and he has already been in two grand slam finals. I would have thought that in the next 5 or ten years he is likely to win one or two grand slam championships. There is nothing he cant do on a tennis court he has every shot. Maybe as he gets older he will put on some bodily bulk and that is not a bad thing. A lot of things have to happen for you to win a grand slam. One player being unfit is someone else’s good luck.

Andy Murray is going to need a bit of luck now and then. We mustn’t put too much pressure on the bloke. It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world the pressure we put on our players. It becomes a national obsession and I don’t know how the players cope.

Given that their parents or relatives have coached some of the latest champions do you think that parents make good coaches?

As coaches probably not. I think you need people who have played at the highest level. Most players have come out of a tennis playing family. British tennis has begun to recover. Too much attention is paid to other things and what the lawn tennis associationshouldconcernthemselves with is the state of the clubs.

I am involved with the tennis club here in Carmarthen. I would expect that our chairman would get calls from the various tennis organisations asking how things are going, do they need anything but it just doesn’t happen. During Wimbledon our junior membership shot up. That’s when we should be ready for this junior enthusiasm.

What does British tennis need to do in order to produce Wimbledon champions?

We have one in Andy Murray. British tennis can’t do anything, it just happens. My colleagues go on about why we haven’t got any players.

When I was first covering tennis the players were coming from all over the place Australians, Swedes, Czechs, but where are all their players now?

I think all you can do is make sure that the clubs which is where it all begins are in a healthy situation financially with good courts and good equipment and that young players who show promise are given support.

What kind of shape is tennis in on a local level?

Not in good shape but we are in Wales and Wales is a rugby-playing nation. Having said that Michael Davies came from Swansea and Gerald Battrick was a great player. Someone will come along and no one can know where that will be from.

If you could sum up your life in one sentence what would it be?

Simply wildly beyond any dream I could possibly have. When I was in the little village school here in Llangynog during the worse of the blitz it never occurred to me that I could have seen the world umpteen times and become on such good terms with the great tennis players. They are personal friends and that is an amazing thing to have happened.

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Boris Johnson expected to resign as Prime Minister today

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THE PRIME MINISTER, Boris Johnson is expected to tender his resignation today, according to sources close to Number 10.

Less than a month on from surviving a leadership challenge, the PM’s premiership will come to an end after senior ministers were among those to quit the government in protest at Downing Street’s handling of a series of recent scandals.

The latest of these being Mr Johnson promoting Chris Pincher to the role of deputy chief whip in February despite being told of a sexual misconduct complaint against the Tamworth MP in 2019.

On Tuesday, the PM apologised for allowing this job move to take place – but this did not stop the resignations of both his health secretary Sajid Javid and chancellor Rishi Sunak minutes later.

By Thursday morning, more than 50 Conservative MPs had resigned from their government roles.

Commenting on the news that the Prime Minister will be resigning today as Conservative Party Leader, Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, said: “I’ve always said it was essential for the Prime Minister to hold the confidence of our country, party and parliament. Clearly, that is no longer the case.

“Boris Johnson’s legacy will always be that he ended the deadlock and got Brexit done, delivering on the will of the British people.

“As well as securing a historic victory in 2019, Boris ensured our return to freedom out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Regrettably, it has now become very difficult for him to deliver on the mandate he secured.

“As a friend and supporter of the Prime Minister, I recognise his achievements over the last three years. It now falls to the Conservative Party to select a new leader to deliver on our manifesto commitments for the remainder of this parliament.

“I wish him, Carrie and the rest of his family all the best for the future and thank him for his service to our country.”

Reacting to the resignation of the Prime Minister Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said:

“Finally this whole sorry and undignified saga has come to an end. It was always abundantly clear that Boris Johnson was unfit to be Prime Minister and those that backed him to the hilt have a responsibility for the mess and destruction he and his brand of populism has had on our country.

“The Welsh public won’t forgive so many Welsh Conservative MPs for propping up Boris Johnson for so long against various scandals while at the same time ordinary families were struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.

“Johnson or no Johnson, for many former Conservative voters the party they once knew is beyond redemption and will not be coming back.”

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Werndale Hospital recognised for outstanding patient care in national award

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STAFF at Werndale Hospital near Carmarthen have been recognised for the quality of their patient care. 

The prestigious ‘Private Hospital Group of the Year’ award is presented to an organisation that has shown excellence in its delivery of care, commitment to the community and innovation within healthcare.

Werndale Hospital was also recognised for their initiatives to support staff in their career progression and wellbeing.   

The latest statistics show, 98% of patients at Werndale Hospital were satisfied with their overall level of care, 98% of patients would recommend their care to family and friends, and 98% of patients rated the nursing staff as excellent or very good. 

In addition, independent analysis of Circle hospitals’ hip and knee procedure outcomes of health improvement shows that Circle scored 8.4 versus an independent sector average of 7.8 in the hip category, and a score of 15.4 versus an independent sector average of 13.9 in the knee category.   

The award presented to Circle Health Group, owners of Werndale Hospital, in London in June, also noted the extraordinary contribution the teams at the hospital had made to the community. 

In 2021 alone, Werndale Hospital partnered with Air Ambulance Wales and raised £1,205 to support the charity’s work in the community.  

In addition to the charitable work, Werndale Hospital was recognised for it’s commitment to support staff through a series of wellbeing initiatives and career development opportunities. The judges were particularly impressed with the launch of the ‘Be Heard’ survey at the hospital.   

The survey looks to empower staff to feedback on everything from the working environment at the hospital through to their own career ambitions. Building directly on the feedback from this survey, the ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign was launched which supported staff to work towards specific qualifications from nursing degrees with partnered universities through to bespoke management programmes and MBA qualifications.   

As a direct result of this support for staff at what is a challenging time for healthcare workers, Werndale Hospital and Circle Heath Group were recognised as being a Top 20 Best Large Company to work for.   

At the heart of Werndale Hospital’s approach to treating patients is a commitment to the community they serve.  

 Paolo Pieri, CEO of Circle Health Group, said:  “The award is a testament to what an amazing year 2021 was for Werndale Hospital with considerable investment into the facilities and services on offer to patients in west Wales. I couldn’t be prouder of what our staff and doctors have achieved.”  

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Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award

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ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.

The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.

The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.

Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.

“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.

With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.

As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.

“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.

“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”

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