Wayne Anderson: From Lille to Local Football

Profile picture of Dafydd Jones
Dafydd Jones November 6, 2020

Author: Dafydd Jones

Football fans more dedicated than Wayne Anderson from Hendredenny don’t come often.

‘Dibs’, a key figure behind the scenes for Cardiff and Wales supporters, shares his story of becoming a Bluebird, the route to a Euros semi-final and his love for a local club.

An ardent fan, Wayne follows Cardiff City home and away, organising away travel all around the UK, from the City Ground to Loftus Road.

‘’I’ve always been a fanatic, loving playing as well as supporting whoever was my local team. My history is kind of unusual actually, my father was in the army so that meant we always travelled around so it was the case of watching whoever was your local team.

“My mum is from Cardiff so that’s where I get that connection from. Everyone sort of says to me ‘you haven’t really got a strong Welsh accent or anything’ whereas I’d normally describe it as being an army accent. Even then when I got into my own employment, with work I ended up sort of travelling around a little bit.

‘’But I didn’t really start watching Cardiff until I was about 16, after I moved back to Wales after my father had finished in the army. Consequently, the first team I watched and supported was actually Portsmouth because we were based down there when I was about seven.

“Then I moved to Germany when I was 11 and we used to go and watch either Dortmund or Schalke play. That was in the era when Kevin Keegan was playing for Hamburg and Tony Woodcock was playing for Cologne and they were the first English imports into Germany so I saw them.

‘’I came back to Wales at 16 and that was it then. Cardiff had always been, like I said, from my mother’s side of the family anyway and I always kept an interest and have followed them ever since.

“When people say ‘I saw them when there was a couple of hundred and pouring down in Carlisle’ and all those real sort of long distances on horrible terraces. They were fantastic days, bring them back. It was a great period of time.

“There’s a couple of players who were, over the period of time at Cardiff, who now I’m quite friendly with and, as I sort of went on through work, I managed to get business and pleasure to combine.

“In one of the roles that I did, I ended up sponsoring and supplying Cardiff City with all of their suits so I really did have a background of going out with the lads on a Tuesday night after they used to play. That was all under the era of when Eddie May was manager in the early-mid nineties and they were absolutely fantastic times.

‘’About 15 years ago, I then looked at helping out with Valley Rams, the travel side which then disbanded and I took it on board myself then, doing it from around the Bridgend and Caerphilly area, organising away matchday travel. I’ve always had a really good input.

‘’I’d say, most probably, the most fantastic era was under Eddie May. If you ask anyone in their late 40s or 50s, they’ll say the same. We weren’t naturally gifted but we had a team where everyone gave 100 per cent, everyone gave their all and there were so many local lads as well, wearing the jersey of their local team.

“The likes of Jason Perry and Damon Searle at right-back and left-back. Then the signings we managed to get like Kevin Ratcliffe, at the end of his career, and Bobby James giving their expertise of playing.

“There was a game where we actually won promotion away at Scunthorpe and the ground only holds about nine thousand and we filled three sides of the stadium. This was old division three when you had about six thousand travelling up, which is more than what you can do these days, and just going up that motorway up to sort of Yorkshire was just full of blue and white. God knows how many lads were dressed as Ayatollahs. They were really good days out. The fact that you knew so many of the players personally helps it stand out.

‘’Then you go forward a few years to when we got promotion from division one into the Championship with Andy Campbell scoring against QPR. I remember thinking I always wanted to go up by a play-off because of that special day out going to Wembley. Of course, the first time we did it was in the Millennium Stadium so it wasn’t really an away game, it was in Cardiff.

‘’There’s some of the games at the old Ninian Park. I remember us playing against Chelsea and we were 3-0 up with nine minutes to go and it ended up 3-3. There was most probably about 12,000 there and about 8,000 of them were Chelsea – they just completely ran the place, they were everywhere. Those were the bad days of football hooliganism. There are some frightening experiences home and away.”

Also a passionate fan of the Wales National Team, Wayne is part of the Red Wall home and away, missing just one of the last 39 games.

‘Dibs’ recalls the special summer of 2016, when Wales reached the semi-finals of the European Championship.

‘’I organised the trip to Euro 2016, we had six coaches, three over there permanently and three coaches which I had going back and forth.

‘’Prior to lockdown, out of the last 39 away games, I actually went to 38 of them. The only game that I missed was Sweden away which was one of the warm-up games prior to the Euros. That was only because it was literally a week before the Euros and it was hard getting the time off work.

‘’I’d say the national anthem of the first game was my favourite moment. Under Coleman, we’d built up a fantastic relationship between the fans and the supporters and the way we came from always being the ‘nearly boys’ and never getting to a finals in our lifetime.”

“Then, when you actually went to a stadium in a foreign land, albeit France isn’t that far away, and you actually see 25 or 30 thousand Welsh people there, a sea of red, it was amazing. I know a lot of people who follow football, who follow Cardiff City and would never wear the jersey or the colours. And to see the colours in the stadium was fantastic.

‘’I look at the games and think I was apprehensive with Russia and we never looked like losing it. We absolutely eased it. It was fantastic.

“We based ourselves for the first four days in La Rochelle. There were Welsh lads everywhere. I had actually contributed to getting around about 300 guys over with plenty of planning and I’ve got to be honest the guys were absolutely fantastic and they made my job quite easy.

“I was dreading thinking we were going to be leaving lads at the stadiums or leaving town centres but they were brilliant. Over all the games, I took over 1200 lads from the first game to the semi-final and there was only three that got left behind and that was one after the Russia game and two after the Northern Ireland game so it wasn’t bad going.

‘’When you look at the semi-final against Portugal, you think about if we would have had Ramsey but one of the standout moments was Ronaldo’s goal. I was right behind it and he just got up and headed the ball in and he just stayed up there for what must have been a minute and you could see the power in the header.

‘’There are some fantastic memories both on and off the field and when you see the unity of the Welsh team. We were made to feel so welcome and it’s a case of how much the Welsh wanted to party and enjoy themselves. Especially after the bad press that obviously went on in our group with England and Russia, then when we ended up playing them there was no hassle, no trouble. It was lovely.”

As a massive football fan, ‘Dibs’ has used his love of sport and fitness to great effect, raising money for a beloved charity.

Wayne raised £1500 for Help for Heroes, after completing a 150-kilometre challenge on an exercise bike, emphatically surpassing his £900 target.

The Bluebirds fan stressed the charity is one close to his heart.

‘’Reason number one for picking Help for Heroes was my father was in the army and he served his 22 years so I was fortunate. Being part of an army life as a child was absolutely fantastic, so much is done for you, especially on the social side.

“Prior to COVID, I worked in Debenhams and it was a charity that they had adopted as well. For me, it was a no brainer because of the history of my father, so it was easy to decide.

“It was a massive achievement. Funnily enough, it was literally the weekend before we went into lockdown. I was in Debenhams in St David’s Centre, we were actually going to do it by the stadium because it was the initial date that Wales were hosting Scotland in the Six Nations.

“Then, of course, the day before, the game was cancelled. There was still quite a few Scots around but all the Welsh who would have been coming in from the Valleys obviously didn’t come down. The generosity of some of the local businesses was absolutely fantastic. It went down really well.

Wayne plays for his local veteran side in Bridgend, where he has grown a strong connection to Penybont Football Club in the Cymru Premier.

After building a relationship with board members, ‘Dibs’ is now the Business and Development manager at the club, finding creative ways to combat a financially challenging time for local football clubs.

“I’ve had a connection prior to it being Penybont when it was Bryntirion. There’s a lot of my friends who live local, use the club as a local pub and have played for them over the years. I moved to the Bridgend area around 17 years ago and it became not only a local football team, but a local pub as well.

“Then, just prior to France, myself and a couple of friends the same age as me decided to go on a massive weight loss programme and I’ve actually lose five and a half stone so I sort of looked at it and they had a veterans football team. I thought if I can get myself around the 12 stone mark, I’ll ask if I can come along and see if I can get a game of football as well.

“Over that period, I got friendly with some of the directors and unfortunately in August, down to COVID, I got made redundant after 17 years with Debenhams. But I was given an opportunity by the directors.

“They spoke to me earlier in the year if I would be interested in coming on board and helping promote the club when social events are on, because of my history with so many people living locally and going to the football.

“They then approached me about coming on board at the club and giving my views and opinions on the areas the club could be improved on I worked with the club on three different angles.

“Number one was the marketing, sponsorship and advertising within the first team and basically try and raise more funds. Number two was marketing the clubhouse and make it not just a clubhouse but also a desirable place where people who didn’t necessarily have an interest in football but would use it as a local pub. Thirdly, was sort of my brainchild that there was a perfectly fantastic kitchen which was just not being utilised. We started a breakfast type diner and we’ve got a meeting to extend that to bar meals and Sunday lunches as well.

“There’s so many things the club want to do, but is it the ideal time to do it at the moment because it’s restrictive. My sort of role there is hosting, marketing and promoting the club. We’re looking to make a YouTube and radio channel with the help of marketing equities on the technical side, but working on that as well.

“We’re really trying to make it more of a football team in the community, but trying to get it a community club where some people may not have an interest in football, but want to go up there as a social and meet friends.

“We’ve started to get that and people coming to get their breakfast, coming for coffee mornings. It’s going to be a long journey, but I think it’s something that will be successful and will grow even better when we’re out of this current situation.”

The Bont have enjoyed a positive start to the Cymru Premier season under manager Rhys Griffiths, currently sitting in fifth position, after securing safety from relegation last season.

‘Dibs’ has given his seal of approval, as Griffiths’ side look to secure a place in the top six this campaign.

“Last year, they came up as worthy champions from the lower divisions, but I think they were in awe of some of those teams. But this year, second year now, Rhys Griffiths knows exactly the style he wants to play.

“He’s brought in a mix of experience and some younger guys who really enjoy their football. Are we ever going to compete with the likes of The New Saints and teams like that when they’ve got the playing budget, no you’re not.

“But that’s hopefully where the likes of myself can build on the advertising, the sponsorship, the marketing and increasing the revenue coming in, which has the effect of being ploughed into the team.

“There’s no doubt this year that the team are really pushing to get that fourth spot to qualify and get through to Europe. You’ve got the likes of Kane Owen, the captain, who wears his heart on his sleeve.

“You hear the banter and the fact that the players are playing for the team, playing for Rhys and playing for the club as well. After the games, win, lose or draw, they’re much more approachable and staying behind after the game.

“The supporters are watching from the clubhouse and looking over the fences. It’s just a shame we can’t build on last season and get the fans inside the ground.”