Divided loyalty: Meet the man who supports Swansea City and Cardiff City
AS founder and chairman of the Dylan Thomas Prize for Literature, Professor Peter Stead is looking forward to Thursday’s unveiling of the 2013 winner.
But there is another date on his mind, Sunday's first ever Premier League clash between Swansea City and Cardiff City.
Literature and football are two of his passions and ones he has joined through a number of books bearing his name. The broadcaster will be concentrating on the latter when he takes up his usual seat at the Cardiff City Stadium.
But if the fixture was at the Liberty Stadium he would do the same there. He is a rare species, a Swan and a Bluebird, a season ticket holder of both clubs and a man who can see the wider picture.
“I was born in Barry and when I was nine my father, who was a policeman, came home from seeing Wales play Scotland and he was thrilled by (Swansea-born) Trevor Ford’s goal,” he says. “He was his favourite footballer. He came in in his mac and trilby and acted out Trevor Ford’s goal.
“A month later Sunderland were top of the First Division and my father said I am taking you to Ninian Park to see him play against Cardiff City. You are old enough, aged nine. So I supported Cardiff City, wearing blue, since 1952. When I was 13 my father was promoted to inspector and we moved to Gowerton.
“And I remember my father saying to me you are going to have to be a Swans fan. I asked him what they were like and he said the Vetch was a lovely ground, like a doll’s house compared to the huge Ninian Park, as we thought. He said the Swans play in white and they look like innocent schoolboys, but they are a nice team and you will enjoy them.”
And he has carried on in dual club mode ever since.
“I have lived in and around Swansea ever since 1957, supporting Swansea but not abandoning Cardiff,” says Peter. “Any big game there we would go back and watch Cardiff. My father moved around. He was made a chief inspector in Pontypridd and a superintendent back in Barry, so the family home was nearly always up the other end.”
And he remembers exactly when he realised the extent of the rivalry between both clubs. The last game of his first Vetch Field season in 1957 when a public address announcement revealed that Cardiff would be playing the Swans in Division Two the following season after being relegated from the top flight.
“There was a big cheer at the Vetch,” he remembers. “I was 13 years old and said why are they cheering? I couldn’t understand it. That was the first indication I had about the rivalry.”
The former Swansea University student and lecturer says: “I always supported both teams and I see no great dilemma about it. My enthusiasm is for the game of football. Most fans seem to have great pleasure in being loyal to one team and disliking others.
“I don’t see it that way. Every team has got its own ethos and what is great is if you can become part of that. I have all the benefits of a good feeling from supporting the Swans and supporting Cardiff. Put tongue in cheek, many men are happily married to their wives and have a mistress. Perhaps I am like that. I play home and away.
“I have got two teams and I enjoy them both. I am aware of their great strengths and their follies and foibles over the years, so it is a very rich life keeping up with both sides.”
Peter won’t have time to draw breath after the match as he dashes back to Swansea to attend the Do Not Go Gentle Dylan Thomas Festival in the Uplands before spending the week hosting the seven international candidates in the build-up to the Dylan Thomas Prize announcement.
But the game comes next and he is going for a draw, not on diplomatic grounds but on the evidence he sees before him.
“If there is to be a victory I would like victory to go to the best side,” he says. “If a team deserves to win it is nice to see them win. What I hope more than anything is that it doesn’t come down to a bad refereeing decision. What I would like to see is the best possible features showcased around the world.”