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Linesman for the County

 

 

 

 

 

 http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/9457006.Newport_County_play_is_tribute_to_Cwmbran_man/?ref=twtrec

 

A One Act Play

 

by

 

Dafydd Williams

© 2011

 

 

 

 

Dramatis Personae

 

 

Casey Jones - 48 year old Groundsman.

 

Len Ashurst (LA) – as he looked when he was manager of Newport County in the early nineteen eighties, beige suit and sideboards. Wears an amber pixie hat.

 

Alan Birch – 50 Golf Club Manager.

 

 

The backdrop is a long fairway and a bunker with the clubhouse in the faint distance. There is a huge plastic toadstool on which Len Ashurst sits stage right. A replica Gypsy Caravan is painted on the backdrop stage left.  

 

 

Scene 1

 

The Drama begins in darkness with the music ‘Wichita Lineman’ by Glen Campbell.

 

Groundsman Casey Jones is leaning on his rake in the bunker on the 14th singing. “I was a Linesman for the County”.

Lights Up

He slowly, and relishing every word announces the following roll call of honour.

Gary Plumley   Richard Walden  John Relish,  Grant Davies  Keith Oakes (Captain), Grant Davies,  Dave Bruton, Steve Lowndes, Tommy Tynan, Dave Gwyther, Nigel Vaughan,  Karl Elsey, Neil Bailey, Kevin Moore, John Aldridge and Howard Goddard.

Tannoy Announcement: Groundsman Casey Jones, will groundsman Casey Jones please report to the clubhouse.

Casey: Alan Birch, professional paid up member of the nasty bastards’ club.   Management you see, too many chiefs and not enough Indians and he was on the terraces with me back in the eighties. I could tell the committee a few stories about him in his Doctor Martens, Blue Parka and skin head cut.  He always wanted to start trouble and I was more interested in the football. He was a Psycho back then and I’m not sure anything’s changed. I know what did change him. Margaret Thatcher’s dictatorship. The Eighties, the lost decade. You know, I don’t think this country has grieved properly. When somebody dies you go through the stages of grieving, numbness, sadness, anger, despair, acceptance. Well were still in the numbness phase. We didn’t know what hit us. The nineties were a blur and then what about this decade that’s just been, in the bright new shiny 21st century. 9/11, 7/7 and you see we’re not meant to care. Your ordinary Joe is not meant to care. Born here, Live Here, Die Here!

Just do your shopping in Sainsburys and shut up. Just do your shopping and keep your nose clean. Just do your shopping, contribute to the economy, pay your council tax, numb your mind watching the telly. Say nothing, do nothing! Just live and pay your taxes and then die. The Greeks have got the right idea mind, rioting in the streets. That’s what we need here, a little bit of rioting like we had at the start of the 1980’s.

I’m sorry like I haven’t introduced myself properly to you. Me real name is Malcolm but I changed it to Casey after the Train Driver Casey Jones who was on the telly every weekday morning in the school holidays. See I wanted to be a train driver but I ended up as a Groundsman. Why can you never end up doing the job you wanted to do as a kid? What happens eh? All those dreams, ambitions going up in smoke. 

It’s school that does the damage. They fill your heads with facts and figures but they don’t teach you the really important stuff, like emotions and how to deal with them. How to deal with the opposite sex properly,. We don’t have a rights of passage. We don’t know when we’ve become adults. We just get a birthday card from the political parties asking us to vote for them. It’s no wonder so many people are having nervous breakdowns. I felt for that teacher, the one working out with the dumbells on a pupil’s head. We used to give ours murder and that was way back then, it must have got so much worse. And it's all Thatcher’s fault. She should be had up for war crimes. I was too young to take it in. The Hunger Strikers, The Falklands, The Miners Strike, The Poll Tax.

 

Tannoy Announcement: Testing, Testing 123. Casey Jones, Steaming and a Rolling, Casey Jones you never have to guess, when you hear the tooting of the whistle, It’s Casey at the throttle of the Cannonball Express.

Bastard, thinks he’s funny. He’s got me back and for to that clubhouse like a yo-yo. He can bloody wait. He’s on treble my salary for just sitting on his arse on the 19th hole.

 

Lights up on the Toadstool on which Len Ashurst is sitting.    

 

Len Ashurst (LA): You’d better go Casey! You don’t want to get the sack before the Ryder Cup.

Casey: Bloody Hell Len, you gave me a jump.

LA: Made me jump you mean!

Casey: I know what I mean. Me and Elaine were all over eachother when we got to the quarter finals of the European Cup. You and County were responsible for my love life. Bloody Hell Len, you were awesome son, that team was awesome.

LA: Long time ago Casey! You can’t live in the past.

Casey: Yes you can, you have to Len when the past caused this present, which is so shite.

What are you up to these days?

LA: Sitting on this toadstool!

Casey: What like full time?

LA: Only for the duration of the Ryder Cup! It’s the Argus, you know what they’re like. They want to take a few promotional shots. County then and now!

Casey: Very fetching hat Len!

LA: I should have had one of these back then. They’ve got Dean Holdsworth caddying for Tiger Woods. Tiger is wearing a Newport County baseball hat.

Casey: I lost heart Len, I don’t go anymore! It all fell apart for me in 1982, they called Colin Addison back and things were never to be the same.

LA: Hey now fair do’s Casey, if it hadn’t been for Colin I wouldn’t have had the job. He’d already convinced the chairman Richard Ford, that I was the man to succeed him.

Casey: Yeah but leaving Newport to become Ron Saunders deputy at West Brom! And they say you should never go back, but he did. There were a couple of directors waiting in the long grass for their opportunity to bring him back only a few days after your departure.

LA: I am probably the only football club manager in history who had a testimonial match a few weeks after the club sacked me.

Now a few weeks before they sacked me on 8th February 1982 at the 11th hour, the board gave me an ultimatum that made me realise that my time was up.

“Sack your number two or your testimonial is off”.

So the man who brought me into the club, Richard Ford, told me that this was a cost cutting exercise the board had decided upon.

Casey: I had no idea Len.

LA: Well it’s all water under the Llansoy bridge now but having to sack my ‘Jack of most trades’ Jimmy Goodfellow, number two, assistant coach, physiotherapist and trainer felt like a desperate act.

Casey: Like I said Len, too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

LA: I took a down and out club through the most successful period in their history. Newport County had reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners’Cup, won promotion from the old Fourth Division and lifted the Welsh Cup for the first time in the club’s history.

There was bitterness when I departed but my conscience was clear as I had left behind a dressing room full of young talent which was worth fortunes. John Aldridge would be sold to Oxford United for 78,000 pounds before being sold to Liverpool for 750,000 who then sold him to Real Sociedad for a cool million. 

Casey: Hey Len is it true that you dressed up as Groucho Marx when you first went to watch John Aldridge when he was playing for South Liverpool?

LA: I had to or the other league scouts and managers in attendance would have recognised me. It took me fifteen minutes of that game to know that I wanted Aldridge, I bowled into the dressing room with my plastic cigar, glasses and eyebrows and at 2500 pounds it was the best bit of business I ever did.

Casey: I was the Linesman for the County, it was my first job when I left Duffryn. I remember Aldo arriving. He said that Newport was just like Liverpool, the greatest compliment of all.

LA: Crikey, I remember you now. Casey Jones. Toot: Toot. If it hadn’t been for your exuberant and artistic line marking we would have lost more games. It was as if you could make the penalty area larger or smaller at will.

Casey: That would have been my City and Guilds at Howard Gardens. I’m glad that I was able to play some small part in the team’s success.  

Pause

LA: How long have you been up here then?

Casey: Too Long Len.  Its alright working in the open air but it’s the hours they want you to put in. Less people are playing golf in the recession with membership and green fees so we’ve had a pay freeze for the last two years.

LA: I thought you were the real deal back then. Me and Jimmy thought you’d be working at Wembley or at the Millennium Stadium.

Casey: That wasn’t even a flint in the Steel Erector’s eye back then.

Len looks around him

LA: What’s with the Gypsy Caravan?

Casey: Well you know how they have Garden Ornaments, well this is a Golf Course Ornament.

The committee have decided what with the Ryder Cup that all holes should have a point of interest.

LA: That looks like the real McCoy! It reminds me of the one we came across in the summer of 1981 when we embarked on what for us was an ambitious pre-season trip to Cork and Limerick. We stayed in a Hotel where there was a Romany wake. They put the old Romany inside and set fire to the caravan.

Casey: Were they sure he was dead and not just pissed?

LA: Well we were, but we still went on to beat Cork 3-0 and Limerick 1-0.

Tannoy Announcement: If Grounds man Casey Jones doesn’t return to the clubhouse in the next ten minutes he can come and pick up his cards at his leisure.

LA: That’s how I’d like to go.

Casey: What sacked by tannoy announcement?

LA: No, going up in a Gypsy Caravan.

Casey: Bit morbid Len!

LA: Time and tide wait for no man Casey. I’m 71 now, I’ve made peace with my maker. How much longer I’ve got, nobody knows. See the Romanys know a thing or too Casey! I’d never turn a Romany away. They’ve cursed football grounds in the past, Birmingham’s St Andrews and Man City’s Main Rd and for so many years the curse remained strong. They know the secrets of life and death, they’re in touch with Mother Earth Casey. They’re more in tune than your average Gaujo!

Casey: Bless You!

LA: Gaujo: Non Gypsy.

Casey: You’ll be selling lucky charms next.

Casey lies down on the floor

Casey: Tell me about Germany Len!

LA: The third round paired us against the crack East German side Carl Zeiss Jena!

Casey: My mother thought it was an aftershave and told me to bring a bottle back for me father, good thing I didn’t or he’d have drunk it.

LA: The coach Hans Meyer is still in the game managing Nuremberg in the Bundesliga. He’s 65, not bad eh!

Casey: Nuremberg eh! The Trials.

We should have had our own version of them, two to stand trial. 1) Margaret Thatcher and 2)Jerry Sherman. The Newport trials. Yeah, its got a ring to it.

LA: People forget it was before the Iron Curtain came down. It was a police state. I knew it wasn’t going to be the smoothest working assignment. It was a plane ride and then a long trek in a very uncomfortable bus.

Lights down on LA as he speaks the following:

LA: We bumped along poorly maintained roads before chugging into Jena with very little street lighting whatsover. As we stepped outside into the night air there was not a soul in sight and not a car in view. This was not too surprising as only government officials had cars.

I was with Tom Lyons, a Cardiff based journalist. He’d been here before and we thought we’d find a church for a bit of a pray. The church was a magnificent Greek Orthodox whose walls must have been hiding the secrets of a tumultuous and turbulent past. As we entered through the huge wooden oak doors and stopped to look down the aisle and the rows of empty pews towards the ornately decorated alter half a football pitch away, I was stuck by the deathly hush that pervaded the air. There was no organ music sounding out from the huge pipes that covered the air. There was no organ music sounding out from the huge pipes that covered a vast area of one of the walls. There were also no candles lit, where normally there would be dozens flickering away.

Casey: You want to see my living room.

Everything is black and amber even the candlesticks above the Fireplace.

LA: Sssssh!

Casey: What?

LA: There were three men tucked away at the back of the church.

Casey: Stasi, East German Police?

LA: The very same. As we got up from the pew, Tom went over and started talking to one of them in faltering German. He was suddenly surrounded. They were getting a bit hostile. I don’t know what he’d said but I thought on my feet and just as Roger Moore would have done in Live or Let Die I said

Casey: “I am the Manager of Newport County Football Club from Britain. If you arrest him you will have to arrest me and that means we will not play a football match against your team.”

LA: Well with that they started embracing and kissing us and I thought aye, aye steady on. I’m a lad from Fazakerly and we don’t go in for that kind of nonsense.

Well we got back to the Hotel and there was a full scale Mardi Gras going on, and in amongst them slipped the Secret Police.

Casey: What is it with you and these hotels Len?

LA: I don’t know if it was too many Tia Marias on the night but Tom swears that the Secret Policeman who was giving him all the grief was seen dancing in a Newport County No 9 shirt later that night. Tommy Tynan denies all knowledge but fair do’s none of the boys broke the midnight curfew and Tommy must have got his shirt back because against a backdrop of poor floodlighting and armed police surrounding the playing area we earned a 2-2 draw.

Casey: When we came back from Germany all the traffic lights were on Amber. I was seventeen. Me and Elaine had gone with mad Moxy from Maindee and his girl Helen. We bought a Trabant over there for five pounds seventy five pence and we parked it up in a back alley and painted it black and amber with paint and brushes from a state sponsored D.I.Y shop. We must have stopped in every laybay between Berlin and Newport

LA: To check whether the paint had dried?

Casey: No, for sex Len! We were seventeen, we were going at it like rabbits. It was a miracle we got back in time for the home leg but we were there, me and Moxy with two fit East German birds. We’d left Elaine and Helen back in Germany. They’ve never forgiven us. We sold that Trabant on to Chris Smith car sales down by the Transporter Bridge. It became nearly as big a landmark as the bridge itself. What I’d give to get in the back seat of that thing again.

LA: 18,000 spectators shoe-horned into Somerton Park.

Peter Walker and BBC Wales wouldn’t leave us alone. He was like one of those dogs that grab hold of your legs and start shagging you.

Casey: Len!

LA: The bastard wouldn’t let go. The interest in the game went all around the world. There were County Supporters in all four corners of the globe tuned into their transistor radios.

Casey: Or transvestite radios in the case of Thailand.

SFX: We interrupt this football commentary for a newsflash.

Alan Birch’s voice over the tannoy.

Sherman was a brash American, and he talked big. He wanted to move County from their decrepit Somerton Park home and into a new stadium, but instead he oversaw the destruction of the club. Players went unpaid and the club was relegated from Division Three in 1987. The following season, the club fell out of the Football League after sixty-eight years, picking up a miserable twenty-five points and conceding over a hundred goals on the way. All the time, debts were being racked up. The drop into non-league football was the killer blow for the club. Wages had been high, and the club sold Somerton Park back to the local council to clear some of their debts. Meanwhile, the truth about Sherman’s past was slowly starting to become apparent. Collapsed businesses in Canada, fraud and police investigations started to come to light. By the time that this started to become clear, though, it was too late for Newport County. Rudderless and with crowds having dropped to three figures, County didn’t even last to the end of their first season in the Football Conference and they were wound up at the High Court in February 1989 with debts of £330,000. Sherman continued to protest that he was trying to save the club, but his legacy was the death of the football club.

Now we return to the football. 

LA: The free-kick with which Carl Zeiss Jena opened the scoring on 16 minutes ultimately settled the tie.

Casey: unlike the sex, the game was a bit of an anti-climax.

LA: We totally dominated them at Somerton Park and bombarded the goals with shots and headers.

Casey: The woodwork came to their assistance on numerous occasions.

LA: Finally in injury time, when a goal would have got us level at 1-1 and ahead on away goals, a cross from Karl Elsey arrived perfectly onto Keith Oakes’ forehead. The big defender crashed the ball goalwards, but it was brilliantly turned away by the German goalkeeper Grapentine.

Casey: You should have laced the half time teas with turpentine.

LA: We should have had you on Casey, doing a bit of artistic lines-manship.  So close and yet so far!

Casey: I’d have done it Len. I’d have painted them amber. Never mind Len! You gave me and Moxy the best road trip of our lives.

Hey, I’ve just thought that was our ‘Rights of Passage’, we boys became men in 1980. At least we didn’t have to go off into the woods to be circumcised. 

LA: Our league campaign went reasonably well in 1980/81 and we finished in 12th position in the higher division. We had a particularly good home record, losing only game after the turn of the year, and that to eventual champions Rotherham United.

Casey: Helen assaulted Moxie in the Potters last year  with her handbag because of what happened in Germany. They didn’t marry each other obviously but they’re both divorced from their respective partners now. Maybe she really loved him. When Elaine got back she painted bastard on our back yard fence.

Bloody Hell Len, I think they were the best days of my life.

LA: Well, they were the best days of my managerial career or shall I say the days that gave me the biggest satisfaction. And now Newport County lives to fight another day. And the Ryder Cup comes to Newport! Bloody Hell where is that Newspaper Photographer. Always there when you don’t want them and never there when you want them. 

Casey: I love you Len Ashurst!

LA: Even if I voted Conservative?

The arrival of a Golf Buggy on Stage (Sound effects will suffice)

Casey: Aye, Aye, It’s Andy Powell.

AB: Oy! What’s the matter with you? Didn’t you hear the Tannoy announcement?

Casey: What Tannoy announcement?

AB: Don’t give me that, you’ve been away with the fairies again!

Casey: I’ve been having a natter with Len.

AB: Len!

Casey: Len Ashurst! He was sitting on that toadstool!

AB: Len Ashurst!

Casey: It was a photoshoot for the Argus!

AB: Don’t piss me about now Casey, I’ve had enough of this nonsense.

Casey: He was here, I tell you! He’s probably gone for a piss behind the caravan.

AB: Have you been on that whacky baccy? They say it can turn your head. 

Casey: Len! Len!

He was here Alan, I’m telling you. He was telling me about Germany!

AB: Oh Casey man, I’ve covered for you up till now but this is it. They’ll bounce you up to Caerleon before you turn round.

Casey: Len Ashurst was here a minute ago. I told him I loved him and he told me that he voted Conservative.

If you don’t believe me ask them!(pointing at the audience)

AB: Who? (looks out towards the audience) I’m going to have to slap you or throw a bucket of water over you or something because (moving towards him and shaking his shoulders) we’ve got a delegation of Japanese Businessmen arriving tomorrow for the Ryder cup and they want to play. We’ve got to make damn sure the greens and fairways are up to par.

Casey goes to sit down on the toadstool

Casey : He was here, Alan, Len Ashurst was here.

AB: Well he’s not here now and if we don’t get a march on the President of Sony will be here and he won’t be impressed.

Casey looks gutted

Casey: What are you worrying about? They’ve been here and shafted us in the past. Look at LG!

AB: I know, I know but come on Casey, team Newport and all that! There’s talk of them wanting to buy the golf course. We might get a pay off! 

Casey: I’m paid and not near enough to be bowing and scraping to the Japanese.

AB: Well look pal, I’m not going to waste anymore time with you. You’re a miserable bastard and your stuck in the past. Your still back in 1980. You never grew up.

I’ve been covering for you for too long, now this one takes the biscuit. Len Ashurst my arse!

Take the buggy back to the clubhouse and go home Casey!

We’ll call it sick leave this time.

A look of relief crosses Casey’s face.

It’s not the first time I’ve had to roll me sleeves up.

Alan Birch takes his jacket off, rolls his sleeves up and begins using the rake on the bunker.

Casey salutes and we hear the sound of “Casey Jones Steaming and a Rolling” as the Golf Buggy speeds off with a toot, toot on the horn.

Alan shouts after him.

And I’m only doing it because we were on the terraces together. 

With that Len Ashurst re-appears. Alan Birch looks flabbergasted.

LA: Afternoon, Len Ashurst, you must be the photographer from the Argus.

Lights down to ‘Glory, Glory Newport County’.

End

 

 

This play is dedicated to the Memory of Robert Reed, of Pontnewynydd, a lifelong Newport County Fan!

Big Bob R.I.P

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Button

Dixie Dickenson

Red Button Theatre began at the University of Glamorgan after the Artistic Director Dafydd Williams began planning with Keith 'Dixie' Dickenson for a Theatre Movement that would give voice to the underdog, to those on the fringes of mainstream society.

After the success of 'Catharsis' at the University of Glamorgan, the new company comprising Dixie, Richard Lewis and Alex Shaw began working on different projects. We have worked with Alan Osborne on realising his Oratorio 'This is the Day' at the Myfanwy Theatre, Merthyr Tydfil and our most recent work has been the acclaimed 'Lost Souls' Laundrette/Golchfa'r Golledig' which was staged at the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre in August 2010.

In 2016, our focus concentrates on 'Theatre for Mental Health', we will be workshopping and improvising with Mental Health Service Users across Wales and the UK and those who self identify as sufferring with anxiety and depression and other Mental Health Conditions, to perform work which already has Mental Health as its theme as well as new work which we hope will offer fresh focus and challenge the stigma associated with Mental Ill-Health.


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