Author: Alex Griffiths
Guto Pryce is best known as Super Furry Animals’ bass player. Not only has this helped him oversee shirt sponsorship of his beloved Cardiff City, it has also seen him play with his band at the Millennium Stadium before numerous Wales matches.
As well as playing with the Furries, he has also been putting the finishing touches to his second album with his other project, Gulp. In between all that, he also made time for a chat with Alex Griffiths…
It’s not so much a love-hate thing between Wales and football referees as hate-hate, surely, Guto?
To be fair, when it comes to my attitude to referees, don’t forget there’s been a long, distinguished history of Scottish handballs!
Having grown up through the 70s, in all that time Wales never qualified, so we got used to always moaning about something or other. You could call ‘blaming’ a Welsh trait, and our chip on the shoulder has remained as we have endured watching Northern Ireland and Scotland qualify in the past.
It also lends itself to plenty of schadenfreude at England’s disasters, so you get songs like ‘Who put the ball in the English net? ‘Diego Maradona’, which turned into ‘half of Europe’ then ‘Ronaldinho,’ and ‘Ronald Koeman’ and so on…
Let’s face it, the last time we were in a big tournament, Pele scored his first ever goal and we ended up without John Charles, as he’d been hacked off the field in the group stage. That was 1958, in Sweden.
But having watched football for so long, if I’m honest I’ve come around to a less than purist view and, where refereeing decisions are concerned, I now tend towards that South American thing, the ‘gambetta’, I think they call it, which means anything is fair game if you can get away with it, just like Maradona did. Put it down to my devotion to the law of chaos.
As an ardent follower of your country home and away, are you off to France next summer?
We’ll have to wait and see. I was playing with Gulp while we were drawing with Israel in September, so dates often clash. Wales have had some near misses with qualification and they seem to come round in 10-year cycles, with Mark Hughes in charge for the play-offs versus Russia in 2000 and then before that the Paul Bodin penalty miss in November 1993 against Romania, which dashed our prospects for USA 94.
While I’d always gone to Wales, by which I mean every single game, home and away, we were touring during those play-offs for 2000, so I had to miss those, too.
I remember when we were due to play Serbia [in 2003], they shot the Serbian president so that game was postponed and by the time they rescheduled it, Mateja Kezman, the former Chelsea forward, was back in the team and he made all the difference. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
What of the modern Welsh/English mix, now you’ve a captain who’s not only English but a Swansea player at that!
I’m glad we have always taken full advantage of the rule, as there have been so many times our best players didn’t actually want to play, so anyone who wants to be Welsh, Vinnie Jones included, we will take ’em, no problem!
And don’t talk to me about Ryan Giggs, I’ve been to more Wales away friendlies than he has!
Gareth Bale became a talisman throughout the last campaign and everyone loves the fact he turns up for every game. The problem was, no one was ever up to Giggs’ level, so he always looked frustrated out there on his own, whereas Bale seems to make the others want to turn up.
Wales have such a high profile now, the French newspaper L’Equipe put four of the current side in a Great Britain XI: Ashley Williams, Ben Davies, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale…
I thought of Chris Coleman as a chancer for ages, to be honest, but I take my hat off to him, he’s got the team spirit spot-on. Obviously the death of Gary Speed was tragic, it left a lot of us shocked.
Before that John Toshack had to take a lot of unfair flak after he gave some current players their debuts, when deep down we all knew that the Robbie Savage generation had only one more campaign in them.
We certainly have a more cultured game now and the Under-21s is extremely well run, too. There’s also that statistic with the senior side: prior to the very last qualifier we’d only let in two goals from open play, and that speaks volumes about our cohesion.
Local boys Chris Gunter as well as Ramsey have been fantastic, and there’s no longer a shop window feel to it any more, all the players are wanting to play all the games. Even if Bale is the most expensive player on the planet and he does whatever that thing is that he does with his hair, he’s still basically such a nice boy!
There will soon be a film of the book about the cult Cardiff player Robin Friday, by Paolo Hewitt and Guigsy of the band Oasis. Did you see Friday play or was he before your time?
He was before my time, and neither him, Gary Medel or even Craig Bellamy would make my own Cardiff cult hero list, because none of them were there for long enough!
No, my favourite memories are of us rising up through the leagues with a core of young Welsh journeymen, Rhys Weston and Joe Ledley being two of them. To give him his due, Sam Hammam was good at identifying these boys. I still remember Weston would come to games on his bike before he passed his driving test…
Graham Kavanagh was a good signing too, as was Kevin McNaughton. Bellamy was fantastic at Cardiff, I must admit, and I did love going to see him play for Wales, too. His game was just so angry, you could wind him up anywhere, even if it was just a friendly.
Then there were Cardiff’s cup successes of a few years back and off we went to Wembley only to see the players drinking out in London afterwards, and you think to yourself: no wonder they lost! You just don’t want to share a pint with most of them these days, to be honest.
Fast forward to 2013 and what must have been a dream come true turned pretty sour. There were a couple of disputed calls in Cardiff’s sole season in the Premiership, that 0-0 when Leroy Fer thought he’d scored for Norwich and a brawl ensued, for example?
The Norwich one I don’t recall so much, but there was a goal Chelsea were lucky to have allowed that meant they equalised, which tends to back up what Slaven Bilic said earlier this season about bigger clubs getting decisions.
That season in the Premiership in general started so well but the rose-tinted spectacles got well and truly smashed, it was horrible and what was so exciting just unravelled into total farce, chaos and embarrassment!
Vincent Tan is to blame as the owner and the guy with the ego. He likes to stand up there when it’s going well, of course, but the way he sees football as a commodity does not wash with us.
Coming from the band who turned down a million from Coca Cola to use one song, at least you have some authority on the subject. Having to go from blue to red and back…
Well I won’t go back and give the club my money until Tan has gone. When you’re skint and spending 400 quid on a season ticket to keep your club afloat as I did for years, and then you go and sign and sell [Danish forward] Andreas Cornelius at a loss of between 6m and 9m, you think, why should I bother, it means nothing to the owners, and nor do the fans in the stadium.
Tan reversed the shirt colour decision [back to blue] in January just as season tickets were being renewed, which was a see-through policy. The way he behaved, the arrogance he has displayed throughout, it’s like there’s a lot of last straws, really.
I had amazing seats in the new ground, where Wales also had the big Andorra party, for a couple of years. There were 12 of us in a row, all of us friends going back to school days and going to every home game back to when home was Ninian Park. So the saddest thing for us is not having that social element, and I blame Tan for that!
While you remain in exile there’s little point asking your view on the recent Bluebirds Jukebox at the ground, good or bad, then. Tell us instead about SFA sponsoring Cardiff City a while back…
If you had the chance to put your name on your favourite football team’s shirt, you’d do it, wouldn’t you?
We sponsored the Welsh Cup 3rd kit in 1999 but that only cost our record company, Creation, £5,000 for a year, and you’d pay that just to go in a box for one game these days!
Our lead singer Gruff, whose brother-in-law Tom played professionally and has coached Cardiff’s Academy, even thought we jinxed Cardiff with our shirt that year.
Having been drafted in to play on the pitch before that last home Euro qualifier-cum-party prior to Andorra in Cardiff, how does it feel to be the Welsh FA’s not-so unofficial house band?
We also played the Millennium Stadium before Azerbaijan and Belgium, plus the Gary Speed memorial.
When you mime it can be surreal, you can do it on a few beers and then a stray football comes at you from the warm-up… so last time I jumped off the stage and chipped it back to Aaron Ramsey!
You also get this stadium pass which allows you everywhere as well as the pitch, which is pretty trippy, you can’t help but laugh when it’s first offered to you.
Now we seem to be rotating with Manic Street Preachers and Goldie Lookin Chain, who did the England game and dedicated Your Missus is A Nutter to David Beckham.
Most bands might be satisfied getting on the pitch that way, but you had to take it one step further, didn’t you…
Yes, in one video we turn into computer characters and give Brazil a good beating… the idea came from the video people themselves, who inserted us into Actua Soccer 2 [and allegedly not from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication video.] Watch it here.
But they got the wrong end of the stick and changed all our right-on characters as team-mates after losing our list, which included Bob Marley, Fidel Castro, Bill Hicks, Muhammad Ali and Mahatma Gandhi. We ended up with Genghis Khan, Stalin and Churchill!
Finally, what changes would you make to actual football?
I would leave the Laws well alone and make sure that supporters are better looked after, with a proportion of more affordable tickets made available for every game.