Alun Carter's new book charts Pooler's dramatic rise and fall
12:01pm Monday 7th October 2013 in Sport
FOLLOWING his successful, critically-acclaimed and award-winning ‘Seeing Red’, Alun Carter’s new book, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Rise and Fall of Pontypool RFC’, published on Thursday, has been a labour of love for the ex-Wales and Pooler flanker, as he tells IWAN GABE DAVIES.
FIVE years ago Alun Carter’s ‘Seeing Red: Twelve Tumultuous Years in Welsh Rugby’, co-written with Nick Bishop, was an intriguing insider’s view of Welsh rugby between 1998 and 2007, a world he inhabited as the national team’s head analyst.
This Thursday sees the publication of the duo’s second book together, a history of Pontypool RFC with a difference as Carter tries to get to the heart of the club he adored while growing up as a boy, went on to play for and has now returned to as an advisor.
Just like ‘Seeing Red’, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ is an enjoyable and well-written page-turner that aims to tell the story of Pooler through the voices of its legendary figures like 1959 Lion Ray Prosser, or Pross as he was affectionately known, a revolutionary coach who steered them to the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s when they were, at their pomp, the most feared and successful side in the British Isles.
There are interviews with many of the great and the good who made the seemingly unstoppable Pooler machine roar, including warriors Graham Price, member of the immortal Pontypool front row, and partner in crime, openside flanker Terry Cobner, both playing important roles in Wales’ Grand Slam triumphs of 1976 and 1978.
The book’s second chapter pays homage to the club’s unsung heroes too who also get their dues.
These are characters like the late and much-loved physiotherapist Eddie Mogford and Max Horton, Pooler’s captain between 1949 and 1951 who played a vital role in nurturing talent as the head rugby master of the town’s West Monmouth Grammar School, or West Mon as it was affectionately called.
‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ chronicles the world famous club rollercoaster ride, bringing the story up to date with its downfall during the professional and last year’s threat of extinction after they lost a near ruinous legal battle with the Welsh Rugby Union but offers hope of better days to come under entrepreneur Peter Jeffreys who brought them back from the abyss.
Carter acknowledges the key part Bishop played in writing a different kind of history book but paid tributes to the sterling efforts of two stalwarts who have published books before.
“Arthur Crane (Pontypool RFC historian) and Ray Ruddick (club archivist) have produced some great books on Pontypool in terms of the archives,” he said.
“Nick did so much work and he and I had a lot of conversations about how we could bring out what was so good about Pontypool and its characters.
“It’s a book based on history, from the team which created success in the 1920s, through to that period in the Fifties when Pontypool won a championship and had people like Malcolm Price, Ray Prosser and Ben Jones, before looking more closely at the team of 1970s and 1980s because that was the club’s strongest period and the one that I knew about and experienced.
“We wanted to ask why Pontypool were so successful and have tried to answer that through the voices of people like Pross, Eddie Butler, Terry Cobner and Graham Price,” he said.
“You learned tough lessons at Pontypool and it was a hard school that wasn’t just about rugby development, it was more than that and Pross was the catalyst for it all.
“Because you’ve got Eddie who has gone on and done the things he has (a career as a respected journalist and broadcaster) while Cobs went on to a high level with the WRU.
“A lot of those guys would have achieved through their own abilities, but I think Pontypool also helped with the discipline, with its culture, emphasis on work ethic, the fitness regime – it really was a strict environment.”
• ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Rise and Fall of Pontypool RFC’ is published on Thursday by Mainstream Publishing.
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