It was a week of international football that did not begin well for Wales. But being a fan, says Jack Hammett, is about faith, patience and the ability to look beyond logic for something extraordinary, unexpected and uplifting – like a goal from Jonny Williams.
It’s no coincidence that the sun was shining this morning and my smile stretched from ear to ear.
It’s wonderful how football can have that impact on your mood. At some point today every Welsh fan will think about Jonny Williams – and his first international goal last night – and allow themselves to be taken back to the same feeling they had last night.
That instant when the ball struck the back of the net and we saw how much it means to a fan favourite to finally get his first goal.
That’s the power of football. Although, if you had asked me 24 hours before, my mood was quite the opposite.
Jonny Williams has saved my week of international football. His goal made me see Ryan Giggs and his tactics in a different light and made me long to be back amongst the Red Wall.
Before last night, I had felt miserable watching Wales. Not because of the results but the way we had been playing.
Football is meant to be enjoyable and a form of escapism but watching Wales had felt like more of a chore than a luxury.
Why do we do it to ourselves? What do we get out of it?
The week of international football began with England. To an empty Wembley Stadium to play our most bitter rivals.
I can still tell you all the emotions I went through when we last faced England, in 2016.
Nervous in the morning, hopeful at the kick-off, jubilant at half time, desperate at 1-1, and distraught at the final whistle.
I’ll forever been unable to erase the memory of an England fan screaming in my face when Sturridge scored the winner.
That was then, though, and this is now. Four years on and disputes between the English and the Welsh continue on a daily basis. Or they would do, if Boris Johnson were to actually talk to our First Minister, Mark Drakeford.
We lost 3-0 at Wembley last week but what can I remember from the game?
Not much, really.
I know Williams and Jack Grealish got fouled a lot, but that’s about it.
It wasn’t until I re-watched the highlights on YouTube that I remembered Danny Ings scored with a bicycle kick.
It was a friendly, though, after all.
The real reason behind this international break – competitive football – arrived for Wales in Dublin against the Republic of Ireland.
An Ireland team that not only had their hopes of reaching the Euros next summer cruelly taken away after extra time and penalties just three days before, but who were also a depleted squad due to a positive Covid test.
That meant five players were ruled out of their match day squad.
Wales, on the other hand, had good team news. Kieffer Moore was deemed fit to play after coming off on Thursday night and Aaron Ramsey, midfield talisman, maestro, wizard, master – was back!
It was the dullest 90 minutes of football I can remember watching.
Jonny Williams’ first goal for Wales puts them ahead in Bulgaria! 🏴
📺 Watch live now on Sky Sports pic.twitter.com/3LB9VFIwEi
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) October 14, 2020
It’s easy to make flippant remarks about what Giggs is doing with the national team, but why do we spend our time watching these matches despite them being so dull? What is it that forces us to put almost two hours of our day to one side and continue to watch the match, even in the final moments when it’s clear that as an audience we won’t be rewarded for our patience or loyalty?
I’ve turned off films in the past and changed the TV channel when I’ve not been enjoying what I’m watching before; people have no issue with leaving the theatre during the interval if the performances of those on stage are poor.
As an actor, I’m speaking from personal experience.
To Bulgaria, then. Of course, I’m watching it, despite those last two matches. It would be stupid not to.
We turn on the TV and with hope and anticipation and watch as the game began.
Bulgaria are the type of team that frustrates you. They’re physical and have characters who very much enjoy getting under their opposition’s skin.
Neco superb last night.
Matt Smith Solid, justified his selection I thought, Levitt despite some criticism kept things ticking over played his part in the Cymru goal.
Norrington-Davies solid debut, want to see more of him.
Rabbi – IMPACT
Jonny Williams… No words ♥ pic.twitter.com/aOGOld4OHG
— Red Wall News 🏴 (Q) (@RedWallNews1) October 15, 2020
Harry Wilson looked like a victim of this kind of behaviour from our hosts as he was making his way to the touchline to be replaced by Williams.
As a fan, I felt the way the team had defended (no goals conceded in 10 hours of football) and the performances of a lot of the younger players were impressive; Tyler Roberts, Neco Williams, and debutant Rhys Norrington-Davies, in particular.
But the lack of clear cut chances being created by our forward players had been alarming.
Opportunities had been few and far between for Wales and with no goals scored in the last two matches, they could hardly afford to be wasteful.
But step forward, Rabbi Matondo – an open goal, after a brilliant cross from Roberts on the right, skied over the bar.
Three matches and no goals. It was difficult to watch but for some reason, my eyes were still glued to the screen.
Football does reward fans. After 265 minutes of watching, we were finally all rewarded with a goal – a beautiful goal!
It was a world-class finish from Jonny Williams, a player every fan loves, who works tirelessly and at one point was used just to get kicked to give Gareth Bale a chance with a free-kick.
It was his first goal for Wales and richly deserved.
That moment made this last week worth it. We watch football for escapism and enjoyment, and it can come at any moment from any player because football is chaos.
Despite pundits, former players, and everyone on the internet with an opinion (including me) trying to predict the game, there will always be something unexpected, a moment, something that goes against the previous 85 minutes of the match that makes you jump up and celebrate your team, your players, your country.
In a difficult year, football has meant a lot to people and for those that don’t enjoy the game it’s difficult to maybe understand why.
— Swansea Beat ⚽️ (@swanseabeat) October 14, 2020
But in a week where restrictions became tighter again and because of the pandemic uncertainty looms, football, and in particular that goal, made me forget it all for a brief moment and it was the only thing that mattered.
We’re top of the league and everything that’s happened this last week is forgotten because of Super Joniesta!