Alun Carter helps plot Pooler revival
AFTER spending three decades at the top in professional rugby with Wales and Worcester Warriors, highly regarded analyst Alun Carter is hoping he can help revive the fortunes of his hometown club Pontypool.
The ex-Pooler and Wales openside flanker, part of the backroom staff which delivered the country’s first Grand Slam after a 27-year wait in 2005, has joined his old team in an advisory capacity.
The great club has fallen on hard times recently but it clearly in Carter’s blood.
The award-winning author of the critically-acclaimed ‘Seeing Red: Twelve Tumultuous Years in Welsh Rugby’ has written ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Rise and Fall of Pontypool RFC’, published next month.
It chronicles the club’s heydays, in particular the blood-soaked successes of the 1970s and 1980s when Pontypool were the most feared side in the British Isles and provided the men of steel in the forwards which helped pave the way for the Grand Slam and Triple Crown triumphs of the late seventies.
But Carter’s book, co-written by ‘Seeing Red’ collaborator Nick Bishop, also doesn’t shy away from Pontypool’s plummeting recent fortunes, struggling to cope with professionalism’s great winds of change and the despair of nearly going out of business after being defeated last year by the Welsh Rugby Union following a titanic courtroom battle to block their demotion from the Principality Premiership after the 2011/12 season.
He is now part of an ambitious team who are aiming to propel them back among Welsh club rugby’s elite and Pooler are enjoying a great start to the new season.
Now one division below the Premiership, they are second in the Swalec Championship after opening their account with two bonus point wins.
Carter, WRU head analyst between 1998 and 2007 and Warriors team manager for five years before leaving in the summer, believes the club is going in the right direction both on and off the field under head coach Mike Hook and entrepreneur Peter Jeffreys, the fan who pumped in more than £100,000 of his own money to stop it being wound up in November 2012.
“I’m really enjoying it, it’s so refreshing and exciting to go back to the club and meet the players,” he said. “Before joining I’d spoken to Mike and Peter and found them both to be so keen and enthusiastic.
“There’s a real good feeling both on and off the field and I think the club are fortunate to have such support from Peter and a quality guy and good coach in Mike heading them up on the field.
“The plan, at some stage, is to get the club back into the Premiership – the potential is there and we have a good, young team.”
For Carter, who played for Pooler in the eighties before winning two Wales caps in 1991 at Newport, it was comforting the club has a continuity with what came before with the sons of two club legends from the 1980s heavily involved as part of the new generation
Assistant forwards coach Leighton Jones is the son of the late hooker
Steve ‘Junna’ Jones while ex-Wales captain and respected broadcaster Eddie Butler is the father of wing Jack Butler.
“I saw plenty of familiar faces, as well as Leighton whose dad I played with and who was a big influence on me, and Eddie’s son Jack.
“And there are a lot of local players in the group and there seems to be a real acknowledgement of keeping that tradition which is good and this current squad carries that responsibility well.”
Carter was greatly encouraged by the guts and determination on offer last weekend when Pontypool came back from a significant 21-0 half-time deficit to beat Bridgend Athletic 31-24 at home.
“What was good about Saturday was the actual character they showed because a lot of the players and coaches have gone through some tough times over the last year,” he said.
“I think that’s probably made them stronger as a group and you saw a bit of that in the way they came back.
“Things will get tougher because there are some good teams in the league but I think Mike and his coaching team are aware of that and they are encouraging the players to really work hard both on and off the field.”
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