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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Rise and Fall of Pontypool RFC
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on 20 October 2014
I thought this was excellent.As an Englishman who has never lived in Wales but has always followed Welsh Rugby and used to go into Wales to watch the big clubs and has even been to watch Pontypool at home now and again,including the famous match when Gerald Davies scored for tries to beat them in the Welsh Cup,I was fascinated to find out about the internal life of the club,both the positive and the negative,the role of certain individuals and the economic and social context in Pontypool and the area.It is interesting too on how it fitted into the community and how the community influenced the character of the club.Definitely one to keep and read again with profit.

One of its strengths is that you get to see the club from so many aspects and that there are so many individual views and experiences expressed in people's own words.It is also the more informative because it is not just a glorification,a hagiography if you can have such a thing of an institution,but because those who were part of it but who found that there were things they did not like have a fair say.It also feels that everyone in it is being open and honest without exaggerating their own part or being embittered by resentment.We are given the virtues and shortcomings of the club and prominent individuals,often by the same witnesses without rancour orresentment.

This is a really good book on a club who rose and declined in a comparatively short time without ever being as well known or glorified as some of the other clubs in Wales,and therefore with some mystery to many of us.It is astory vividly conveyed here by those who were part of it,and very will written and organised between a great deal of information and intelligent themes by people who use their enthusiasm and inside knowledge to make a perceptive and penetrating book.
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First half of the book charts the story of the Pooler with Ray Prosser's uncompromising fitness and need for southern hemisphere intimidation on field. I was surprised by the revelations about the "extras" handed out by my childhood heroes - it does explain why so many teams cancelled fixtures. I remember so well opposition supporters calling us animals - always thought it was down to our superior fitness, strength and uncompromising pack - but the book reveals that we set out to deliberately hurt the opposition, by fair means or foul. Having just watched the Autumn internationals, so much rings true - the first dilemma faced by WRU (and the Northern unions), to beat the SH, we've got to be willing to embrace the extras.

The second half jumps swiftly, and I think appropriately past the management issues on and off the field at Pooler - just a few facts covered in enough detail to not leave gaps, now we're onto professionalism in Welsh Rugby. From the outset, it seems like the WRU focused on the Welsh team, then the big clubs, then the players when implementing professional rugby. No mention of supporters. Just a basic analysis to say 30 elite players = 2 or 3 regions. A few parochial arguments later and we end up with 4 regions with the same supporter base that they always had. As long as the national team does well, then all is rosy in Welsh Rugby. This book explains the physics and economics of why this is unsustainable and a doomed plan. We can see it today with elite players following the money to the big English/French clubs.
All in all an easy read with contributions from great players and minds in valleys rugby - its great to know that the glaringly obvious solution to professional rugby in Wales is simple and known to everyone in Wales except the WRU.
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on 27 October 2013
As an avid fan of Pontypool RFC I was eagerly awaiting publication of this book. As an ex Pooler player Carter knows the highs and lows of the club better than most and his view of what made the team into the mighty force they once were makes fascinating reading.

He gives great insight to what made the legendary coach Ray Prosser have coaching methods 20 years ahead of its time, of how the training techniques broke many a player's mental state, of how Pooler were the most feared club throughout Britain beating the likes of Leicester, Munster, Cardiff, Bath, etc on a regular basis and of how the bubble burst with the advent of leagues, professionalism and regionalisation.

Sadly he has not gone into too much detail as to the inner turmoil that beset the club during the early 90s onwards, the club's decision to give the captaincy to Mark Ring which led to over half the team leaving and eventually relegation, the change of ownership of the club on numerous occasions that caused financial problems from one season to the next, the way in which the court case that led to Pooler almost going out of existence came about. Maybe Carter wasn't too willing to upset the applecart but many of the inner problems at Pontypool RFC were as much to blame for the club's decline other than the introduction of leagues, etc.

That said this is a real tale of how a mighty force in sport can fall if things go pear shaped off the field, it should heed as a warning to others that if things aren't managed well that serious problems will occur and that despite all the success failure could be just around the corner. Bubbles do burst, in the case of Pontypool it certainly did, big time.
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on 14 August 2016
So much rugby writing is bland. Another ex player publishes a ghosted biography with no real insights into the state of the game. This book is a noteable exception to that rule. Well written and innovatively, extensively quoting from ex players so allowing them to be fully heard, it was a truly fascinating and riveting read. What drove Pontypool to be the best and most feared club in Wales in the 70s and 80s is revealed. These players were not professional but were driven by some sense of community and loyalty to club and fellow player to train avidly and put their bodies on the line twice a week. Then along came professional rugby and Pontypool became a club living on past glories. It is an apochryphal tale in the sense that Engish, Scottish and French rugby have had similar and different problems.

So Mr Bishop's book should be added to the small list of great rugby writing. Told with a truth but also a wistfulness that makes it a compelling read.

Only one disappointment: it rather skirts around the violent side of Pontypool's game. It hides this by referring to an uncompromising style of play and a hardness but it is obvious that criminal acts of gratuitous brutality were committed s and a more candid analysis is called for.
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on 7 December 2013
I love well written sports books and, having grown up in Pontypool during the 70s and 80s, the prospect of a book on Pooler was mouth-watering. It didn't let me down. I love this book. It's very well written and jogs along at a steady pace, delving into areas that we Bank supporters wouldn't normally have access to. Of course, bearing in mind the authors, it's a little biased but why wouldn't it be? But then again, it isn't blind bias and offers a good insight into why Pontypool was such a great side whilst at the same time attracting the displeasure of rugby purists. I thoroughly recommend this book to Pontypool rugby followers and to anyone who is interested in Welsh rugby and to anyone who wants to learn about how southern hemisphere forward play arrived in the UK!
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on 27 October 2013
I was looking forward to buying this book after it was announced by the publisher and it exceeded my expectations. The story of how the team was built under Ray Prosser is beautifully told and I was especially touched by the way the stories were related to the geography and history of the Pontypool area. The stories themselves, well so many I'd never heard before, and not just from Poola greats like Eddie Butler, Terry Cobner and Graham Price, but from lesser known players like Brandon Cripps too. They give the chapters about the club in the glory years real substance and a feeling of how it was built around its characters, men like Eddie Mogford and Ivor Taylor and of course Ray Prosser.

But the book will appeal to more than fans of Gwent rugby as there is a deep analysis of how regionalisation affected the valley clubs, and Welsh rugby as a whole from 2002 onwards. Again the opinions of Kevin Bowring and Terry Cobner are eye-opening here, and the western regions like the Scarlets and Ospreys come out of it surprisingly well.

All in all one of the best books I've read, not just on welsh rugby but all of rugby! Big recommend.
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on 7 December 2013
Pontypool RFC was once one of the strongest clubs in Wales, and famous all over the rugby world. Yet the club that could once boast an all-international pack has nearly folded several times and the glory days are just a memory. What happened?

This book explores, as its title suggests, the good, the bad and the ugly from a Pontypool perspective. Here you will read about the glory days, the fall from prominence during the unsustainable cash-waving of the early professional era, and the betrayal of not only Pontypool but of Welsh club rugby in general by the WRU as they badly botched the introduction of "regional" teams.

The authors pull no punches; they simply tell it as they see it.
Quite simply, if you're a Welsh rugby fan, even if you have never supported Pontypool, you should read this book.
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on 18 April 2014
As a West Mon boy I grew up watching Pooler on the Bank in the halcyon days of the late 70's and 80's. I found the book very poignant and quite touching as it brought back happy childhood memories of people that I knew, both players and school masters, and some of the great matches I watched at the Park. However, over and above the misty-eyed feeling it gave me, the real triumph of the book is its erudite and compelling analysis of the profound state of chaos that professionalism and regionalisation has had in Wales, particularly the eastern valleys. I am naturally opposed to the Black and Ambers, and that has been part of the tribalism that has riven the area and blighted regional development for years. If there's one lesson in the book it is that Welsh rugby will not prosper until the regional model is redeveloped so that it is not dominated by the M4 corridor and embraced by all fans. If that doesn't happen it will be a cemetery west of Offa's Dyke, never mind the Valleys.
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on 25 September 2017
Great book. I love reading about the Rugby played in the 70,s and early 80,s when rugby was played by hard men and it was no allseing cameras
to spot foul play Players had to stand up and fight their corner.No better example then Pontypool
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on 26 January 2014
I've been a Pontypool fan all my life and many of the stories here confirm those that have become folklore. The book is well written and whilst not having as much humour as the Duke's, is still a good read. However, there could have been bit more about the Pontypool 'backs' who deserve little more credit, especially as they didn't get any from Prosser! Also, Corris' Thomas version of the Newbridge cup game.....they could still be playing now and he wouldn't have awarded pooler a penalty!
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