A feature on the successful twist to Welsh Premier League broadcasting on S4/C.
The current Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League has reached a crucial stage of the season as a handful of clubs play-out their remaining first-phase fixtures to decide who will compete in the top half and bottom half for the remainder of the campaign. The respective fate of the league’s two in-form sides, Port Talbot Town and Airbus UK Broughton, has already been decided, but the real in-form duo of the Welsh Premier League have become one of the most talked about topics amongst supporters of the domestic top-flight. Mark Jones and Tomi Morgan have taken the English-language commentary on S4/C’s weekly live Sgorio broadcast to a new level in terms of alternative entertainment, and the duo have picked-up something of a cult following in the process. While the two former managers assess the performances of the league’s twelve teams every Saturday afternoon, a committed television audience wait impatiently for the latest disagreement between the former managerial rivals, and they were not left disappointed by last weekend’s disappointing cup final between Carmarthen Town and Bala Town.
While the match provided little entertainment on the field, Jones and Morgan had their broadcasting tactics spot-on. From debates over tackles to Morgan’s concern about extra-time interfering with his plans to watch Swansea City take on Manchester United, it was another master-class from the duo in ‘two men sitting in a pub’ punditry. By far the most entertaining aspect of the afternoon, questions should now be asked if playing the cup final in January is really conducive to good football, and for a match that attracts increased attention surely the best available playing surface and stadium should be considered over a neutral venue that is an equal distance between the two competing clubs. The league have a responsibility to a number of stakeholders, especially the sponsors, to provide the best possible stage and to raise the profile of the competition as much as possible. This is not to discredit Aberystwyth Town, a club well-experienced in successfully hosting cup finals, but heavy rain had left the surface in a delicate condition, and this only strengthens the call for the show-piece event to be moved back to its original end of season home.
But as Carmarthen Town and Bala Town slogged out a goalless draw, Jones and Morgan made the best of a bad situation. It is difficult to decide if it was luck, judgement or a bit of both that inspired the Sgorio team to combine the two, but whatever the reason, it has proved to be a winning formula. The English-language option is a very welcome addition to the broadcast and it is surprising how many people outside of Wales have sampled the live Saturday afternoon offering as an alternative to Jeff Stelling and his Sky studio colleagues. Sky Sports’ ‘Soccer Saturday’ is considered the original home of live commentary banter, but S4/C appear to have bought into this idea this season, and Jones and Morgan could hold their own against any of the former English Premier League stars who have opted for the secure football management alternative of the media as their route to stay involved in the game. The difference is that Jones and Morgan are both also considered established managers in the Welsh Premier League, while Jones’ Cardiffian wit would out-smart any of the Soccer Saturday panel in a head-to-head.
Mark Jones made his name in the Welsh football circuit as a player, and later manager, of Maesteg Park Athletic. A successful Welsh Cup run during the late 1990’s brought Jones to the attention of South Wales’ top-flight clubs, and in 2001 he was appointed manager of Port Talbot Town. Jones built a solid foundation at the club during his three-year tenure, taking the club to the semi-finals of both the League Cup and Welsh Cup, in addition to making consistent progress each season in the Welsh Premier League. In 2004 he took control of Carmarthen Town and enjoyed his most successful period in management, as the club competed in the UEFA Cup, pulling-off one of the most memorable European results by a Welsh Premier League club in 2005 when they defeated Irish side Longford Town 5-3 on aggregate to progress through the opening round. During his time at Richmond Park, Jones also lifted the Welsh Cup in 2007 before surprisingly being replaced. Jones dropped down to the Welsh League with Dinas Powys for a short-period, but returned to Port Talbot Town in 2008, taking the club to the Welsh Cup final and into the UEFA Europa League in 2010.
Tomi Morgan earned himself a place in the Welsh Premier League Hall of Fame with his performances as a striker with 72 goals in 230 appearances for six different clubs, although his only appearance for Porthmadog came as a substitute in April 2010 at the age of 53 years and 7 months. This record of being the oldest player ever to feature in a Welsh Premier League match still stands, but it was not the first time that Morgan’s age had made headlines. In 1996, Morgan played an integral part in Llansantffraid’s surprise Welsh Cup final win over Barry Town at Cardiff Arms Park. I was in attendance to witness Morgan score the opening goal in the 3-3 draw and subsequently convert his penalty in the victorious shoot-out, but his performance was also witnessed further afield, and rumours of interest from a club in the Chinese league were apparently cooled once they were advised that the in-form striker was 38 years-old at the time. Morgan has also twice managed Carmarthen Town and Aberystwyth Town, as well as holding the reigns at Rhayader Town, Welshpool Town and Porthmadog in the Welsh Premier League. Neither Jones or Morgan would rule out a return to management, while Morgan has probably not yet ruled out a return to playing.
The coverage of the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League offered by S4/C Sgorio is well-deserving of the praise that it attracts from supporters of the league. From the live Saturday afternoon action to the Monday night highlights show, the broadcasters have a clear passion for promoting the Welsh Premier and bring a professional edge to a league striving to shake-off the amateur perception felt by other media outlets. Between them, Jones and Morgan know the league and its players better than any other outsider, and have grown into their new roles behind the microphone. Before the end of the current campaign, expect Jones to compare a few more Welsh Premier League players with random English Premier League players from the last decade, and for Morgan to inevitably disagree with him. The Welsh Premier League may have lost two characters when the duo left their last respective management jobs, but S4/C have brought them back with vengeance with the best double-signing of the summer, and the league has become more a more entertaining product for it.
This article was also published on the WalesOnline Magazine Sports Blog here – http://blogs.walesonline.co.uk/sport/2014/01/jones-and-morgan-are-taking-th.html