Iwan Roberts: The day a Welsh striker and Bobby Gould sorted out a few differences...
PUBLISHED: 20:00 13 September 2018
I used to love going away with Wales even though at times I knew I was never going to start the game and had very little chance of getting on.
However, just being part of the squad meant the world to me.
The only problem was my fitness could suffer as we wouldn’t train with the same intensity while we were away, as we’d do so much work preparing for the games which meant if you weren’t in the starting 11 you would do a lot of standing about on the touch line and you wouldn’t really work up a sweat.
With not doing much training and doing a lot of sitting around in hotels, eating hotel food, you could easily put on an extra few pounds and you know me I only have to look at a mars bar and the weight goes on.
The fortunate thing for me was 99 times out of 100 we would stay in a hotel which had a gym and a sauna so after training I’d batter both these to make sure when I returned to my club I wasn’t off the pace and my six pack hadn’t suddenly turned into a two pack.
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The most bizarre thing I ever witnessed while away with Wales was our manager at the time Bobby Gould and Nathan Blake having a bit of a scrap as we were warming up in the centre circle at Newport’s Spytty Park. This was right in front of the Welsh fans who’d turned up to get a few autographs and watch us train.
Bobby had some strange ideas during his period as Welsh manager, one of which had us training up at Usk prison on a few occasions so the inmates could come and watch us train. Please don’t ask me why?!
Anyway back to the fight in the centre circle. Bobby had picked his team for the game the next day which included John Hartson, but didn’t include Dean Saunders and this didn’t sit well with some of the experienced players so they had a meeting with him and told him that he couldn’t leave Deano out!
So Bobby named another team which included both Dean and John but didn’t include Gary Speed which once again didn’t impress some of the senior pros and so they voiced their opinion to Gouldy and so for a third time he changed the team. He put Gary back in and this time John was left out which, as you can imagine, he was less than happy about.
So that morning we started the warm up and Bobby joined in and he could tell by big John’s face that he was still fuming about being left out of the team and so he stopped the warm up, told the squad to form a small circle, stood in the middle of the circle and invited John in so they could sort it out like men!
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The lads just stood there opened mouthed we couldn’t believe what our manager was suggesting and were quite relieved when John told him that he didn’t want to fight him as he was an old man and he’d knock his head off his shoulders if he did!
And so we thought that was the end of it until we heard Nathan Blake saying out of nowhere “I’ll fight you Bobby!”
We all just turned and looked at Blakey who was on his way into the circle rolling his sleeves up before anyone could stop him and we all thought “Here we go!”
I like Nathan, he’s a great bloke, and he’s one man I wouldn’t pick a fight with as he’s as strong as an ox.
He was upset about something Bobby had said to him a couple of days before while we were training and it was still eating away at him.
Anyway to cut a long story short they had a right good go at each other for a couple of minutes, thankfully no punches were thrown and neither were hurt but they had a good old wrestle in the middle of the pitch.
Bobby gave as good as he got but Blakey had at least another couple of gears to go up into had he wanted to.
In the end three of the lads jumped in and pulled them apart so we could get on with training and as Bobby got up from the ground he muttered “luckily for Blakey you jumped in when they did as I was just getting on top!”
We all laughed but more at the state of his normally immaculate barnet which was now all over the shop than the comment he’d just made.