I’m Immensely Proud Of Being From Yorkshire. Interview With An Umpire.

Una entrevista que va a cundir

I’m here in the Fat Cat interviewing Ray “Albert Finney” Cundy, a veteran of every Anglo Galician Cup battle and who, as new Stags supremo, masterminded the victorious XII

Ray Cundy (Sheffield, 1953)

Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been married to Janet for 25 years and have no kids. We celebrated our Silver Wedding in January by going on a cruise. At school, Myers Grove, I was a “goody two shoes”. I was school monitor so I helped the teachers keep order in the school (perfect experience for his later role as Stags manager – ed ) This taught me self-discipline. I’ve played football since primary school at Burgoyne Road and my first competitive game against Lydgate Lane was a 10-0 thrashing, I’ve loved playing ever since. The high point of my career (apart from the XII of course) was playing for Sheffield FC for three seasons in the 70’s – Sheffield FC are the oldest Football club in the world, fact. We went to Europe one close-season and played in a competition against German, French, Dutch and Belgian Teams and, playing in an official Sheffield Wednesday kit, we won the competition. Must have been the kit! Sheffield FC got to the final of the FA Vase the year after I left them. Make of that what you will. I continued playing for Sacred Heart FC who were a successful team, winning a couple of Championships and getting to two League Cup Finals, all against the same team (were there only two teams who entered the Cup in those years Ray?). They ended honours even. But I’m not a Catholic. In fact I’m an atheist. However I never got my “blue” at school for football, I got it for cross-country running and tennis would you believe. I ran the National Cross-Country Championships one year, fell down a rabbit hole at the start of the race, got up, saw I was last and put the burners on. I finished in the first 120 out of a field of over 1,000 kids. I also played Hortensio in a school version of Shakespear’s “Taming of the Shrew”. Whilst I enjoyed the applause and the laughter, it is a comedy!, I never fancied a career on stage. I won a book at the annual school prize giving for being “the most improved pupil in the class”. Didn’t say much for the others…I also came third in the Sheffield “Newspaper Boy of the Year” competition organised by the Sheffield Star Newspaper (yes the same one with the Stags video in it – I’m just saying) I won a £1 Premium Bond but so far it hasn’t come up on ERNIE. I was a football referee for about 6 years. I challenge players to do the same. Learn the Laws and take the basic 12 week course to get started. It isn’t as easy as picking up a whistle I might add. I retired from work on 30 September 2010 after being a career Civil Servant for almost 40 years. Best team I worked on was the Sports and Entertainment team who considered work permits for all sportspeople, actors, technicians and all musicians entering the UK even for one gig! (I worked on that team too – best job ever) l’ve met and talked to some pretty famous people as a result and if you buy me a pint I may well have a story or two to tell.

I know you are proud to have be born within the “Broad Acres” – what does it mean to be a Yorkshireman?

I’m immensely proud of being from Yorkshire. I’m proud of my working-class roots and where I come from. I am the eldest of 3 brothers who at one time all slept in the same bed because my parents were living with my grandparents in a terraced house. We never had a car until I was about 13 and I was the only one who didn’t get a bike for Christmas. Funny how you never forget these things but at least they had to wear my “hand me downs” so it wasn’t all bad. I’m biased, of course, but I don’t think you will find a more friendly and genuine set of people than those in Yorkshire, in particular this great city of Sheffield (yes Ray you are biased). Perhaps this is why so many people have said they came to Sheffield for work or to attend University and never left. I fly the Yorkshire flag – a white rose on a sky blue background – as often as I can but especially on Yorkshire Day on August 1st to celebrate the rich history of our great county (I thought Yorkshire Day meant we all ate Yorkshire Pudding) It’s still the largest County in England despite losing the likes of Cleveland and Humberside to boundry changes (Though Middlesbrough is in Cleveland I’m still a proud Yorkshireman too. It says Yorkshire as place of birth on my birth certificate and that’s good enough for me, though it is in old Saxon). It’s such a diverse County with the Industrial South – though not as busy as it once was in the Steel making and Cutlery trade – the old woollen industry of the West and the rolling Dales and farmland of the North. We have our sporting legends who are too numerous to mention but I remember someone on the TV saying in the London Olympics of 2012 athletes from Yorkshire had won 12 gold medals between them, which put them 3rd in the International medals table. I am a member of the Royal British Legion and I commemorate every year what the men and women of Yorkshire have given to their country. I had tears in my eyes when I visited the Somme battlefield with Ron where so many of the “Sheffield Pals” died in 1916. What a waste of good people. I could wax lyrical about the County of my birth suffice to say that I do think it’s “God’s own country” but as I don’t believe in God I’ll say “it’s MY own country” and long may it be so. (Well said Raymondo)

Obviously you are a keen student of history. Tell us about that?

My favourite subject at school was always History. I was fascinated by long lost civilisations (like the Geordies?) and the Classical period intrigued me. I especially loved the conflicts between the Greeks and the Persians – the stand of the 300 at Thermopylae and the battles of Marathon and Salamis, the Roman Empire and the Punic Wars against Carthage. On one occasion at school our History teacher, Mr Grinter, took us to see Dr Zhivago at the cinema. Although a love story, the background was the Russia Revolution of 1917 which we were studying at the time. It was one of the best days out of the classroom. I’ve also been to several battlefields including Flodden, Bosworth Field and Towton, the latter two from the long dynastic conflict in England known as the Wars of the Roses. Towton has the reputation of being the bloodiest battle fought on English soil (it was also fought during a great snowstorm just to make things worse) Living in Yorkshire I have always been interested in King Richard III who was a Yorkist King whose family emblem was a white rose. I was thrilled when his body was discovered recently in a car park in Leicester. He was the last English King to die in battle and last of the Plantagenet line. I have never believed Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard as a hunchback and a murderer (Tudor propaganda – History is written by the victors Ray). I am also a member of the National Trust which was formed to save historical houses for posterity and the Trust also owns several areas of land in trust for the nation to enjoy. As I said I’m a member of the Royal British Legion whose main aim is to remember the war dead and help care for ex-soldiers and their families. On 18th June it is the 200th anniversary of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. I have already bought some momentos to commemorate the date. I can’t understand the comment that History is boring. How can learning about human civilisation over many centuries be boring and shouldn’t we learn from the mistakes of the past (judging by recent events in the UK I don’t think we do). Without History we would know nothing of our past and what made us what we are today. Surely that’s worth remembering.

And now on to the Football. After three defeats in a row the Stags finally triumphed…..

I have never liked losing at anything. Even at cards. I can remember as a kid my family would stay up until I had won a hand at a game called “Newmarket”. It was two in the morning when we got to bed! As for the Anglo Galician Cup – what a great event that is. It has brought so many people together so thanks to Thomo and Fran for starting it all off. We have lost friends along the way like “John Terry” and Julian “Smoking” Batty who gave me one of the funniest stories ever to come out of the Anglo-Galician with his Vigo police dog escapade. Rest in peace my friend. As for the XII, I think we won because we were more organised off the field and more disciplined on it. We agreed a formation and we stuck to it (don’t give too much away Boss) I think it shocked the Porcos and if truth be told it re-invigorated the Stags and was a good result for the future of the event – sorry Porcos!

Now you have successfully donned the managers sheepskin coat have you hung up your boots?

I’m still contemplating that decision. If it happens it will be a very painful one. I’m 62 now and I’ve done more in football than others have. With a bit more luck I might have done more but we can all say that can’t we (unless you are a Sunderland fan). Although my mind is still alert on the pitch the stamina isn’t. It comes to us all and I certainly won’t be doing any cross-country running anymore. Perhaps I’ll do more cycling to keep fitter but I still think I can get through a game with a little help from substitutes, something we’ve never had when we visit Galicia. I’d also like to score just one goal. I like to look after myself before a game but am always amazed by Thomo who seems to drink non stop then stagger onto the pitch, score a cracker then stagger off again. (Legend) But being on the sidelines is a fact of life. It’s not just with football, when you are my age life itself becomes a sideshow. There are things in life you have to accept. I would like to thank the lads for keeping me involved by making me the manager. I was very touched by the gesture and immensely proud of them when they did a job on the Porcos.

This result has clearly hit the Porcos hard. They will be “up for it” come the XIII. As manager how will you handle the “away leg” given our tendency to drink solidly for the duration resulting in us turning up for the match in a state of disrepair?

Well obviously I hope it won’t be “unlucky thirteen” for us. In fact I’m pretty confident we can continue our winning formula and get a result in Galicia for the first time since we won 4-3 on Thomo’s stag party in 2007. (I’m off down to Ladbrokes to put a tenner on the Stags) I think I have a very honest bunch of players, some of whom have already experienced the problem of getting pissed then playing a game on a large pitch at the hottest time of the day (or wettest – this is Galicia after all). I will ask my players for a bit of discipline and belief but I can’t ask them to spoil their trip by asking them to abstain from drinking – not when I’ll be chucking it down my throat at the same time (managers prerogative Ray do as I say not as I do) I will “request” they be careful and behave like adults but I ain’t going to the cop station to bail them out if the team antics get too rowdy. If we stay relatively sober we have more than a good change of winning (he said this with a straight face). If we don’t we’ll likely get hammered. Just thought, I could keep all their room keys and lock them in but do you think that’s going too far??

Estrella Galicia or Kelham Island Best Bitter – discuss.

No contest it has to be Kelham Island Best and I’m not being patriotic for once. Estrella is nice on draught but it’s mostly bottled and I’m not a fan of bottled or canned beer. It’s too gassy for my taste and believe me I need no help in that Department! (as anyone who has shared a room with Ray in Pontevedra will attest). I think any fan of real ale will say the same, plus I’ve visited the brewery at Kelham Island, it’s a local brew and I feel more at home with it.

You are also a chap who likes his “bait”. Galician cuisine – what do you think?

I’ve always enjoyed my food. The Galician grub is no exception. I love octopus and calamari, patatas bravas, gambas and all tapas dishes (pretty much everything then). If you aren’t into your food don’t go out with the Porcos. Eating well is always a part of the journey for me and I’ve always embraced trying the local food and specialities. I’m not really a MacDonalds, Burger King guy. In my opinion eating out is a social grace. Judging by the predominance of take-aways on our High Streets eating out is a social event fast disappearing. By this I mean good conversation should be part of a good meal and the meal should last at least two hours. (have you seen how much food these lads could demolish in two hours??) It’s something I think we Brits could learn from some of our European neighbours.

If the Anglo-Galician Cup were a movie which one would it be?

That’s an interesting question. Which part of the whole experience do I think is most appropriate? We have “At World’s End” the Simon Pegg movie which starts off basically as a reason for old buddies to meet up and get totally pissed then develops into a sort of apocalyptic message. Not sure if that is an appropriate analogy. Now that some guys are into their music we could associate with “The Sound of Music” but I can’t see Arturo or Bill dressed as nuns though they both probably have nasty habits. Boom boom (a police restraining order forbids me from donning the cassock I’m afraid) For me it has to be “Gladiator”. It’s got a great theme tune to satisfy the music lovers and the Anglo-Galician rivalry reminds me of two side who respect each other but take no prisoners when the action starts. We’ll be the Romans, being the civilised ones, against the Porcos who are wild and savage Celts who need taming. I fancy my role as Maximus when he says “Unleash Hell”. That would be the Stags on the Porcos obviously. No need for head throwing yet guys.

Since our glorious victory we have had much more input onto the various websites. As a man of letters, how do we maintain that impetus?

I’ve no innovative thoughts on this I’m afraid. I know the Stags have struggled to contribute to the various sites and I know following your intervention and urgings this has improved considerably. Whether there is a link with being successful on the pitch and having enthusiasm for the sites is a factor I don’t know. As many of us as possible should contribute. I’ve been as guilty as anybody but I think the main problem is translating the comments into recognisable English. (I have the same problem in Newcastle). We all know in this day and age patience is no longer a virtue and if something doesn’t grab the attention in the first few sentences then it is ignored. We English are lazy (no comment from you Main please) but perhaps it might help if the main articles were also in English so that people didn’t have to waste time in translation. We should of course also translate the English articles to Galician/Spanish too.

You have been part of the Anglo-Galician family from the start. What do you think the future holds?

Who would have thought that after Thomo’s Stag Party we would be celebrating 10 years of the competition in 2017? Let’s face it, the first game was a kick-about between two sets of guys on a piss-up (not much change there then) We had such a great time in Pontevedra we wanted to continue the competition and develop the friendships we had forged. Football is truly international and we are living proof it brings people together. That’s one in the eye for those non-believers, including my wife, who think the game is overrated, boring and just a load of men chasing a round object full of air. (She must have a Chelsea Season ticket) This has developed into much more than a football match. As for the future, the sky’s the limit. The different websites prove the interest worldwide in the Anglo-Galician family. All sorts of subjects are discussed from the sublime to the surreal. Sometimes when I managed to translate an article it has been so high brow, even for me but that’s part of the diversity. Whatever we decide to do in order to celebrate 10 years it has to include a mix of travel, football, music, food, drink and friendship because they are the building blocks of this great competition (well said Ray) Personally I would like to see Thomo involved again because not having him around is like losing a founding father. We understand why he can’t be with us and he’s having the time of his life but we need him back. Just like the Stags are back!!!

Thanks for that Ray, very illuminating, now it’s your round mate…….Ray? Where’s he gone……