Bill Carne recently caught up with Meirion George, originally from St Davids but now heavily involved in ‘soccer’ in the USA, who told him how talented teenage footballers from our county could join up with Meirion at the MacDuffie School in Massachusetts . . .

A VERY welcome recent returnee to the county of Pembrokeshire has been Meirion George, perhaps best remembered as a good footballer with St Davids and Solva, but now resident in the New England area of the USA.

He is Athletic Director at the MacDuffie School in West Springfield, near Boston, Massachusetts, and whilst home on a family visit to his parents Nan and John told us that he would welcome aspiring Pembrokeshire footballers of 16-17 at his school, but more of that later.

Meirion first went out to the USA in 2000 and he joined a set-up which had a men’s team that was mainly professional, one for college students looking to make the grade, and a women’s team called the ‘Boston Renegades’.

“I really enjoyed my stay there,” Meirion told us, “but the emphasis was heavily on playing and I missed the teaching component so after two years I joined a programme coaching a women’s team called the ‘Springfield Mutiny’, taking in girls from colleges to develop their skills.

The MacDuffie School was only just under new ownership and beginning to make a name for itself in sport and when Meirion became Athletic Director his remit encompassed not only ‘soccer’ but basketball, lacrosse, tennis and a range of other sports.

“We play football mainly in the autumn and that remains my major interest but I have to keep a weather eye on them all. W

“We have a Spanish coach and we are already looking forward to the new season – our current squad of 18 comes from ten different countries, including the USA, Spain, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Italy.”

Meirion would be more than happy to recruit talented young players from Pembrokeshire in their mid teens to add to his squad.

“But they would have to be able to cope with the challenge of being away from their families and in return are promised a very good all-round education and the chance to catch the eye and be recognised by professional US teams.

“We also run ‘Soccer Summer Camps for 8-12 year olds and would welcome input from talented coaches who would like to widen their experience and be involved in another culture by joining us for a while.”

In either case Meirion’s e-mail address is – and he can be contacted on the school’s web site as well.

All of this must now seem a long distance from his own early sporting days at the family home in St Davids, where his parents, Nan and John, were great chauffeurs for Meirion and his older brother Huw, now a well-known local football referee, whilst sisters Gwenda and Mair were also supportive.

That family has now been increased because joining Meirion on this visit are his wife Heather, who was a midfield player with the All-American football team, his children Siani (18 months) and Cian (5 months), plus stepdaughter Tresa (10).

Meirion is eager that his children know all about their Welsh cultural background and more visits home are planned.

When he was young, football was always his favourite sport and he started out as a junior when James Wilcox, a Sealink captain, organised friendlies against Roch and local cub scouts.

“Then David Heighway came on the scene from Liverpool with his son Lee and started up a team in the local league, and had Hakin United, Milford Athletic, Scarrowscant United and Goodwick United as our main rivals.

“Steve took us to the Everton Academy and we met Neville Southall, which was a great thrill. “We played on the pitch adjoining St Davids RFC and I remember a gang of us used to go there and pick stones up on a Saturday morning, we were so keen.

“We stayed together until we eventually won the Wiltshire Cup by beating Goodwick in the final. I was honoured with the captaincy – and by then most of us were playing with the St Davids senior team that had been formed.

Meirion also represented Pembrokeshire and Dyfed Schools – and was disappointed when he didn’t get into the Welsh team for his age group after going for trials with keeper Huw Davies.

But he learned a lot at this time as he also played against a Swansea City reserves/apprentice team run by Terry Yorath and Tommy Hutchinson.

From there, Meirion joined Solva so that he could try first division football and found characters there like Nobby Howells, Dai ‘Ball’ Phillips, Matthew Raggett, Sean Young, Ian and Jamie Bartlett, plus Ronnie Beynon, who did so much for Solva football.

Chris Morgan played in goal and Eirian Evans was his best pal there as he enjoyed playing at the top level of Pembrokeshire Football.

From there it was on to college in Canterbury for a sports science degree and in those three years he played for the college team and also played for Canterbury City in the old Conference, Southern Section.

When he went to Bedford College for teaching he played for Hearne Bay and Whitstable in semi-professional football. Whilst at the latter club they reached the quarter final of the FA Vase before losing 2-1 to North Ferriby in the shadow of the Tyne Bridge – and the disappointment was made even worse because his former team mates at Hearne Bay not only had a trip to Wembley for the final but won the blooming trophy!

It was in 2000, when he was back working at Canterbury University that he first pondered the trek to the USA and now the wheel has turned full circle since Meirion has made the return trip home, this time with his young family.

“It has been lovely to see my parents and the rest of my family, plus old friends,” Meirion told us, “and we are already looking to another trek home as soon as possible.

“To those I have missed I hope to put that right next time.”

“And a reminder to coaches or young players out there in our county: if you fancy being involved at MacDuffie School just get in touch on the school’s web site. It’s as easy as that.”

So there’s the challenge thrown down by Meirion George, who is Pembrokeshire through and through but has made a success of life in Massachusetts, USA. We wish him continued success there and we hope to bump into him again on his next visit home to Wales!