This week Bill Carne met up with Phil ‘Jumbo’ Davies, formerly of Milford Haven but now living in Gorseinon and just retired from football refereeing all over South Wales as a highly-respected official...

One of West Wales’ best known football referees has just retired after over 20 years in the middle at matches all over South Wales and Phil ‘Jumbo’ Davies’s down to earth man- management of players will be missed.

Phil started out as a player with a variety of clubs in his home town of Milford Haven and then in London when his work took him there but he eventually settled in the Gorseinon area and regularly returned to his roots in officiating at West Wales Cup matches, or in the Welsh League with Haverfordwest County at the Conygar Bridge Meadow Stadium.

“It was always great to come back to clubs like Narberth, Goodwick, Merlins Bridge and the rest,” Phil told us, “because I found out that many of the players were the sons of footballers I had played against when I lived and played in the county.

Phil originally took up the whistle when he came back from London to work in Swansea so that he could referee games for Gorseinon, where he was Hon Sec for a number of years. That was in 1989 and after seven years he decided he enjoyed it so much that he would referee in the Carmarthenshire League, where he already knew most of the players and officials anyway.

His first game was on a wet Wednesday evening between Seaside (Llanelli) and Tumble whilst his final fixture, at the end of the 2013/14 campaign, was the Carmarthenshire Senior League Cup Final between Seaside and Pengelli in front of a big crowd at Stebonheath park in Llanelli.

“There was no score after full time or during extra time,” said Phil, “so we had to have penalties before Pengelli squeezed through – and it was certainly an interesting way to round off my refereeing career at 60.”

There have also been other highlights in a long career, which meant that Phil had reffed at all six trophies competed for in the Carmarthenshire League, including also the Darch Cup (for the reserve teams) and the TG Davies Cup (for Premier League sides only.)

Moving further afield he was also in charge of the McWhirter Youth Cup Final at Afan Lido when Haverfordwest County just missed out to West End, was on the line for a women’s international for Wales and the Welsh League Reserve Division Cup Final. “But I enjoyed every game,” admitted Phil, “even the odd few which were hard going.”

Outside of his love of football, Phil also played rugby at Milford Haven Central School, and enjoyed playing a bit of cricket for Burton with the late Dai Griffiths, another referee, and Paul ‘Bomber’ John.

“I was usually the last name on the sheet and kept wicket for the seconds,” chuckled Phil, “but it was a great place to play, with some top characters there.

“I also played darts for Mike ‘Tiger’ Jones at the Milford Haven British Legion Club and had some great day’s point-to-pointing with him at Lydstep and Scoveston.”

But it was football that was always his favourite as he started out in the back garden kicking a ball with his dad John, who was also a football referee in his time and known to all as ‘Butch’. It was at this time that his own nickname of ‘Jumbo’ sprung up when a pal suggested he was a little on the heavy side and now, 50 years on, everyone still calls him it, all except his wife Maria, plus daughters Lauren (28) and Rhian (26) as ‘Jumbo.

Maria is an ardent Barcelona fan after watching ‘Sgorio’ so long and Phil would nominate his better half as his greatest supporter, with mum Irene a very close second.

He started playing competitively with a Milford Haven Sea Cadets' team which had more than its fair share of hammerings before playing senior football in goal for Hakin United and Steynton, who won the first division of the Pembrokeshire League in 1970/71.

Then it was on to Hubberston Youth Club and a runners’ up spot in the Wiltshire Cup against a very strong Fishguard Sports team before they folded and he joined Milford United until John Gwyther arrived as an outstanding keeper and so Phil moved to Pill Lane to play for Milford Athletic

At 29 years of age, however, his work in the tax office took him to London alongside Goodwick United star Brian Morris, who played regularly in the capital city whilst Phil contented himself with weekly five a side games in work to keep his hand in. They were there for three years and Messrs Davies and Morris became Spurs’ season ticket holders whilst they were there.

And that brings nicely to his return to Wales and by 1998 he was a Class A referee and taking charge of Welsh League matches on a regular basis, travelling all over South Wales.

“I soon got to know most players and be known by them, which is always a help,” said Phil, and I always received a very special welcome at the Bridge Meadow, as it was known then.

“I still love going there and it is still one of my favourite venues to watch games, alongside Garden Village, which is just a mile down the road and has a really good set up, and Goytre United, which is one of the most picturesque grounds you could ever wish to visit.”

“I also watch Carmarthenshire League teams whenever I can and look out for Pembrokeshire clubs drawn against them in the West Wales Cup because there is always someone to walk down Memory Lane with.”

It is good to report that although Phil has stepped down from reffing he is going to use his wealth of experience by helping others who are just starting out with a whistle in their hands, giving them the down-to-earth advice that will be invaluable for their development.

He hasn’t finalised details yet but has set the wheels in motion by attending a Referees’ Instruction meeting with Welsh Refs’ supremo Roger Gifford and Dai Rees, who took over from the incomparable John Gow as the West Wales Officer.

There is no doubt that Phil ‘Jumbo’ Davies is still very proud of his Milford Haven roots and long may this genuine character of football continue to carry the Pembrokeshire Banner in his missionary work in our neighbouring county of Carmarthenshire!