It did not take a few sharp-eyed readers of Grassroots North Wales long to identify two mystery Manchester United fans who appeared in an article on the website this week.
Football writer and historian Mark Jones provided us with a United programme from September 1978 which featured on its front cover a photo of two members of the Red Devils’ Arfon-Dwyfor supporters branch taking part in a pre-match parade at Old Trafford.
The identity of the two men carrying a banner was initially unknown, but that wasn’t the case for long.
The pair have been identified as Neil Thomas from Penygroes (left) and Gareth Jones from Llanberis.
Gareth contacted us direct to confirm he was the man on the right.
“I’m the one on the right and Neil (Bach) Thomas is the one on the left,” wrote Gareth.
“The parade was on the evening of a centenary celebration match against Real Madrid at OT when quite a few of the old time players were also in attendance, and we and the other participants in the parade were honoured to be sitting among them during the game itself.
“I’m aware that Neil still regularly attends matches but I fell out of love with football quite a few years ago as a result of all the corporate / money influences on the game, although I still follow the team from afar.
“You can see what I mean by the fact that the increase in the price of the programme (then 15p – now £3.50) is also reflected in the price of attending games, plus the atmosphere is not what it used to be.”
Gareth kindly supplied an up-to-date photo of himself on top of Glyder Fawr, a mountain in Snowdonia, and the highest peak in the Glyderau range at just over 1,000 metres. He added: “You mention in the article that we ‘must be pushing 70’ which is a bit of an over estimate, I’m ONLY 65 and Neil a few years younger still.”
Francis Sheret, who once helped run CPD Llanllyfni with son Kevin, wrote: “The lad on the left is Neil Thomas, I’ve been going to OT with him since 1974. Obviously not been since February though (due to matches being held behind closed doors because of Covid).
“We are both season ticket holders, we still hook up with the same lads as we have been doing so for a very long time. People come and go but there is a hardcore of us that have stuck together. He’s just turned 60 btw.”
Reader Derek Roberts said: “Neil Bach from Penygroes is the one with long hair carrying the banner Arfon and Dwyfor at Old Trafford. The bus is still going to Old Trafford from Nefyn.”
Former Caernarfon Town chairman Marc Roberts also identified Neil. “Neil Thomas, better known as Neil Bach on the Stretford End and in Dyffryn Nantlle.
“One of the wittiest and most entertaining people to have as company, any day of the week.”
Eifion Evans commented: “1978 Arfon Dwyfor MUFC supporters club photo – the 2 pictured are Neil “Bach” Thomas (Penygroes) and Gareth Jones (Llanberis).
“The branch secretary back then was Coun D Bryan Evans, Llangian (a small village and former civil parish on the Llŷn Peninsula).”
Broadcaster and commentator Gary Pritchard, who works for S4C’s Sgorio programme, said: “Neil’s son works for Sgorio – the connections continue!”
Iolo Evans, also part of the Sgorio crew and a former Llanberis FC manager, wrote: “Gareth Jones from Llanberis still lives there; big MU fan, used to play for Llanberis FC.”
And last but certainly not least, another ex-Llanberis boss Geraint Jones, now part of the management team at Bethesda Athletic, reported within seconds of the article being published: “Neil Thomas from Penygroes left, Gareth Jones, Llanberis right. Gareth’s son Iwan works with me.”
Where better to end than with the man who put the fabulous photo out there – Mark Jones.
“Amazing stuff! I just knew that someone on here would know who they were!,” said nostalgia guru Mark, commenting on Grassroots North Wales webmaster Dave Jones’ Facebook account.
Mark was understandably overjoyed at the vast response. Thanks Mark, please give us another nostalgia challenge soon!