Steve Davies is one of the more familiar faces around Haverfordwest.

In fact, even if you scarcely socialise in the County Town, the chances are he’s served you. 

And when it comes to local football and rugby players, there isn’t much he hasn’t seen from his side of the bar. But then again, he probably understands.

Because as I learnt when I met him in the Three Crowns last week, the latest in a long line of pubs he’s managed in the area, Steve is no stranger to sport himself. And his passion for it derives from far more than pulling pints for teams who pass through on a Saturday night.

He enjoyed a decent career in Pembrokeshire sport. In fact, he can lay claims to a unique double, a league winners medal in the top flight of both football and rugby. Although neither come close to his most treasured memory – scoring the winner for Narberth against Merlins Bridge in a Senior Cup final.

And he misses the whole thing now.

“I would love to still be able to play,” he admits.

“I speak a lot with the Hakin Over 40s side who come in here after games. Often they joke about me coming over to play but there’s no hope. I can hardly move after a shift here now let alone a game of football.

“But I really like that there is a ‘veteran’ option and if I could play I would. Even if only for the social side of things.”

Indeed, Steve was of an era where on field and off field stuff went hand in hand. 

In the early 80s he came through the ranks at Whitland RFC. Playing as a scrum half he helped the Under 18s side win the Griffiths Cup, as well as the Pembrokeshire Youth and Welsh Cup.

But it was the 1985/86 rugby season that is etched in his mind. He was part of the senior side that won the old Pembrokeshire League title, before the days of national divisions.

He practically reeled off the squad to me there and then - but gave special mention to some.

“The players that really stood out for me were the likes of Colin and Carwyn Morshead, Paul and Dai Kirk, and Frank and Dom Setaro.

“And then you had ‘Dilly’ Morgan the captain, ‘Santa’ (Alan Reynolds) and Andy White. It was a strong bloody team.”

He played with them for two years before in his words, the draw of football became too much. Whitland didn’t have a side at the time but neighbouring Narberth did.

“Football was my first love and I was always going to switch at some point.

“But I enjoyed my time in rugby. We would have a supporters bus every week and often weren’t home on a Saturday until 9 or 10pm.

"You got to know opponents as friends and if a player wanted to try a better standard they had to go up the line – like Dom with Llanelli.

“Ever since they brought in the new Heineken League system it’s changed. Now you have players coming in and out of Pembrokeshire rugby all the time.”

Although he switched sports, the number on his back remained.

“I was always No 9,” he said.

“I insisted on that. Even if I wasn’t picked as a striker.”

The 1986/87 campaign represented his first in senior football at Jesse Road. He had tasted success before that, winning the 1981 Wiltshire Cup with St Clears, while a season later he represented West Wales in the Welsh Counties Cup alongside other local players in Sean Young, Michael Thomas, and Alan Pughsley.

And in the 1991/92 season came a first senior honour when under Ralph Phillips, the Bluebirds captured the Division One title. And Steve and strike partner Neil Bartholemew were key figures, amongst others.

“Neil got more goals than me, I’d come short and leave space for him to go in behind and score,” said Steve, half-jokingly.

“I always said he scored more but I was the better footballer.

“But we had a great midfield trio in Paul Phillips, Wayne Howells, and Nigel Williams. And Phil Scourfield was the best defender I ever played with.”

The season however, finished on a bizarre, if not slightly amusing note for Steve.

“We won the league by beating Monkton with a couple of games to go. So last game of the season we were playing Johnston and the team was on 99 goals. Ralph said if we got to 100 he’d buy everyone beer for the night.

“But I went out in Whitland on a Friday and somehow got persuaded to make a return for their seconds rugby team in a cup semi final against Tenby the next day. Narberth had already won the league so I drunkenly agreed.

“As it happened we got hammered by Tenby, Johnston beat Narberth 1-0, and Ralph was so cross he didn’t buy a pint all night! When I went back for training in the summer I think it took him a week to speak to me.”

The rift was short lived though, but in the two seasons that followed the one medal Steve really wanted continued to evade him.

“One of the main reasons I came over from rugby was to win the Senior Cup,” he admitted.

And in the 1994/95 final, his chance finally came when Narberth played Merlins Bridge at Marble Hall.

“Bridge had Micky Ellis is midfield who was the best footballer I player against. And they had Adie Haworth who was taken off injured after three minutes and things may have been different if that hadn’t happened – they weren’t the same team without Adie.”

Then with the score 0-0 after 74 minutes, Steve’s moment arrived.

“It wasn’t much of a goal. There was a tangle in the box and the ball fell loose to me and I scored. All I remember then was just wanting the final whistle to go and the last 15 minutes flew by.

“I don’t mind admitting it was nearly too much for me at the final whistle. I was emotional and all my friends were in the crowd.

“Without doubt it was the best sporting day of my life. Winning the league was good but it was almost an anti-climax with a few games to go. But this was over 90 minutes and it was the one I always wanted.

“I’m a huge Man United fan so the only feeling that compares to it was seeing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer score the winner in the Champions League final in 1999. Choosing between that goal and mine would be tough.”

I think I know which way he’d go. And which one Ralph would choose as well.

“Ralph was a lovely guy and so loyal to Narberth. He wouldn’t miss a second and all he would talk about was football. None of us could ever fault him.”

Steve lasted another year at Jesse Road and then came the chance to wind down, so to speak, closer to home.

“In 1996 Whitland started a football team. I was 31 then and all my mates were playing for them.

“I think they would have lynched me if I hadn’t joined! Although if I hadn’t won the Senior Cup by then I would have stayed at Narberth. Part of me does regret going straight away as I think I had four or five more good years left in me in Division One.”

It was there he finished his playing days. He did enjoy success in other sports when younger too and was once selected as a batsman in the Pembrokeshire Youth cricket side but to his regret, the game was called off.  He was Whitland Tennis tournament champion for three years in a row and unsurprisingly for a man with ample experience in running pubs, can still turn his hand to pool and darts.

But it is rugby and football where his passion remains. 

“I don’t get to see many games because of work but I always buy the paper on a Wednesday and read all the reports and scores.”

Now, that is old school.

“What I like this season is we are in February and five teams can still win Division One. There was almost a lull for a while when Hakin dominated and you knew in August who the champions would be.”

The lull now of course, is maybe more relevant to post match festivities. 

“You don’t get teams and players coming on a Saturday night now at the volume they once did.

“I first noticed when I ran the Bull in Prendergast in 2006. The home team (Prendergast Villa) would come back fine but away players would have a quick can of coke then drive off.

“Like with the rugby there was a time in football where if you played away you knew you wouldn’t be back until late.

“But it’s different for young people now. They have more responsibilities with their money.”

Maybe so. But it was good to speak with a local sporting figure who doesn’t take the belligerent ‘better in my day’ approach. He speaks with pride at his own involvement in both Pembrokeshire football and rugby and takes genuine interest in those involved now.

He also still buys the Western Telegraph on a Wednesday. So all in all, a top man.