WITH local football taking a back seat for now many of us are having to sit in front of our TV screens to watch the beautiful game.

Whether it be the Premier League or the Championship or any other football, we all have our teams that we like to follow.

One of those doing just that is Anthony Rees, of Ammanford, who is a keen follower of Arsenal.

He also once played alongside the likes of Tony Adams and Martin Keown in Arsenal’s youth team in the early 1980’s.

Anthony, now a follower of Ammanford AFC, was never a lover of Arsenal in his younger years but says that after meeting then manager Terry Neill, he decided that Arsenal was the club for him.

Here, he recalls some of his memories of playing at Highbury and his hopes for the future of the game in Ammanford.

Anthony began playing for his local side before moving to the Swansea Schoolboys. It was here that he was selected for the Welsh Schoolboys, becoming the first boy from the Amman Valley to be selected for the Welsh team.

At that time, he could have joined Swansea City but says he did not commit himself as a number of other clubs were interested in his signature.

Among his admirers were the likes of Sir Bobby Robson (Ipswich), Brian Clough (Nottingham Forest) and Terry Venables (QPR).

Arsenal officials invited him and his parents to a game and Anthony recalls that the game he saw was against Leeds around Easter time.

He described the Arsenal stadium Highbury as ‘iconic’ and said that the facilities were ‘second to none’.

Following the game, he signed a three-year contract with the club in 1981.

Still being in school, Anthony would travel up on the weekends to play for the youth team.

His first youth game came against Fulham, who featured future England international Paul Parker in their side.

Anthony added: “Little did I know how high the standard was. It went from one day watching Match of the Day to the next day sitting in the dressing room with some iconic names. It was every kids’ dream.

“It was a great experience to be a part of. I lived with Martin Keown and we were good friends, it was a very close-knit group.”

He also played alongside the likes of Tony Adams, David Rocastle, Michael Thomas and Martin Hayes, many of whom went on to have great success.

Anthony was part of the youth side that reached the FA Youth Cup semi-finals in 1984 where, unfortunately, they lost to Stoke over two legs.

He said: “Looking back, I am very proud to be a part of that era, playing alongside those players, it was a great education for us all. One of my favourite players was Dave Rocastle, he was a great young player to play with.”

Anthony played over 100 games for the youth team and said he has some great memories of training with some very talented players.

He also recalls some of his opponents which included Teddy Sheringham, Glen Hoddle, Ossie Ardilles, Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten.

Anthony now follows his hometown team Ammanford, who play in the JD Cymru South league.

He added: “I was glad I continued playing football. I have played with many talented local players. It’s nice to give something back to them from my experiences and it gave me great enjoyment also. Ammanford is a great sporting town.

“It is a reflection on the town that we have these great facilities now.

“I would love to see more young players from the area go on and play professionally. If I can do it, why can’t they. If they aspire to be as good as what they can be, there is no reason why they can’t do it.”

Ammanford’s season may be on hold but Anthony hopes it will not be long before we can get back to watching football on the sidelines, rather than from the comfort of our homes.