If you want to know which football team someone supports in the tiny border village of Llanymynech, you only need to ask which of the two pubs they plan to drink in on Tuesday night.
On one side of the main road sits The Cross Keys, where everything from the front windows onwards is in England; on the other side is The Dolphin, which lies firmly in Wales. Come Tuesday, one pub will be awash with red shirts, the other filled with white.
“The glass is officially the borderline – if you’re on the path you’re in Wales, if you’re in here you’re in Shropshire,” says Jason Farr, 41, owner of The Cross Keys, where England fans will congregate on Tuesday night to watch Gareth Southgate’s team take on the Welsh.
Sporting allegiances always run deep in this country, but perhaps nowhere more so than on the Welsh-English border this week, where pubs and club houses are gearing up to host die-hard fans, all desperate for a final score that could propel their team past the group stages of the World Cup.
Stand in the middle of the road in Llanymynech at about 6.50 on Tuesday night and you’ll hear strains of God Save the King floating out from The Cross Keys, while punters in The Dolphin, just 50 yards away, sing out Yma o Hyd.
Fans tend to stick to their side of the street, but sometimes the excitement of a goal is too much to resist. At The Dolphin, when Wales scores, people “run out, shout and come back,” says Sarah Gregory, 51, whose sister and brother-in-law run the pub. “And then if [England] score they come and give some abuse and run back.”
“Friendly abuse,” she adds. “We have a good banter.”
Originally from Shropshire, she has been known to wear her England shirt in the pub on match days to wind up the Welsh fans. “I shout for England. I’ve been thrown out many a time.”
The rivalry between the opposing sides is pretty tame, says owner John Turner, 58. The village is too small and close for any real animosity. “Everyone knows everyone. Some people might never come in this pub, or vice versa, but generally most people go in both.”
If an England fan were to brave The Dolphin, or a Welsh fan The Cross Keys on match day they might encounter “a bit of friendly banter”, says Farr. “But they work together, they drink together, they live next door to each other.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean either side would root for the other should their team get knocked out. “I’d probably support someone else if I’m honest,” says Jason Jones, 42, a dedicated Wales supporter who runs the golf club up in the hills above the village.
“But my little boy is three and he was born in England so I will sit and watch games with him.”
Such is the minefield of living on the border here, many families are split down the middle when England and Wales go head to head in a Six Nations match or (rather less frequently) on the football pitch.
“I'm English but my missus and all her side of the family are Welsh,” says golf pro Tom Farquharson, 25. “It makes it interesting at home. The rugby’s more interesting. The football’s alright, it’s all civil… ish.”
On the freezing golf course, friends Ann Cooper, 81, and Chris Wilkinson, 76, are squabbling over Tuesday’s game. Mrs Wilkinson considers Mrs Cooper a “traitor” for supporting Wales as she was technically born in England.
“I feel quite Welsh actually,” Mrs Cooper protests.
“What I’ve never been able to understand is the absolute antipathy that the Welsh feel for the English in any match,” says Mrs Wilkinson. “So whenever it’s the Welsh playing I want them stuffed.”
Straddling the border made life complicated during the pandemic. At one point, The Dolphin, which just comes under Welsh restrictions, had to stay shut while The Cross Keys was permitted to open. “It was horrendous,” says Turner. “We had to shut for new year, they were open.”
“That was one of the hardest things we’ve gone through,” agrees Farr. “[The Welsh] guidelines were so different to Boris’s.
"The split of the village is down the middle of the main road and officially people weren’t allowed over to use the village shop.”
Both pubs will be at full capacity on Tuesday; some brave fans even plan to cross the divide.
Joe Evans is a “passionate” Wales fan but will be watching the game at The Cross Keys, where the village football team, which he runs, will be gathering.
On game days there tends to be “a lot of banter flying about”, he says. “But we all come together after the game – rugby or football – and just have a drink.”
Evans, 33, is enjoying the novelty of watching Wales play in a World Cup. “Growing up I was so used to England being in all the big tournaments, and most of my mates are English, so that was always something I didn't really look forward to, especially during the World Cup.
"But the last few years have been pretty much the glory years for Welsh football.”
He has put up with a fair bit of stick from his teammates since the draw was announced. “It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve been there – 64 years. We’re just enjoying it while we can.
"I’m not expecting much out of the group, I’m just enjoying being there.”
At least if Wales score on Tuesday night he’ll be in the perfect place to lord it over any England fans.
Or he may simply find he is sent out the door and across the street to join the Welsh on the other side of the border in The Dolphin.