To the workers breaking the picket line at Critchley Labels in Oakdale, Miles Woodward is a familiar sight.
For the last 19 months he and 16 fellow workers have manned the entrance to the firm as the agency staff are bussed in every morning.
About 5ft Sin with close-cut blond hair and green eyes, dressed in a black shirt and jeans, he
looks like any other smart young man minding his own business on a Saturday afternoon. Quiet, perhaps even shy, Miles, 29, is just an ordinary young man getting on with his life. Ordinary except in one crucial respect.
is the man who left Wales's most successful ever pop group, the group tipped to storm the pop charts at number one tomorrow with their new single If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.
He turned his back on a future in which he would have almost certainly been a millionaire, and posters of his face would have covered the bedroom walls of thousands of young music fans. Miles is the man who left the Manic Street Preachers.
Now, while the other band members are regulars at showbiz parties, rubbing shoulders with their musical idols, he and fellow workers at the factory continue to man a soul-destroying picket line outside the plant.
James, who took his place is missing, while royalties of more than £2m pile up in his bank account.
The 27-year old who was said to be suffering from deep depression hasn't been seen since 1995.
His car was found
abandoned at a service station near the First Severn Crossing. Despite several reported sightings, the mystery of his disappearance has never been solved.
Miles, speaking from the smart detached home he shares with his parents in a smart Blackwood suburb, says he too could have ended up like Richey. 'I think I made the wrong decision to leave the band, but I would probably be dead if I was still with them. I would have probably got into other things, not just drink.
"It was great being in the band. We had a lot of people hanging around all the time. You notice that when you aren't in it anymore."
He says he made the break because the band was moving away from its early influences towards mainstream. 'There was no big bust up, nothing like that The Manics were more pop orientated and I was into the more hard edged stuff I left, but we were still friends then."
Miles was the bass player when the day the four friends were students at their local college Cross Keys; by night they were furiously practising their guitar rifts with dreams of hitting the big time. "Nick used to write lyrics, then he would give them to James who could play the guitar.
would write Billy Bragg type stuff. One day Nick gave me a tape and asked me if I wanted to start a band. He knew someone who was selling a bass guitar, so I went and bought it.
"I couldn't play a note. James used to stay with me for hours and teach me the bass lines of the songs. It must have been a real hassle for him having to learn his own guitar part and then teaching someone else."
That was more than 10 years ago. All Miles has now is a collection of photographs, early singles and the precious demo tapes from those early riotous gigs.
Manics have taken the notoriously fickle music industry by storm. After a string of mediocre-selling albums, the band exploded into the musical big time with Everything Must Go. It was a multi-award winner and was heralded as one of the great albums of the decade.
Their new album has been eagerly awaited by the music press and the first single is a top three certainty in tomorrow's pop chart. Their only competition for the Number One spot comes from Madonna.
Miles hasn't seen his friends James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire or Sean Moore for more than three years and he can't understand why the band don't seem to want anything to do with him any
more. The nearest he gets to them is watching them on the television or reading interviews with them in the music press.
It's not that he covets their success He wishes them well. What he misses is the camaraderie they
"They could at least come and see me. They were my friends .I don't know why it bothers me but it does. Maybe success had changed them, maybe they don't know where I live now or maybe they feel uncomfortable about how much our lives have changed."
As he lounges in the chair of his parents' immaculate living room, it's hard to believe that this incredibly polite and quiet-spoken 29-year-old was ever the bleach-blond-haired bass player who once had the band thrown out of a local rugby club gig after going up to the mike and telling everyone to f*** off. "I don't know why I did it," he says with a look of genuine surprise on his face.
"The manager threw me out and told the rest of the band to apologise. but they didn't. All the rugby boys and their parents were there. I went out walking the streets to cool down and then went home James came to my house hours late and we just sat and laughed about it."
He is nervous as he recalls the early days, practising at James's, his parents' or at Nicky Wire's shed be fore their first gig as a support group at Crumlin's Royal Hotel in 1986.
He is down to earth several times he says he was never any good as a bass player.
"I had to get drunk before I went on stage. I think I had at least seven pints before that gig. But it was strange, as soon as you got on stage you were stone cold sober. As soon as we came off we were wrecked again."
"We didn't even have a name until James came up with the Manics. It's something out a French film isn't it?"
The band weren't paid a penny for their early nervous efforts. In fact, Miles says, he's sure the band had to pay the pub. "There were so many glasses and chairs smashed at that gig the landlord came after us. I'm sure we had to pay them something."
not much bigger than the living room here, it could have been the basement. There were only about 20 people there, if that .They were there, pogoing in this tiny space."
"We were banned after that. The band we were supporting were too."
Growing in confidence, the band played dates to an excited home crowd made up of friends from school and college at Blackwood's Little Theatre, but trouble followed.
Miles and the band had to escape by running through a side door from the chair-throwing mob that destroyed a grand piano. "I just ran, and the rest of the band followed."
The police were called and arrests were made, but Miles and the other Manics were long gone.
There were gigs at Ebbw Vale's The Level, now the Market Tavern. "It was hard getting up there with all your friends watching. Everyone told us we were crap at some point, but they didn't have to get up on stage."
Miles says drummer Sean Moore had just two drums to his name. Back then he could only play two,
and any way he couldn't afford any more. But they were committed to their music.
"We were all really into The Clash and spent every spare minute at each other's houses talking about music and listening to The Clash. James never went out. He just stayed in listening to music. Nick was the same. I was the one that went out the most."
"They were always a proper band. They didn't just want to play workingmen's clubs and have a laugh."
Miles hasn't bought a Manics' album since The Holy Bible in 1994, and didn't realise that the new single had been released last Monday.
"I don't know why they don't send me the albums for free. I've never had any backstage passes. They've never been offered to me and I wouldn't ask. It's pride you know. But I know that other people we were at school with get passes."
"We were in this band and it was us against the world and we felt invincible back then. It's funny though, as you get older that invincibility disappears, doesn't it?"