3rd August saw the restart of the Football League. The shouts of “FOOTBALL IS BACK!” resonated around the country – although I’ve already watched 11 games since the start of July so the shouts didn’t really strike home as much with me and I’d even seen my team’s competitive season begin two days before with Swansea’s Europa League game against Malmo at the Liberty Stadium.
To mark the beginning of the Football League season, plans were in place to head to a Football League ground to welcome the return of competitive football, but with an expensive 5 days in Copenhagen/Malmo approaching, I opted to stay closer to home (I came back to South Wales for the week for the Swansea v Malmo game). This also meant I could live up to my pledge of visiting more Welsh football grounds.
I began scouring the internet for Welsh fixtures – what an arduous task! Many Welsh clubs’ websites remain unused and out of date and it was difficult to find out who was playing who and where. I soon took to Twitter and went through the numerous Welsh clubs’ Twitter accounts until eventually I had a couple of preseason games to choose from. Most games seemed to be down in the Cardiff area but for whatever reason I fancied remaining in the Valleys. It was eventually decided: I would spend my Saturday afternoon at Llantwit Fardre AFC for their preseason friendly against Ton Pentre FC.
I had to contemplate whether to call this blog “Lost in…Llantwit Fardre” or “Lost in…Tonteg” as technically Llantwit Fardre’s home ground sits in the small village of Tonteg, located just 3 miles away from Pontypridd in Rhondda Cynon Taff; this fact is unsurprising really when you learn that the club’s ground is called Tonteg Park.
My Dad kindly offered to drop me off in Tonteg whilst wheeling off his knowledge of the area. In regards to Welsh league clubs, my Dad is a useful ally to have as he seems to have played in every ground in South Wales – and drunk in all the pubs near each ground as well. WIth his know-how he dropped me off at Fagin’s bar, after pointing out other Tonteg ‘hotspots’ en route.
Fagin’s appeared to be a pub targeting the local student populous (many students of the University of Glamorgan live in the surrounding area) with it’s large open bar areas complete with dancefloors, yet on my entry shortly after 13:00 the only inhabitants were two old men enjoying some bitter, There was a copy of the Western Mail to keep me occupied for a bit, but with cricket on the screen I decided I wasn’t hanging about after my pint.
During the car journey up the valley to Tonteg, my Dad had highlighted the Hollybush as a good pub near the ground so that became the second pub call on my walk to the ground. Just as my Dad had stated, the Hollybush is a great pub. Despite its exterior looking a bit wear worn, the interior is rather nice with the pub divided into separate bar and lounge sections. The bar area sounded fairly rowdy with locals exchanging banter around the pool table, but I was more than happy to settle in the lounge as they had the new BT Sport channel on showing Steven Gerrard’s testimonial game at Anfield against Olympiakos. I was delighted to sit down with my pint and to learn that little Joey Allen – ‘the Welsh Xavi’ and former Swansea favourite – had scored for Liverpool.
After a pint and a half in the Hollybush and with the time fast approaching the 14:30 kick off, I left the Hollybush and made the two-minute walk to Tonteg Park. The home of Llantwit Fardre is situated in the midst of a housing estate next to the main road through Tonteg with the ground next to a playground and some tennis courts.
The current Llantwit Fardre club were founded in 1958, although the official website mentions that there have been several incarnations of the club over the 20th century, which led to the formation of the current club. Undoubtedly, Llantwit’s best ever season came in 1974/75 when the club won 4 trophies including the old Pontypridd & District League alongside 3 other domestic cups. The club now finds itself playing in the South Wales Amateur League, after playing in the Welsh League Division Three for 7 seasons during the 2000s.
There’s really not too much to describe when talking about the ground. Originally, I thought the structure which saddled the side of the pitch near the halfway line was a stand, but on entering the ground I realised it was actually a small building with a food/drink hut as well as an area inside for spectators to sit and enjoy their food (and to protect themselves against the elements if it was to piss down I assumed). In regards to seating there were only two options 1) get a white plastic chair from near the tea hut, the sort of chairs you see scattering back garden patios up and down the country or 2) sit on one of the two park benches on top of the small banking behind the goal – certainly a unique quirk of the ground.
Another interesting feature of the ground was the fact that the two dugouts are positioned on opposite sides of the halfway line. The majority of the ground is surrounded by the back gardens of the surrounding houses, and despite there being a high fence behind the far goal I was in no doubt that there’d certainly some wayward balls flying towards the homes of the local residents. (there were several that flew over in the second half).
I decided to walk around to the tea hut and take my perch there for today’s game (the glitz of the park bench seats had already been claimed by some local youths). On getting around to tea hut I found myself behind the away team dugout with the Ton Pentre team having last minute briefs moments before kick-off – there was a lot of talk about getting into ‘winning habits’ now. Ton Pentre were very much the favourites for today’s clash as they find themselves in the Welsh League Division One, whilst Llantwit Fardre play in the South Wales Amateur League, as mentioned earlier.
As the game kicked off, Ton Pentre in the blue and Llantwit Fardre in white with black sleeves, the away team took the game to Llantwit and the gap between their rankings in the leagues was soon evident. Ton Pentre were playing nice passing football and the Bulldogs’ number 5 – “Nicky” – was having a stormer; everything went through him in the centre of the park and he was ultra-composed on the ball. It would be his pass down the left-wing that would trigger the first goal with the Ton Pentre winger receiving the ball and hitting a great pass across the 6 yard box only for the Llantwit centre back to turn it into his own goal.
With the away team 1-0 up I headed to the tea hut for a coffee. The menu was preaching everything for 50p, apart from the OXO which was priced at a bargain 30p. However, on getting to the counter I could hear the lively man serving the punters declare “Just don’t ask for OXO because we ain’t got any alright.” I was delighted though to get my coffee in a proper mug! Can’t beat that at a football ground. The man working in tea hut was quite the character, as he turned into a mix of Gary Neville and Jeff Stelling for the day by offering tactical analysis on the game in front of us (“They need to get tighter on that number 11 – he’s finding space too easy!”) and keeping us posted on all the latest scores from around the country which he was getting from his little radio; although admittedly he wasn’t quite as accurate as Stelling “4-0 to Preston against Wolves!…Only joking. It’s 0-0.”
Soon it was 2-0 to Ton Pentre. A ball flew up in the air from a Ton Pentre corner only for the player in blue on the edge of the box to hit a first time volley which flew through the crowded penalty area and right into the bottom corner past the unsighted Llantwit goalie.
I began to circle the ground to take some photos with Ton Pentre very much on top of the game. The away team’s right back made a series of clever passes and neat little tricks, which constantly thwarted one of the Llantwit forwards; after a while the Llantwit forward just began laughing at how badly he was getting done by the right back and shouted out in frustration “Oh will you fuck off!”
HT: Llantwit Fardre 0 – 2 Ton Pentre. Very one-sided so far.
By half-time I realised I was busting for a piss and starving. Tonteg Park could not really help me solve either of those problems with there appearing to be no toilets near the ground and the fact that the tea hut only seemed to be selling Mars Bars. So whilst the players took a break, I strolled back down to The Hollybush just to use their toilet facilities (a bit rude of me, but I was going there after the game for another drink at least) before heading to the Tesco Express conveniently placed opposite the ground for some much need snacks (I satisfied my hunger with a big bag of Thai Sweet Chilli crisps).
After my wander through the local area during half time, I arrived back into the ground just in time for the kicking off of the second half and I was delighted to see that the youths had abandoned the park bench leaving me free to claim the best seat(s) in the ground. In fact, from the bench behind the goal the ground looked great with the surrounding mountains of the valley as a picturesque backdrop.
Whatever was said at half-time to Llantwit Fardre certainly worked as they came out the second half much more organised. Ton Pentre were still playing the nicer football, but the home team were beginning to get more of a foothold in the game. Then Llantwit’s moment came: a 25 yard drive seemed to be curling out wide; however just as the away goalie decided to leave it go wide the ball curled into the bottom corner to make it 2-1. A great goal, but the keeper should have probably had it – something he seemed to realise judging from his angry reaction following the goal.
There would be one more chance for Llantwit to equalise after a powerful close range was blocked by the keeper only for the ball to trickle under him towards the goal line; fortunately for him, he jumped on the ball just before the on-rushing Llantwit striker was ready to strike home.
FT: Llantwit Fardre 1 – 2 Ton Pentre. Not an abundance of chances, but not a bad game at all really.
After the final whistle it was time for the brief walk back to the Hollybush for one last pint, watch some of the Emirates Cup on TV and to rendezvous with my parents who had traveled down to meet before heading off to our local, The Glan Taff Inn (as I’ve said before, the pub where the idea for Lost Boyos was conjured) for a postmatch beef curry.
It’s not quite Copenhagen, but a pleasant day nonetheless. Bring on Denmark and Sweden next week!
Highlights: no entry fee, good pubs nearby, decent game, a ground with park benches, cheap coffee and in a mug!
Low Points: lack of facilities.