Barry Town United v Llanelli Town
Jenner Park / Welsh League Division Three / 20th August 2013
“Oh! Lost Boyos…what’s occurring?!”
Well what’s occurring today is that we are at everyone’s favourite Welsh seaside resort, Barry, for Barry Town United’s clash against Llanelli Town. You may have already worked that out from the shoddy attempt to be funny at the start of this by tweaking a catchphrase from the Barry-based BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey. However, today was not just about observations about Gavin & Stacey and cringingly repeating catchphrases from the show. No, today the football was important and the club at the centre of it. So, first a bit of history.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year (or even years) you would be aware that Barry Town have been in a whole lot of trouble recently. As a child growing up in the 90s, Barry Town were a name I was well aware of, thanks to their all-conquering approach to the Welsh Premier League, a competition they won on numerous occasions throughout the 90s and early 2000s. Their league exploits saw them play in various Champions League quailfiers and after beating Azerbaijan champions FC Shamkir in 2000-01, they became the first Welsh club to win in Europe’s most glittering competition. This led them onto playing the mighty Porto in the next round who, in one of the most famous nights in Barry’s history, they beat 3-1 at their Jenner Park home; sadly, they had already lost the first leg out in Portugal 8-0.
A couple of months ago that night against Porto seemed a millions years ago. Only a couple of seasons after the ‘Porto night’ the club entered financial trouble and had to shift away from professional to amateur status and soon the club were relegated to the Welsh League Division One and eventually to Division Two (the third tier of Welsh football). After numerous threats from the chairman and club secretary Stuart Lovering, he did eventually withdraw the team from the Welsh League against the will of the team and the fans. When the Barry Town Supporters Committee stated their intention to play the 2013/2014 season, the FAW, for crazy reasons only known to themselves, refused them entry back into the league and stated that they would have to play ‘recreational football’ for the upcoming season. The indignation of the fans (along with the anger of fans from other clubs worldwide) drove them on into battle against the FAW, until a recent court case voted in favour of Barry Town United (as they were newly christened) of playing in the Welsh League Division Three. For once, fan power had won! The united front shown by the club’s fans as an example to all clubs’ fans and I was delighted to join them for their opening home fixture of the season against Llanelli Town. Great to see Barry Town back up and running – after all, this is the football club that provided the football world with Bayo Akinfenwa.
Having not been to Barry Island since my childhood, I decided to head to the small seaside resort area of Barry just to have a nose around and to enjoy the South Wales sunshine at the beach. Also joining me today was a new ally: I had abandoned my now semi-iconic flat cap for my new bucket hat – more specifically my Welsh football bucket hat from the Welsh football merchandise site Spirit of 58 (no I’ve not been asked to plug their stuff, but there are some cool stuff on there). On alighting on ‘the Island’ I was welcomed by the familiar sights of the Pleasure Park, the various amusement arcades and the smell of fish and chips prominent in the air. It is almost compulsory for me to have fish and chips when at the seaside, but to my disappointment I realised I had no money on me and after a half-arsed attempt to find a cash machine on the front, I abandoned the fish and chips idea and just had a wander of the area instead.
Was Barry Island going to take advantage of its new found Gavin & Stacey fame? Well of course it was! Everywhere was covered in Gavin & Stacey merchandise and almost every amusement arcade had a picture of Nessa adorning it (one amusingly with her chatting to Humphrey Bogart about the prices of the slot machines?!?) Having witnessed the various gift shops emblazoned with Gavin & Stacey characters and all sorts of random Gavin & Stacey merchandise (the self-proclaimed “Number One Gavin & Stacey Gift Shop” was even called “Oh! What’s Occuring?”), I decided I better leave Barry Island and head into the town centre – mainly to get some money.
After the short 10 minute walk over the bridge into Barry Town centre, I eventually found my sought after cash machine on the main High Street (not your usual town High Street to say the least). With some time to kill before kick off I decided to wander up the hill at the end of the street in search of a drinking hole. As I laboriously made my way up the ridiculously steep hill I began to get a sense that it was very familiar to me. I was sure it was the hill upon which Stacey and Gwen live on in Gavin & Stacey; a quick bit of Googling confirmed that I was indeed on that very street and I was soon walking past Gwen’s house – but no omelette today.
After further Googling I eventually found myself in The Park pub just down the road and on another small street on a hill with a smattering of various shops. I am only full of praise for the very pleasant Park pub: it is only quite a small pub with just one main room and one smaller connecting area, but there are lots of screens showing Sky Sports news, it looks good inside with its wooden decor and, most importantly, a pint of lager was only £1.99. I’d only really planned to have one pint to keep me going, but as the place was so nice and the drink so cheap, i decided to stay for another.
Over the past few weeks I have been in conversation with the guy behind the @BarryTownSC Twitter account and he had informed me that the nearest pub to the ground was the Tynewydd Inn, so that was my next destination. En route I got distracted by the Cherry Orchard pub, which is a large ‘Harvester-esque pub just ten minutes from the ground, but there is nothing special to report from that pub visit.
After my quick drink in the Cherry Orchard I found myself outside the Tynewydd Inn. To be honest, the place was dead, although it was very nice inside (but once again it was a bit ‘Harvester-y’). However, just like The Park before it, pints were £1,99! How great is Barry?! When I questioned the barmaid about why the town loved a cheap pint she just shrugged her shoulders before explaining that I had arrived at the Tynewydd on “Terrific Tuesday” – I liked it. Next stop: Jenner Park.
Following my pint in the Tynewydd, i began my trek down Barry Road and after dipping down a small hill the large floodlights of Jenner Park were soon in view. Jenner Park has been the home to the town’s football team since the club’s formation a little over a 100 years ago. The 1990s saw the ground upgraded by Barry council with the installation of the aforementioned floodlights, a running track and another stand opposite the original stand to upgrade the ground ready for the club’s travails into UEFA competitions.
On arriving at the ground, I made my first port of call the large two room clubhouse, squeezed into the one side of the ground. The clubhouse is a classic old school affair with pool table, dartboard and typically dim lighting. It was good that the clubhouse had a large window in each room that looks out onto the pitch (and running track) below, so I could watch the players be put through their paces in the warm up (not that I condone sitting in the clubhouse to watch football matches).
With ten minutes to go until the 19:45 kick off, I headed through the Jenner Park turnstiles, paying £4 for my entry and £1 extra for a very well put together programme. Barry’s exploits have been all over newspapers locally and nationally over the past few months and it was perhaps unsurprising to see a few TV cameras at the ground to view the club’s rebirth.
The ground itself consists of two large seated stands on opposite sides of the pitch and running track; it’s not ideal for viewing purposes, but for some reason I still like a ground that has a running track in it – I think it’s still a novelty for me as I’ve not visited many grounds with such facilities, but I do obviously recognise the viewing hindrance it can cause.
I’d agreed to meet the guy behind @BarryTownSC in the ground and he’d told me he’d be found with the hardcore Barry fans underneath the TV gantry. I’d already spotted the gathering of the ‘hardcore’ with their series of flags and banners, but I thought I’d complete a lap of the ground to take some photos before joining them under the gantry.
As I was beginning my circuit (literally with the running track) the teams came out onto the field with Barry playing in their famous yellow and blue colours and Llanelli Town in all red. I’ve not mentioned them yet, but Llanelli Town are going through a similar process as Barry, having gone bust and having to rebuild again from the bottom tier of Welsh football.
The game kicked off and Barry were looking like the much better team. By the time I’d made my way around to the stand housing the ‘hardcore’ fans, Barry had the ball in the net through a converted spot kick. A shove in the back of Barry’s Lewis Grant earned the penalty and it was comfortably dispatched by Michael Hartley. The goal was commemorated by one Barry fan raising to his feet and playing his trumpet to celebrate the goal (I would later realise that this was a tradition for every Barry goal).
I soon realised that I had not yet bumped into the @BarryTownSC guy and it occurred to me that I did not know what he looked like or even his name (hence the repeated use of ‘@BarryTownSC guy’). However, one thing I did know about him was that his other passion alongside Barry Town is Aston Villa. Only yards away from me was a man wearing an Aston Villa hat and standing under the gantry – it had to be him, so I approached and said hello and chatted away about the game. He wasn’t quite as chatty as I expected (I had the impression he was much more ‘talkative’ on Twitter) and he did keep giving me odd looks as if I was talking another language to him at times, but he was a nice guy.
Soon enough it was 2-0 to Barry after a terrific first time shot from Dale Howarth flew into the bottom corner from 20 yards out. The second goal had been coming and it was also my cue to carry on trek around the ground to take some more photos. As I headed round the curving walkway just in front of the clubhouse, the half time whistle blew and there was nothing else for it, but to have another pint.
Brilliantly, I hadn’t finished my pint as the second half kicked, but was able to watch the opening minutes of the half from the clubhouse thanks to the overlooking windows, before heading back out.
For the second half I decided to re-join the gathering of Barry fans near the TV gantry, who were now in full voice. As well as singing choruses of “Barry-celona!” my particular highlight of the Barry songbook was the progressive chant of “We beat Porto!”, which then became “We beat Port Talbot!” and then finally “We beat the FAW!” And even the Barry fans had jumped on the Gavin & Stacey bandwagon with their cries of “What’s occurring?! Oh! What’s occurring?! Oh!”
Soon into the second half, the Barry fan was blowing his trumpet again to signal Barry’s third goal to make it 3-0 to the home team. Once again it was former Cardiff City player Hartley with the goal. I celebrated the goal with Mr. @BarryTownSC and he still seemed to be looking at me strangely – there was definitely something not right with him. Anyway, we enjoyed the second half as Barry comfortably strolled to their 3-0 victory under the huge floodlights of Jenner Park.
Full time: Barry Town United 3 – 0 Llanelli Town. A comfortable win for the home team.
I said goodbye to my new Barry friends and headed towards Cadoxton train station; I’d been assured by the fans I spoke to that it would be much quicker for me to get Cadoxton station rather than Barry station – I just had to prey my train would actually stop there (it did).
An enjoyable evening at Jenner Park with some great fans (there was crowd over 200 there – a superb amount for Welsh League Division Three). I also later found out why I was getting funny looks from my Barry Town pal: it wasn’t the guy from Twitter! It was the @BarryTownSC guy’s Dad (who also supports Aston Villa) who had no idea who I was with or probably what the hell I was talking about – he was just too polite to say anything! Oh did I chuckle when I l realised how much of a dick I must have seemed to that polite, friendly man.
Highlights: The Park pub, cheap pints everywhere, decent clubhouse overlooking the pitches, great floodlights (I do like a good set of floodlights), good fans in good voice, cheap entry, decent game.
Low Points: I can’t recall seeing any sort of tea/pie hut (but I may have missed it).