Taffs Well v Aberbargoed Buds
Rhiw Dda’r / Welsh League Division One / 11th April 2014
So I was back home in sunny South Wales for the week and this gave me the chance to carry on my pursuit of visiting more Welsh League football clubs. My weekend was to become a South Wales footballing bonanza of sorts with three games in three days, starting with a trip to Taffs Well.
For those not brushed up on their geographical knowledge of South Wales, Taffs Well is a small village just 6 miles north of Cardiff and a place popular amongst commuters. The place gets his name from the thermal spring located next to the River Taff, a spring that is Wales’ only natural thermal spa. Perhaps Taffs Well’s biggest influence on the wider world is that it is the inspiration for the novel and film The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill And Came Down A Mountain with the plot being set in the fictionally named Ffynnon Garw (‘Rough Fountain) – a clear alteration of Taffs Well’s Welsh name, Ffynnon Taf.
I arrived into Taffs Well train station around 17:30 and instead of walking through the adjacent industrial estate, where my Dad works, towards the ground, I opted to take the slightly longer route through the village itself. I had planned to visit the Anchor pub, the only pub I had ever really visited in Taffs Well before, but on finding that establishment was completely enveloped in scaffolding I plodded on through the village and past the semi-mocking Napoli shirt (for a Swansea fan anyway, as the Italian team had knocked the Swans out of the Europa League a couple of months previous) on display in the Macron store – the first Macron Store I’ve possibly ever seen.
To tick off the culture box on today’s outing, I decided to veer off the main road and go see the well eponymous with the village I was walking through. The well is actually enclosed within a stone building meaning that I did not get to see it or sample the supposed medicinal properties that exude within its water. So with no healing water today, I decided to go for the next best thing: beer.
My first pub stop came with a pint in the inventively-named Taffs Well Inn. The place was brimming with people on this surprisingly sunny afternoon with many clearly enjoying an evening drink to see in the weekend. I had my one pint and headed back out into the Taffs Well sunshine and onwards up the road.
With my Dad working in Taffs Well, he was able to recommend Fagins, a pub located about 5-10 minutes walk from Taffs Well’s home ground. And fairplay to my Dad, it was a brilliant recommendation. Just like the Taffs Well Inn, Fagins was also very busy with people unwinding after a week in work (or maybe preparing themselves for 2 weeks with their kids, as the Easter Holidays were just about to begin in Wales). Fagins has a pleasant, rustic feel to it with wooden beams hanging overhead and barrels used for tables. Apparently much of the food served is sourced locally and a lot of the beer and cider is too. It is in this department that Fagins has made its name with the pub being a haven for real ales. When visiting pubs with such reputations, I almost feel duty bound to have real beer and it was in this spirit that I found myself with a pint of Celt Golden. I’m no expert on real ales, but for the second time this week (my other real ale experience had come earlier in the week at Mossley), I’d picked another beauty – perhaps I’m starting to get into this real ale thing after all.
Having spotted me taking photos and after enquiring what was written on my t-shirt (it was my #lostboyos one), I was invited to join a trio at their table and pitched with the question of “So, tell me all about Lost Boyos?” By the time I had delivered my spiel about this website, Huw arrived. Huw is like myself a Swansea fan and as I knew that he went to watch Taffs Well play on the side of his Swansea fandom, I had texted him earlier in the week to signal my intentions of visiting the club and he’d decided to join me for a prematch drink.
Following a couple of drinks in Fagins, we decided to head over to the club and it was then it dawned on me that I didn’t have the foggiest idea where Taffs Well’s ground is located; a fact I thought strange considering how many times I had been through and gone past Taffs Well. As Huw led us over the bridge that goes over the A470, I was surprised to spot the ground right next to the busy road and I mused how strange it was that I had been down the A470 countless times and never spotted the ground. It was also clear to see why Huw made regular visits to Taffs Well FC as his house stands practically over the road from the ground.
Taffs Well FC was born at a meeting in St. Mary’s Church Hall in Glan y Llyn in 1946. The club originally played at the Ynys cricket ground on the banks of the Taff. The ground was not the most practical and as the club entered the second year of its existence they looked to find a new home. The club would turn to local farmer Dai Parry, who provided the club with a field, which would become the Wellmen’s current Rhiw Dda’r home. The club has also recently housed my hometown club Merthyr Town FC in 2010-11, as the club were forced out of Penydarren Park for one season following the liquidation of the old Merthyr Tydfil FC version of the club.
On entering the ground through the small turnstile shelter next to the impressive yellow gates emblazoned with the words “Taffs Well FC”, I was quite impressed with Rhiw Dda’r, as although the place is fairly basic, there was more character to the place than I first expected. In regards of stands, there are only two: the main stand sits on the halfway line and is quite a neat, little seated and sheltered stand that even has a ramp leading up into it – a cool feature I’ve not really seen before and obviously very accommodating for any fans in wheelchairs; the other structure is located on the opposite side of the ground and is more of a crumbling, yellow and black shelter than a football ground stand – it certainly adds to the character of the place though. Behind the goals nearest the entrance is a small building that houses the changing rooms and the usual facilities found at such grounds, including the club bar – the first port of call.
The club bar at Rhiw Dda’r is brilliant! Despite its poky nature, the place is brimming with character with the walls draped in Taffs Well memorabilia, as well as nods to other clubs who have visited over the years. Next door to the bar is also a small food hatch with a small biscuit tin on the table next to it providing punters with free biscuits – something I’ve not seen done anywhere else; well, I hope they were free anyway as I helped myself to couple at half-time – if not, Norma, the club secretary, can expect a cheque in the post from Lost Boyos for a new packet. Perhaps most importantly, the place is very welcoming with the various people I encountered all being very friendly. We had a quick pint, before heading out for this evening’s Welsh League Division One clash between Taffs Well and Aberbargoed Buds.
As the two teams emerged onto the pitch, I thought to myself that if there is one reason to like Taffs Well then it has to be for their kits: Taffs Well are South Wales’ answer to Borussia Dortmund with their lovely yellow and black shirts. And fairplay to them, they even played a bit like them in parts during this evening’s game. Huw had told me beforehand that Taffs Well are forging a reputation as a neat passing team and they certainly lived up to their billing.
As I began my wandering of the ground, Taffs Well exerted themselves on the game and by the time I had made my way around to the main stand the home team had taken the lead with Shaun McCarthy opening the scoring with a neat finish.
As per usual, I had checked myself in at the football ground on Facebook and on seeing my check-in Czech-based Swansea fan Ralph Davies commented that his brother was at the same game as me. He prompted me to track him down and get the trademark double thumbs up photo with him. I eventually tracked Richard down on the opposite side of the ground with fellow Taffs Well-ians (?) and I quickly explained to him that he had to have a photo with a complete stranger doing a silly thumbs up pose. Fortunately, he was willing and my task was complete. With Ralph being a big Swans fan, I just assumed his sibling would also be a Jack and soon I was talking about the Swans with him. As David Brent says, “Don’t assume, as it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me'”, and this was quite fitting here as it turns out Rich is a big Cardiff fan, as were the group of lads he was with. I would learn that Taffs Well is generally a Bluebird-populated area, as every time I used the word ‘Swansea’ within the ground I would be met with a series of suspicious looks. Luckily, nobody lamped me one though.
By now Taffs Well were 2-0 up thanks to a superb turn and volleyed finish from Tyrone Topper. It was thoroughly deserved as Taffs Well had dominated the game.
After chatting to a groundhopper who had come all the way from Norwich and had plans to visit clubs in Bristol the next day, I completed my lap of the ground and headed to the toilet with minutes to go until half-time. When I re-emerged from the toilet and rejoined Huw behind the goal, he informed me that I had missed a red card for the away team – apparently for foul language directed at the referee. Fairplay to the ref for his no-nonsense approach to it.
Half-time: Taffs Well 2 – 0 Aberbargoed Buds.
After a quick drink in the clubhouse, which was now coupled with harmless Cardiff/Swansea banter, we headed back out for the second half and it seemed like the game was already won by the home team.
Despite being down to ten men, Aberbargoed battled bravely, but it was well and truly game over by the 68th minute as the home team made it 3-0.
There was very little else to report on during the second half, but the game was to finish with a bang with both teams receiving a red card. It was hard to work out what for, but on quizzing the Taffs Well player on his way from the pitch he claimed it was once again for abusive language (as well as protesting his own innocence). Fairplay to the ref for taking such a stance, but I had heard players swearing at the linesman earlier in the game and there was no action taken.
Full-time: Taffs Well 3 – 0 Aberbargoed Buds. An impressive display from the home team.
Shortly before the end of the game, I received a phone call from my Dad, who had kindly decided to come pick me up from the ground and he arrived conveniently in time for the final whistle. He’d also brought my Mam along, so I decided to treat them to a drink in the club bar, where I could regale them with the day I had had in Taffs Well. My Dad also had a story of his own to tell us about a particularly eventful day in Taffs Well for him.
My Dad was signed for Merthyr Tydfil by John Charles (yes, THE John Charles) many moons ago. One day, when he wasn’t getting a game for Merthyr, he was invited to play a sneaky game for Penrhiwceiber at Taffs Well – an offer he accepted. Obviously, he didn’t tell Big John about this and snuck off to Taffs Well for the game. Unfortunately, for my Dad, he took a nasty knock to the head and ended up being taken to Chepstow hospital, where he would eventually be greeted by an angry John Charles at his bedside.
Overall, a great start to my footballing weekend in South Wales and I would definitely recommend a visit to this friendly, little club. And don’t forget to pop into Fagins for a pint before as well.
Highlights: Fagins, few pubs near the ground, friendly club, good, little main stand, great club bar, Taffs Well kits, good performance from Taffs Well.
Low Points: quite a basic ground, shame about the game being slightly spoiled by the red cards.