Llanfairpwll v Barmouth v Dyffryn United
Maes Eilian / Welsh Alliance Division One / 5th May 2014
It was May Bank Holiday weekend and I had begun it on Saturday with a trip into the roundabout-loving hell that is Milton Keynes, a place which had quite frankly destroyed my soul. Originally I had decided to spend my Sunday and Monday relaxing at home, but my trip into the depths of Milton Keynes had made me want to redeem my weekend and scavenge some joy from what I felt was now a slightly tainted weekend.
Quite predictably, Sunday night would see me on a football fixture list website and despite many leagues being finished up for the summer, it seemed that many of the country’s local leagues were still yet to bring the curtain down on their seasons and had fixtures being played on the Bank Holiday Monday. Then I noticed that there were several games being played in the North Walian-based Welsh Alliance league and with my early season vow to visit more of my homeland this year, it was decided that I would venture to the Land of My Fathers the next day. Now just to decide where.
After a trip to soulless MK to start the weekend, I decided to find the ying to Milton Keynes’ hideous yang and find a place with plenty of character and something a little special. As soon as I spotted that one club in particular were at home, my mind was made up immediately. Time to take a deep breath here, as I was going to visit: Clwb Pel Droed Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Football Club. Phew.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is the longest place name in the Europe and the village’s football team is (supposedly) the longest club name in world football. Thankfully, the place name is regularly shortened to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG and the football club to CPD Llanfairpwll FC. The village’s Welsh name translates into English as, ‘St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St.Tysilio with a red cave’. The name has to go down as one of the greatest pieces of shrewd marketing in history. Originally the village was known as Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll but the name of the village was extended in the Victorian era purely to get more tourists to visit the village located just over the Menai Bridge as you arrive into Anglesey. By golly has it worked! To this day, tourists pour into the village every day just to have their photo with the elaborate train station sign that is graced with the village’s tongue-twister of a name.
Having changed trains in Chester (where I was watching football just a week earlier), I was now on a direct train to Holyhead via Llanfairpwll.
Two and half hours after leaving Chester, finally the sight of the famous station sign came into view, minutes after crossing the bridge onto the island of Anglesey. I was getting ready to get off the train, as the train slowed down into Llanfairpwll station, only for it to suddenly speed up again and fly past the stop. On talking to the conductor, he informed me that Llanfairpwll is a ‘request stop’ and that I’d now have to ride the train all the way to Holyhead and then turn back around to get back to Llanfairpwll. The conductor was extremely upset that I missed my stop and I almost felt like I was consoling him, as I assured him that I didn’t mind a brief visit to Holyhead. I was telling the truth – I really didn’t mind seeing a little bit more of Anglesey having only visited once before; that trip was for a brilliant preseason adventure to the reclusive Glantraeth FC with Atherton Collieries at the start of the 2013/14 season.
The train arrived into the small town of Holyhead and I found out that I would have an hour to waste there. North Wales is well known for being a hot-bed of Welsh language speakers, but all I encountered was strong Irish accents with Irish folk preparing to make the journey back across the Irish Sea to their homeland from Holyhead ferry port. I would not even discover native Welsh speakers in the only Holyhead pub that I visited, the confusingly-named Edinburgh Castle, and instead I just found a group of men drinking at the bar who seemed to be in a ‘who can say ‘fucking’ the most times in one sentence’ competition.
After two pints in there, I found myself back on the train heading back to Llanfairpwell and this time I made sure that the driver knew to stop at Llanfairpwll for me.
At 13:45, I finally arrived into the village Llanfair PG. I admired the famous sign and then quickly headed to the pub across the road having realised that my sojourn to Holyhead had meant that I now only had about 40 minutes until kick-off. After a quick pint in the quiet and quite empty innards of the Penrhos Arms, (although I was assured it’d be a bit lively later with the players and staff heading there after the game) I was off towards the ground.
Located only minutes up the road from the station is Y Gors, the former home of Llanfairpwll FC. Y Gors had been called home since the club’s birth in 1899, when the club was known as Llanfair Rovers. The club has been virtually an ever present football presence in the village over its 100+ years history, although there was a brief hiatus from football for about a decade between the 1960s and 70s. When the club reformed they re-entered the Anglesey League and would go on to have plenty of success in the league, especially under manager Owen Parry. In fact, the club have an impressive record with managers having only had 3 over the past 30 years. The current manager, Darren Moore, has been the boss for 15 years now and currently manages the club in the Welsh Alliance Division One (the 3rd tier of the Welsh Football pyramid). 2008/2009 would see the club move a couple of minutes up the hill to a new ground; Maes Eilian, named after a ‘local legend of a saint who performed last minute miracles’ (according to Wikipedia),would offer the club better facilities and better drainage.
After a 2 minute walk up the hill from Y Gors, I arrived at the entrance to Maes Eilian where I was greeted by a hi-vis jacket clad man collecting entry fee in a small plastic box. I rummaged through my pockets for the £3 change needed for entry; when I only found £2, I went to grab a note to pay with only for the kind gentleman to let me in for £2 – a kind gesture, although I did make sure I went back and gave him the £1 when I did eventually get change. I acquired the change from the nearby food van having fed myself there. No pies on sale here in North Wales and instead all that was on offer was hot dogs and Pot Noodles – purely to vary up my football cuisine for the season I plumped for the Pot Noodle. Pot Noodles at football are the future! Simple, filling and effective (although I did feel a bit wrong eating it at football for some reason). I walked away from the van with chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle in hand and went to have a wander of the ground.
As you would expect from a ground that hosts a team in one of the third tiers of Welsh football, there isn’t too much to Maes Eilian. But that’s not too say it isn’t charming in its own little way. The only stand in the ground is located on the side of the pitch as you enter the ground and even this is small with limited seating. The rest of the ground is open with an open area leading to another playing field behind the one goal and a small sheltered area up a small mound behind the other goal, complete with a small boat behind it (I liked to think that it was an abandoned prize by someone who had been a winner on Jim Bowen’s Bulleye).
Soon the game was underway with Llanfairpwll wearing light and blue stripes and Barmouth and Dyffryn FC in black and white stripes. The home team started the game well and were playing some lovely passing football. In fact, the opening 20-30 minutes provided great viewing with both teams playing some neat stuff, although I think it would be fair to say that Llanfairpwll were looking the better team with their big striker up front alongside their number 10, a young David Silva lookalike, looking dangerous together. A goal was coming and that goal would eventually come for the home team as Steve Smith made it 1-0 from after putting in the rebound from the away goalie’s save.
Half-time: Llanfairpwll FC 1-0 Barmouth and Dyffryn United. (Giving Llanfairpwll their full name here would definitely make this the longest fixture name I’ve ever been to).
Half-time saw me make a return to the food van for a coffee and I got to chat with some of the very friendly Llanfairpwll folk, who informed me that there were two other groundhoppers in the ground as well as myself; one had even made the trip up from Milton Keynes where I had found myself just days before.
The second half got underway and Llanfairpwll continued to play their neat and tidy football as they took a hold of the 2nd half from the very first minute. I found myself behind the Llanfairpwll goal at the start of the first half, which was being guarded by a very young, but confident looking goalie – he must have only been 16-17 years old. By the early moments of the second half, I realised I had made a bad mistake standing behind this goal and so as Llanfairpwll made it 2-0, I worked my way back around the ground.
Soon it was 4-0 as the home team scored 2 goals in quick succession as The Welsh David Silva, Arwyn Owen, made it 3-0, as he finally got on the scoresheet after a succession of blown chances and Gethin Davies made it 4-0 with a fine strike.
Llanfairpwll were playing full of confidence now with every pass, every move and every decision seeming to go their way. Conversely, nothing was going for Barmouth and Dyffryn and soon tempers were flaring up. At least that was what I thought was happening, as I only had the angry tones of their voices to go on with the players abusing each other in Welsh. Whatever was being said, the spectators by the side of me were chuckling at the verbal confrontation going on between some of the Llanfairpwll and Barmouth & Dyffryn players.
The scoring was finished for the day with Llanfairpwll adding a 5th goal, before the away team wrapped up a dismal display for themselves with a consolation goal to end today’s proceedings.
Full-time: Llanfairpwll FC 5 – 1 Barmouth and Dyffryn United.
With the Snonwdonia mountains making a pretty backdrop in the distance, I made my way back down the hill towards the station and to the Penrhos Arms. However, before heading to the pub I decided to take a left turn and go and see Llanfairpwll’s famous Marquess of Anglesey Column – a large monument in homage to the heroism of Henry Paget of Battle of Waterloo fame that towers over the village and looks out over the Menai Bridge and the Menai Strait. I had heard that you could climb the 27m high structure, but there were signs clearly stating that the monument wasn’t open on this Bank Holiday Monday. As a load of bemused sheep stared me down, I decided to head back down the road to the pub.
In here, I was meeting fellow Swansea fan Russ, who I’m sure has appeared on this blog at other points on my travels with Swansea City and who is a native a North-Walian now living in Llanfair PG. I found Russ at the bar as I entered the Penrhos and the place was certainly fuller than it was earlier in the day. Soon we were joined in the pub by the players and staff of Llanfairpwll who arrived for postmatch drinks and snacks.
Having chatted about all things Swansea City (mainly about recently appointed permanent manager Garry Monk), Me and Russ headed over the road to the Tafan Ty Gwyn, just to mix things up a bit. The second (and final) pub I visited today was nothing particularly special to write home about, but pleasant enough with a nice, small village community feel to it, which is always a pleasant thing.
With perhaps the shortest pub crawl in Lost Boyos history complete, there was only one thing left to do before departing Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch: get a photo with the famous sign just like many tourists before me.
Highlights: visiting North Wales’ most famous sign, decent pubs, friendly club, good game of football.
Low Points: inadvertently ending up in Holyhead, having to answer the question what game have