Abergavenny Town v Pontnewydd United
Pen-y-Pound Stadium / Friendly / 31st July 2014
“Do Abergavenny Thursdays still exist?” I questioned my brother as we walked through the streets of Abergavenny having enjoyed a family meal in nearby Monmouth. a couple of days after Christmas Day A quick peruse of the internet on my phone confirmed that sadly the famous Thursdays had indeed folded in August 2013 as a result of a lack of players. The club had been a founder member of the League of Wales back in 1992 and even won the old Welsh League the two years prior to the launch of the new look League of Wales (now the Welsh Premier League), but after a sudden and tragic fall from grace over the ensuing 20 years they finished up in the Gwent County League Division 3 before disappearing altogether.
“Lets bring football back to Abergavenny!..If we win the lottery that is,” was my immediate idea. However, just 12 months after folding and leaving the Pen-y-Pound Stadium empty, a new club has emerged to fill the void – a team not funded by myself or any lottery winnings: Abergavenny Town FC.
Technically, Abergavenny Town are not a new team, but are instead a rebooted version of Govilon AFC, who have played in the Gwent leagues for the majority of their existence and hail from the village of Govilon slightly west of Abergavenny. As Thursdays departed the footballing world, the club moved to the Pen-y-Pound Stadium, the former home of Thursdays and have even incorporated many of Thursdays’ young players over the past season. So having learnt that football was alive and well in Abergavenny after all, I thought I may as well head along and check it out for myself. Quite fittingly, I’d be going to watch Abergavenny Town v Pontnewydd United on a Thursday evening.
Abergavenny (or Y Fenni for those Welsh speakers out there) is a small, charming town located in Monmouthshire and known as ‘The Gateway to Wales’. The town is home to a whole host of independent shops, charity shops and little cafes with very few big name retailers located in the town itself, as I noticed as I began my stroll down the main high street later in the afternoon. However, before heading down the high street, I thought I may as well go and have a quick nose at Abergavenny Castle, which is perched just above the town.
This is the first castle to feature on the blog since my trip to Dumbarton, so slowly, but surely I could start an alternative ‘Castlehopping’ blog. Maybe not. Anyway. this particular castle, Abergavenny Castle, was apparently built by the Normans around 1087 to oversee the River Usk. One 16th century antiquary said the castle “has been oftner stain’d with the infamy of treachery, than any other castle in Wales.” Well the place is certainly a ruin now and having seen enough of fallen castle walls and towers, I headed into town.
I arrived at the Abergavenny Coliseum, a Wetherspoons pub, and fuelled myself for the day with a Y Ddraig Fflamellyd – ‘Flaming Dragon Curry’. I like my curries very hot and expected not too much from a Spoons curry, but it certainly had more kick than I expected and did a lovely job.
With food in my belly, I did a lap of the town until I ended up back where I had started at the bottom of the high street and at The Swan Hotel; it’s becoming a recurring theme going in pubs with the word ‘Swan’ in the name – I wonder why? The place, despite only having a small bar, seemed to be a popular place for walkers and ramblers to stay with many coming and going whilst I was there. I was just kept entertained by the fact that the carpet had pictures of Swans on it. Easily amused.
Next stop was the Coach and Horses just up the road and…well, we’ll say this place was interesting, The place is rather dark and dingy, so on getting my pint (priced £3.20 like every pint I bought in Abergavenny it seemed) I headed for the beer garden. The spacious beer garden consisted of a sort of dilapidated sheltered seating area and the usual benches. Then one gentleman came walking out behind me on one crutch, made eye contact with me and creepily whispered as he walked past me, “Every dog must die.” Utter wack job. He joined a man with a pony tail that looked like a sheep and a lady with an Eastern European accent and they debated the theme of ‘mortality’ with my limping friend concluding the debate with “Well, I’m lucky to live in a beautiful world with beautiful people.’ He seemed to have changed his tone from his initial ‘dogs must die’ comment that he directed at me on entering.
After the wackiness of the Coach and Horses, I made my way back up the high street with the intention of heading up to the ground, but I got myself sidetracked by a pub called Hens and Chickens (I liked the name). This was a far more pleasant affair than the Coach and Horses with the small pub, apparently famed for real ales and jazz music, frequented mainly by walkers on my arrival this evening.
With the 6.30pm kick-off fast approaching I found myself quickly walking through the town centre and towards the northern part of the town where on Pen-y-Pound Road you will find the Pen-y-Pound Stadium.
About 10 minutes of walking from the town and I found the ground at the foot of surrounding hills with one hill even having a smiley face etched into it. I could only see one entrance which was labelled ‘Players and Officials Only’ but with there appearing to be no other way in, I took a chance. Lucky I did as I would still be outside the ground now as it turned out to be the main entrance.
Pen-y-Pound stadium: what a sorry sight it is. As soon as you walk through the entrance the place exudes fallen grandeur. The ground is basically falling apart. The main stand over the far side from the entrance is now a bleak sight with it being left unused and uncared for – it’d be great to see something done with it in the future. The only other stand in the ground is a standing terrace linked onto the club bar with the word ‘THURSDAYS’ emblazoned on the back wall. Sadly, this was also covered in graffiti with a personal favourite piece of graffiti of mine being the young, rebellious soul who had written ‘BAD MAN TINGS’. The opposite side of the ground to the main stand is guarded by a line of tall trees, which also heads around to the far end of the ground.
As I eyed up the ground, I found it incredible that my uncle had once refereed the likes of Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert on this very ground having refereed Wales U21 v Holland U21 in the mid-90s. Can’t imagine Seedorf and co. would be up for a kickabout on the ground anymore. That’s not to say that’s there is no beauty to the place. Firstly, the hills that backdrop the place give it a lovely, rural vibe and even within the ground there is a sort of beauty in the way the place still exudes fallen grandeur.
I headed into the club bar, where I was met with a large room, but with half of it resembling a building site; when I queried about it later on, I was told that the club are having a new bar built. Also, the club seemed to be defying the Abergavenny rule of charging £3.20 pint, which I seemed to have encountered all day, by placing pints at £3. With pint in hand, I headed out to the standing terrace just as the teams were coming out of the separate building that houses the changing rooms to the right of the bar.
As the teams came out onto the pitch, with Abergavenny playing in white and green and Pontnewydd in yellow and blue, the weather seemed to take a strange turn and we went from a fairly sunny day to it absolutely hammering down.
It was apparent almost immediately that Abergavenny were the better team as they immediately dominated the game. It took just over 5 minutes to score as the Abergavenny number 9 broke down the left side and passed cross goal for his strike partner to tap in.
By the 30 minute mark with the weather seeming to change by the minute from sunny to rainy, sunny to rainy, Abergavenny had added two more to make it 3-0 with the number 9 causing problems for the away team every time he got the ball. The game looked to be over already and so I went for a wander of the ground and to take some photos.
Half-time: Abergavenny Town 3 – 0 Pontnewydd United.
After getting another beer for the second half and with the weather now much sunnier again, I headed back to standing in front of the letter ‘R’ of the large ‘THURSDAYS’ at the back of the stand.
Pontnewydd pulled a goal back towards the start of the first half with a good header into the corner from an excellent cross into the box.
The best goal of the game though would follow just moments later and it was to be the number 9 producing again. His run down the right wing, saw him sharply cut inside, floating past a couple of defenders before hitting a low drive towards the near post with the ball hitting it and flying in. 4-1 to the home team.
It was soon 5-1 to the home team with a corner being floated over the away team goalie’s head for the number 14 substitute to tap into an empty net with the goalie stranded.
There were just over 5 minutes left and I did something I virtually never do and something I’m embarrassed to admit to…I left early. That’s right – I left a football match before the final whistle had blown. Unforgivable I know, but I’ll make my excuses now. Basically, I could have watched the last 5 minutes of a friendly which was already won and then wait around Abergavenny for an hour and a half or make a break for it now and catch the earlier train. I decided I’d seen enough of Abergavenny for one day and made a break for it. And I do mean a proper break for it, as I had clearly misjudged the distance from the ground to the station and there was a lot of breaking into a sprint required to make my train.
I did have the decency to at least tweet the Abergavenny Town twitter account to ask what the final score was, so here it is…
Full-time: Abergavenny Town 5 – 1 Pontnewydd United. So I didn’t even miss a goal.
It was nice to return to Abergavenny – a lovely, little market town – and I’m pleased that I’ve now finally visited the famous Pen-y-Pound Stadium. It was sad to see it in such ruin, but I’m hoping now that with the new tenants, Abergavenny Town, the ground can begin to be restored and start building towards its former glory.
Highlights: nice town, famous ground, good performance from the home team and particularly their number 9.
Low Points: sad to see the ground so desolate, the Coach and Horses was…interesting.
See the rest of the photos form my day in Abergavenny on my Flickr page here https://www.flickr.com/photos/125327149@N05/sets/72157646140649932/