Pontypridd Town v Croesyceiliog
Ynysangharad Park / Friendly / 9th August 2014
I’m always asked what part of Wales I’m from and always answer with “Merthyr Tydfil” – the town I where was born. The reason I say Merthyr Tydfil is that this question is usually asked away from my homeland and I doubt many would have ever heard of my actual home village, Quakers Yard in the Merthyr valley, where I lived for the first 18 years of my life and where my parents’ home still is. Despite considering myself very much a Merthyr valley boy, my home village is actually located nearer to the town of Pontypridd in the Rhondda than my birthplace of Merthyr Tydfil. Pontypridd played a big part in my childhood with a trip to Ynysangharad Park, known locally by the easier to say Ponty Park, considered the ultimate trip in the summer months with its park, open pool and option of crazy golf or pitch and put. In fact, I still consider my greatest sporting feat to be one that occurred on Ponty Park pitch and put. I’m awful at golf, as with most sports bar football, but in a heroic performance I defeated my semi-regular golfer pal Nick over the 18 holes of Ponty’s course. I’ve seen the emotions when people win the Ryder Cup, but nothing will compare to how I buckled to the floor in joy as Nick failed to sink a crucial put to win it for me.
With Pontypridd playing such a large part in my life over the years (I also went there for guitar lessons too), it seemed strange that I had never visited their football ground, located in Ponty Park itself. However, I have visited Sardis Road on a couple of occasions – the home of Pontypridd RFC. Ponty is very much a rugby town with the club being particularly successful during the 90s and early 00s. Sadly, the regionalisation of Welsh club rugby saw the club downgraded to a semi-pro outfit as the Celtic Warriors took centre stage (only for them to subsequently disbanded after on year). Pontypridd RFC have since reorganised themselves and are generally doing better than most other local rugby clubs in South Wales.
Back to football, I’d been trying to find a time to go along and visit Ponty’s footballing outfit, but finally with a free Saturday back in South Wales I opted to head along to Pontypridd Town v Croesyceiliog in a preseason friendly.
It was a good time to go and see Ponty really, as the club have recently swept the news with their high-profile friendly against Valencia out in Spain – yes, THE Valencia. The friendly came about thanks to Ponty manager Dominic Broad’s coaching experiences in Spain and his links to the club. The press lapped up the minnows v big club story and TalkSport’s Colin Murray, even travelled out with the club to promote a ‘Ponty Party’. Speaking of famous faces, the club even had Danny Murphy and Neil Ruddock travel with them with Murphy intending to play for Ponty (but he sadly didn’t). Against a young Valencia team, Ponty battled bravely, but eventually lost 3-0 to the Spanish club.
It may not be as sunny and exotic as Valencia, but I found myself in the Maltsters Arms in Ponty shortly after midday. I’d nabbed myself a lift off my Dad after informing him of a vintage car show being held in Ponty Park – he likes cars a lot. We enjoyed a drink in the Maltsters located opposite Ponty’s famous bridge and alongside the River Taff. Undoubtedly the town’s most famous landmark is the arching bridge built in 1756. Mainly due to its unusual design of the bridge, many questioned the point of it, as it was too steep for horse and cart to get over. A new bridge was built adjacent to it and having finished our pints, I said cheerio to my parents and made my way over that very bridge.
By now, I had been joined by fellow Swansea fan Huw, who was originally heading to Newport v Wycombe, but having played for both Ponty and Croesyceiliog in his playing days, he was keen to come along and watch his two former clubs take each other on.
We made our way down Ponty high street, before veering slightly off it to visit Clwb Y Bont. The Welsh club resembles more of a chapel inside than a bar with its high ceilings, stone floors and pews. Whilst we enjoyed our pints of Budweiser in our echoey surroundings, we were joined by some morris dancers, which was also a bit strange.
Next stop on our trip through Ponty was the Skinny Dog up the top of town, where we got to watch some of the early kick-off between Sheffield United and Bristol City. I also found a highly amusing condom machine in the toilet as shown below.
As the clock ticked past 2pm and with a 2.30pm kick-off, we thought we better get a shift on and so we headed over the footbridge and into Ponty Park. It seemed that there was some sort of festival going on today with several food vendors and our friends the morris dancers performing in the middle of the road. Plus, there was a whole row of classic cars and buses lining the road making for a slightly different walk to the ground compared to usual. We crossed the cricket ground, where there was a match going on, and arrived at the car park adjacent to Pontypridd Town FC’s home.
Within seconds of walking into the ground, Huw was already chatting away to familiar faces and it did seem that he knew everyone at both Ponty and Croesyceiliog. Whilst he chatted away, I headed into the clubhouse behind the goals. To get to the bar area you have to walk down the corridor past the changing rooms and with kick-off almost upon us the place was reeking of Deep Heat. At the end of the corridor was the club bar, a small room with a little hatch for the kitchen. When I asked the girl behind the food hatch for two beers, I was told that they did have some, but they weren’t sure where it was. Eventually it took asking the club secretary to find the beer, which was found in an isolated fridge at the back of the club bar. The club secretary made it quite clear to us that we were not to take our cans of Carling outside though, so we enjoyed the opening moments of the game from the club bar window, before heading out 5 minutes into the game.
The game was slow to get going, so I decided to go for a wander of the ground. It is fair to say that Ponty’s home is very basic with just one stand located on the halfway line with a few steps for people to sit on. All other sides of the ground are completely open with some foliage behind the far goal, which leads onto the Taff Trail – the famous walking/cycling path that spans 55 miles between Brecon and Cardiff Bay. Behind the clubhouse comes the constant drone of the busy A470 road running directly behind the ground with the Pontypridd war memorial standing proudly by itself at the top of the mountain in the backdrop.
As I was completing my lap and Huw continued to catch up with people on the sidelines, the game was still being dominated by the home team Pontypridd, despite playing a league below Croesyceiliog. Currently, Pontypridd Town play in the Welsh League Division Three, where they have spent most of their existence. Ponty are still a relatively new club having only formed in 1992, after they merged with local club Ynysbwl.
Half-time: Pontypridd 0 – 0 Croesyceiliog. A fairly dull first half with very few chances.
Another can of Carling was bought half-time and once again we daren’t go outside with it, so we spent half-time catching up on the scores around the Football League whilst Huw got chatting to the folk from Croesyceiliog. Huw’s football career had come to an end thanks to a broken leg a few years ago, but I got the impression that he was craving to get back amongst it the way he was reminiscing with people from both sides.
We headed out for the second half (without beer of course) and placed ourselves behind the goal that Ponty were attacking in the second half. The second half made for much better viewing with Ponty taking the lead in the 55th minute with a header from Nathan Thompson from player-manager Dominic Broad’s corner.
It was soon 2-0, as some brilliant skill from Broad out by the right corner flag left the Croesyceiliog defence flat-footed and his cut across the box to Aaron Carew left the Ponty player with the easiest of finishes.
The 2nd goal seemed to spark a bit of life into Croesyceiliog and they were probably deserving of their goal in the 83rd minute. The goal came in quite comical fashion as Ponty failed to clear a corner and thus ensued a goalmouth scramble with the keeper making two brilliant saves, before the away team finally put the ball in.
Full-time: Pontypirdd 2 – 1 Croesyceiliog.
I suggested leaving, but Huw still wanted to talk to a few others including his old team mate and now player-manager Dominc Broad. More beer was purchased and we even got free chicken curry as the players hadn’t finished it all – free curry is always a nice treat.
Soon we were walking back through Ponty Park and onwards to the Bunch of Grapes. I had told Huw earlier in the day that the Bunch of Grapes is one of the finest pubs you’ll find in our part of the world, although it is located slightly awkwardly away from the town centre. However, it is still definitely worth a visit with whole host of real ales and ciders and the food there is pretty awesome too. Sadly, they were out of the Otley’s beer I likes, so instead I opted for a German lager, which was absolutely delightful. I could have happily stayed there all evening but since we had to go home at some point, I thought we may as well work our way back towards the train station on the other side of Ponty.
Conveniently, directly opposite the station is a Wetherspoons, so having cut back through Ponty Park, past the pitch and put so I could reminisce about my golfing success once more, we arrived at Spoons. It’s always been one of my favourite Wetherspoons and it was also good to meet up with fellow Swans fans Aled and Steve, who we’d met out in Malmo last summer. We’d bumped into Aled earlier in the day as he attended the Ponty game after training for his club. Steve had been down the Liberty to watch Swansea get convincingly beaten 3-0 by Villarreal in their last preseason friendly before the league kicks off next weekend. So obviously we wanted to know from Steve what the hell had gone wrong for the Swans today.
Shortly after 7pm I found my way on the train from Ponty to Quakers Yard, one of the few train routes in the country where alcohol is banned to apparently curb ‘disturbances’ .
Highlights: returning to Ponty Park, free curry, Bunch of Grapes.
Low Points: basic ground, not a great game.
See the rest of my photos from my day in Pontypridd here https://www.flickr.com/photos/125327149@N05/sets/72157645917178510/.