Treharris Athletic Western v Tata Steel
The Athletic Ground / Friendly / 1st August 2015
‘Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.’ – Charles Dickens
You’re spot on there Charles lad. Last week, on returning to Wales from my football trip down to Sussex, I spent a day recovering and resting, before getting bored and wanting to get out of the house. But what to do? Pubs were not appealing to me on this particular afternoon and instead I took part in a past time I rarely take part in: I went for a walk.
I began from my parents’ home with no real plan apart from to follow my feet and see where they took me. Soon they were leading me up the road to Pentwyn, past the house I lived in for the first 12 years of my life and then up ‘the mountain’ behind my old home. It was great exploring the place we used to go as kids, even if it was a little overgrown now. Onwards I went down to the village and then upwards to probably the most recognisable piece of landscape in our valley: The Gap (or ‘Giant’s Bite’). Essentially, it’s an old quarry, which has left…well a gap in the mountain. From my walk, I did find myself thinking where I was brought up is a bit brilliant and how maybe you do sometimes take your home for granted. Plus, when I put my photos on Facebook, many of my friends based around other parts of the UK couldn’t believe how ‘scenic’ my little part of South Wales is. It certainly is a nice change from my current and more ‘gritty-looking’ adopted homebase in Salford.
One other thing I’ve clearly taken for granted is my local football club: Treharris Athletic Western. I could see the ground from atop The Gap and I have to say it does look a beauty. A very humble beauty. In the years since I started this groundhopping stuff, I’d seen many blogs and groundhoppers place Treharris’ famous old ground on a monumental pedestal. Initially, I thought ‘Really?’ To me this was just the ground we used to break into for a kickabout as kids sometimes and where people would hop the wall to congregate on a cold Friday evening with a flagon to participate in that great Welsh hobby of ‘underage drinking’. But once I took a step back and thought of the place with my groundhopper hat on, I realised that The Athletic is a joyous place. Joyous if you love old relics anyway.
For years now, I’ve wanted to take the Lost Boyos bandwagon to The Athletic for a nostalgic reunion, but fixtures/dates just never fell kindly for me and Treharris to reconnect. Until now. With Gibbo still down from the north on his valleys football tour and with Treharris having a friendly planned for the Saturday, this was the time to reunite with the place.
We’d spent the two nights before at Ystrad Mynach’s Centre for Sporting Excellence on Thursday and then at Abergavenny Town on Friday (where we were chauffeured over by my Dad in his beautiful Morris Minor), so the Saturday was the headline act.
I’d told Gibbo that one aspect of coming home I don’t enjoy is the sheer lack of cash machines in the area. It really is ridiculous that there isn’t really a cash machine a mile either side of Quakers Yard. So the day started with a trip over to Nelson’s branch of Barclays, before my Dad drove us (no Morris Minor this time) up to Treharris. We thought we’d show Gibbo the sights of the valley from atop Twynygarreg Hill, so that was where our day begun – up in the heavens of Treharris. The valley does really look pretty down below.
We then pretty much let the car roll down the ridiculous gradient that is Twynygarreg, before my Dad dropped us off and we headed to our first pub of the day: The Navigation – known locally simply as ‘The Navi’. It was great to see that the old place was completely unchanged from Christmas when I was last in here, even though I opted for the more exotic sounding ‘Carling Premier’ and it tasted of absolute nothingness. Admittedly, there’s also still a few too many Cardiff shirts on the wall in there for my liking too.
Everyone I know in my adopted home in north-west England seems to love the Welsh word ‘cwtch’, so I felt it only fitting I take Atherton Collieries fan Gibbo to the brilliantly named Colliers’ Cwtch pub, just around the corner from Treharris Athletic. This pub used to be more ‘interesting’ in its previous guise as the ‘Dog and Rabbit’, but it is a lovely place now, although always devoid of customers when I visit it seems. The only other punter today was a man dubbing anything Swansea-related in his newspaper as ‘Jack shit’; I did chirp up about my ‘Jack-ness’ and in all fairness to him he was fine with it. I think he was more angry with the circus that is Cardiff City these days to even muster any really hatred for Swansea City.
It was now onwards down the hill to The Athletic and I was hoping that the billing I (and others) had given the ground would live up to the hype for Gibbo. Well, how about being greeted in the car park by a fridge and a washing machine? Perfect welcome.
We headed through the rusting gate and we were in. What a place it is too. The Athletic is crammed in between the surrounding houses and the adjacent fire station and it is a bit of a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ sort of place. It’s raised a good few feet above the main road running below it too, making it harder to spot.
Like many Welsh League grounds, the views of the surrounding valley are great too. Or maybe I’m just saying that as my village, Quakers Yard, is perfectly in view ahead of the stand. Which brings me onto that stand. There is only one stand at Treharris and it is basically a rusting shed raised above pitch level with a little railing at the front of it; it is beautiful. It’s been there a very long time too.
Treharris is very much an old coal mining village with the place being built around the Harris Navigation Colliery created in 1873; unsurprisingly, the name ‘Treharris’ comes from the mine owner Frederick Harris (for those not familiar with the Welsh language, ‘Tre’ means town).
The football club would come to be in 1889 and by many it is considered the oldest club in South Wales with the club also being founder members of the Welsh League in 1902 too. Treharris were known as one of the best teams in South Wales and produced Welsh international footballers for a time at the start of the 20th century. They were also one of the first clubs in Wales to play games over the border in England, as they generally dominated the early South Wales footballing scene. Sadly, the closing of the mines hit the club massively with the final closure in the early 90s having a monumental impact on the area’s economy, let alone the football club’s setup. After being relegated from Welsh League Division Two, the club now play in the basement league of the Welsh League.
It’s hard to find an exact date when the club rolled up at the Athletic, moving from their previous ground in Graig Berthlwyd (incidentally the house I grew up in was Berthlwyd Cottage), but it seems to have been in the early 1900s. It’s hard to imagine that much has changed here since, apart from now the team is called Treharris Athletic Western after merging with Treharris Western – a team I actually played for age 14-16.
One of my other favourite features of this ground (and most people’s favourite feature I believe) is ‘the balcony’ which overlooks the ground. There are signs saying that spectators are not to watch from up there, but this rule is generally ignored. So up we headed to get some photos on the balcony whilst we waited for the teams to come out.
Initially, Treharris were set to play Undy Athletic, but on Thursday we found out that Undy had bailed on the fixture. Me and Gibbo had come up with contingencies plans, but fortunately Treharris found replacement opposition in the shape of Tata Steel. It turned out to be Tata Steel’s reserves coming down to Treharris though and fair to say they had a long afternoon ahead of them.
The players came down the little walkway past the stand and immediately I fell in love with Treharris’ uber-cool white kits. There was a touch of Swansea City and old school West Germany about the shirts with the three black Adidas stripes on the white shirt, but it was the numbers on the back which got me. Just look at how cool they are!
We watched on from the stand with about 20 others as the game kicked off – not that you have much choice where else to go in the ground. The village is basically one big hill and so flat land is virtually non-existent; I’m not sure how the club found this small piece of flat land for a football ground. So all facilities are on one side of the pitch with the rest of the ground consisting of now overgrown and unreachable terracing. The pitch is actually so narrow that it is technically against Welsh League regulations, but Treharris are permitted to play at the ground by the FAW on “Grandfather Rights”. If the club left the Welsh League, they’d not be permitted back in using The Athletic as their home.
As for the game, it took virtually no time at all for Treharris to take the lead, as Christopher Owen scored early to put the home team 1-0 up.
Moments later it was 2-0 when Matthew Sellick leaped brilliantly to head in a great cross, before minutes later Owen added his 2nd and Treharris’ 3rd with a lovely dinked finish. There was only about 10 minutes gone and I started to believe that this could be the first ever Lost Boyos double figure scoreline, after Notts County let me down so cruelly with a 9 – 0 win when I went to Rolls Royce FC a few weeks ago.
Treharris added further goals through David Mitchell (who was in my year in school actually) and Owen completed a very quick hatrick, which his namesake Michael would have been proud of in his heyday. However, there was much disappointment for him too, as he non-chalantly launched a shot from the halfway line, only for it to beat the keeper and hit the bottom of the post and rebound out. I was gutted for him.
Keiron Cook added another goal to make it 7-0 and that was our lot for the first half. I was just hoping I’d see the home team break the 10 goal mark in the second half.
Half-time: Treharris Athletic Western 7 – 0 Tata Steel.
No beer here, so we headed up to the small room on the balcony, where tea and coffee were being served. This place adds further to the ramshackle feel with it just being a room full of washing machines and other crap with a counter in the middle with the tea/coffee making facilities. Once again, brilliant.
I had a quick catch up with Paul Veale, who was my coach when I played for Treharris Western and he was joined by his son Jamie Veale; he plays for Cardiff’s U21s and I know he is held in very high regard there. I remember he once played 7-a-side with us one time I was back in Wales and none of us could get anywhere near him – I felt embarrassed to be playing in the same game as him.
I was starting to think that maybe the Tata Steel players were feeling the same on the pitch against Treharris as the thumping continued on the pitch. It took a bit longer for Treharris to get going this time and I was starting to worry that my double figure wish may allude me again; that was until Nathan Powell drove a shot goalwards past the out of position keeper to make it 8-0.
The 9th came from the penalty spot as David Mitchell scored his 3rd of the day, after Matthew Sellick was shoved in the box. “WE WANT 10! WE WANT 10!”
It seemed to be 9-0 for a fair bit when finally the 10th came when Owen grabbed his 4th. The personal goal tally competition continued between him and David Mitchell, as Dai also grabbed his 4th shortly after to make it 11 – 0.
There was still time for one more goal to make it 12 – 0 and then time got the better of Treharris before they could add anymore.
Full-time: Treharris Athletic Western 12 – 0 Tata Steel.
I couldn’t think of a more fitting club to claim Lost Boyos’ first ever double figure score. I gave the old stand a pat in appreciation and we exited the ground behind the players, who were walking around to the changing rooms accessed in the car park.
After 3 days in the South Wales valleys, Gibbo was heading back up north that evening, but we did have time for one final pint, before my Dad headed up to pick us up and drop Gibbo at Quakers Yard station. I opted to head for the Danygraig Labour Club – an old school social club, where many a party was held in my teenage years and known to us as simply ‘The Dany’.
I think Gibbo had enjoyed his time in South Wales and I did even put together a life plan for him to move down here. He had clearly liked the Welsh females, so we figured we’d set him up with a girl (I think he had a certain barmaid from my local in mind), there was a primary school being built nearby so he could get a job there, my parents have a spare room and, as well as all that, Treharris Athletic’s Twitter (@TreharrisAthFC) was even tweeting in search of a matchday photographer, so he could carry on his photography hobby too. It was all perfectly set up for him. Sadly, after a slight bit of deliberation, he resorted to going back to Atherton. The Welsh lifestyle switch offer remains on the table (after negotiating rent with my parents of course).
Once Gibbo had departed, I thought it only fitting that I finish my day out at my local club by going to my local back in Quakers Yard. As I’ve mentioned in a couple of blogs before, Lost Boyos was conjured up on a drunken Christmas Eve in the Glan Taff Inn and so this seemed like the best place to get drunk and finish my 3 days of Welsh football.
There is some talk that Treharris may move away from The Athletic in the near future, so if you are ever frequenting the green, green grass of my home, make sure to call in. You’ll be visiting an absolute gem of a ground. I realise that now, perhaps like Charles Dickens suggested I would.
Highlights: being back home, do love Treharris pubs, what a ground, the Treharris kits, plenty of goals!
Low Points: obviously for me – no beer at the ground!
You can see more of my photos from the Athletic here, although I’d recommend checking out Gibbo’s photos instead as he had a far superior camera and is just generally far better than me at it. Check them out here.