Cardiff Met University v Pontypridd Town
Cyncoed Campus / Preseason friendly / 5th August 2016
“I believe that football is an intellectual game and I feel very proud of the flood of academic ability within Cardiff Met FC.” – Professor Christian Edwards – Director of Cardiff Met Men’s Football and Head Coach.
Some see football as a blood and guts game, all raw spirit and determination being central to it all, mixed in with a bit of natural talent. Others would argue that it is game based around intelligence and decision-making. I’d argue that the majority believe that it’s somewhere in the middle of those two contrasts. For every full-blooded Robbie Savage, you need a Dennis Bergkamp. I’d imagine if there is one top flight club in Wales who truly believe in the ‘Bergkamp’ camp more, it’d be Cardiff Met University – the intellectual newcomers to the Welsh Premier League.
Since learning of Cardiff Met’s ascension to the top flight of Welsh football this summer, I’ve been intrigued by them. I’m sure there cannot be many (if any) other top flight leagues in the world boasting a university team. The only story I can think of coming close to it in Britain is the story of plucky Team Bath, who rose to Conference South level in the mid-00s and were the first university team to make the first round of the FA Cup since 1880 back in 2002. They’d go on to lose to Second Division Mansfield Town 4-2. I’d also be interested to know if there are any teams with more honours and degrees than Cardiff Met Uni FC with all their players students of the uni, most of them currently completing post-graduate or PhD courses (largely in sports-related fields). They are also led by former Swansea City defender Christian Edwards, who also played for the likes Nottingham Forest and Bristol Rovers amongst several others; with one Welsh cap to his name (as an 88th minute substitute for Chris Coleman in a game v Switzerland in 96), it is believed that Dr. Christian Edwards is the first international footballer ever to complete a doctorate.
With a free Friday night and Pontypridd Town taking on Cardiff Met at their university campus home, I wanted to go along and see what this club was all about, 9 days before they were to make their Welsh Premier bow away to Airbus Broughton.
It seems since I’ve left my adopted home in the north-west, my groundhopping companion Gibbo has feigned not missing me by pretending to be more cultured. Instead of visiting pubs and bars with me, he has photoed himself visiting Manchester museums and tea rooms in Halifax. It seems we are bad influences on each other as my recent trip to Blaenavon was one centred around culture with a trip to Big Pit; admittedly, the 2nd part of the ‘culture’ that day did involve a brewery. We are kidding ourselves though as moments after texting me last Saturday to say he was having a more cultured day again, Gibbo was checking himself into a local Wetherspoons, just as I was checking myself in Cwmbran’s Wetherspoons. However, in the spirit of ‘out-culturing’ each other, before heading to Cardiff Met University, I decided to head to the National Museum in Cardiff itself. I thought I may need some extra knowledge to impress all the students I may encounter – although I was unsure how Welsh history and art would impress a load of sports psychology students.
I had been to the National Museum many a time on school trips, but can’t ever remember revisiting in adulthood. It’s pretty much exactly how I remember it and although the place is huge, it largely consists of art. I’m sure if you are an art scholar it’d be immense for you, but I’m certainly no art scholar and although I enjoyed looked at the paintings of Welsh landscapes more than portraits of random Welsh industrialists, I was in and out of there within 30-40 minutes.
I paid a visit to my old place of work, Sports Direct in St. Davids 2 (tragic I know) to perform the necessary errand of buying some new laces, before heading to Westgate Street to visit one of my favourite Cardiffian drinking holes. The Urban Tap House is superb and has lots of beers from one of my favourite breweries, Tiny Rebel. Of course, being back in Wales I had to have a pint of Cwtch (and if you don’t know what a ‘cwtch’ is then shame on you – google it).
I paid a quick visit to the City Arms next door (another excellent boozer), where I indulged in a Lemondrop – unsurprisingly lemon beer – before I headed down Westgate Street alongside the Millennium Stadium, committed the heretic act of snubbing BrewDog and headed for probably my favourite bar in Cardiff these days.
Fairplay to Cardiff, with the various awesome bars and pubs on Westgate Street, as well as two Wetherspoons either side of it, I can’t help but love this part of the city. Just off St. Mary’s Street though you will find the excellent Cambrian Tap – my Cardiff pub of choice these days too. Plus, it helps that the place is run by Swansea fan Paul. On entering I was greeted by Paul and given the rundown on the beers that were cheap before 6pm. With two options I went through them both – one fittingly named Opening Ceremony (the Rio Olympics were to start the next day). Ale was drunk, Swansea talk was had and double thumbs up photos were taken – it was then off to Cardiff Central station to head 10 minutes down the line to Heath High Level.
Just uttering the word’Heath’ sends shivers down my spine and I was not exactly delighted to be back in the area. You see, the word ‘Heath’ to me instantly conjures up images of the orthodontist and having pretty screwed up teeth in my primary school years, there were a lot of trips to the orthodontist to fix them up. Fortunately, the Heath Hospital was nowhere to be seen today and instead I was subjected to an endless labyrinth of non-descript suburban housing. Eventually the road snaked around to a pub, the Discovery, and so a welcome break was taken in there. I suppose it was fitting that there was a pub called Discovery so close to an educational institute. It seemed a popular place for food on this warm Friday evening, although the bar section was more empty apart from some familiar locals it seemed. One such local informed me that the uni was just around the corner and so, after a quick beer, on my way I headed.
It was a good 10-15 minutes around the corner it seemed and with kick-off looming I was relieved to eventually find an entrance to the campus. Cardiff Met isn’t the prettiest uni campus I’ve seen with some of the buildings looking more akin to council houses – then I remembered some of my uni housing and shrugged my shoulders and thought ‘fair enough’. My next task was to find the football pitch amongst the extensive plethora of facilities on site. Good golly it was hard work and even after the elaborate directions from the lads at the reception, I was still walking down repeated dead ends with minutes until kick-off. Then, after spotting one particularly well-hidden away walkway, I heard the thumping of footballs and after circling the National Indoors Athletics Centre, I found the home of Cardiff Met University FC.
Growing up in the 90s I always remember Welsh club Inter Cardiff. I attached a sense of exoticism to them purely because I think the only other team I knew of in the world at the time were the Italian giants Inter Milan. Despite the sharing of the prefix ‘Inter’ Cardiff’s Inter were worlds away from the Serie A Club, although they did have 3 forays into Europe, including an 8-0 loss over two legs to Celtic in 1997. It would be Inter Cardiff who would eventually morph into the Cardiff Met University I would see this evening.
Inter Cardiff came about after a variety of name changes having originally been known as Lake United on their formation back in 1977, before becoming AFC Cardiff in 1984. Their formation with Sully FC in 1990 would see the formation of Inter Cardiff (who sadly spent 3 years known as Inter CableTel between 96-99 for sponsorship reasons). Alongside this, the football team at the University of Wales, Cardiff (UWIC) were going through several name changes themselves due to the college’s repeated name changing. UWIC merged with Inter Cardiff in 2000 to become UWIC Inter Cardiff before eventually becoming Cardiff Met University in 2012 after the institute changed its name again.
Seemingly coinciding with the latest name change, Cardiff Met have rocketed through the leagues. The club started the 2012/13 season in the Welsh League Division Three (4th tier) before successively winning Division Three and Two and then earning promotion to the Welsh Premier last year from Division One.
As for the ground…well it was exactly what I expected from a uni campus ground to be honest. The only stand in the ground sits on the far side of the ground and is a standard IKEA-esque, flat pack stand with seating for maybe a 100 – maybe less. The ground is flanked by the indoor arena or one side and another athletics track and a rugby pitch. Toilets come in the form of festival-esque cubicles.
Thanks to getting lost on campus, I arrived virtually as the game was kicking off. I headed to near the Pontypridd Town dugout where I found fellow groundhopping pal Nicky – who is now also a Pontypridd season ticket holder, committee member and commentator on their home games.
I must mention here that Cardiff Met Uni’s kit is a beauty and on tweeting my love for the kit earlier that day, the club declared that replicas were on sale; I responded by stating that I don’t think a Swansea fan could get away with wearing any shirt with the word ‘Cardiff’ on it. Fairplay to Cardiff Met Uni’s Twitter account for being engaging though. I’m a big fan of a good football club Twitter account and I noticed that they had been talking to and tweeting people regularly. Other Welsh football clubs could learn from that – especially to pass on vital infromation (e.g late game abandonment) – not that I’m still bitter towards a certain Welsh football club…
Cardiff Met were to play Port Talbot the next day, so we were unsure what sort of side they had out against Second Division Pontypridd on this evening. I will say I was let down they didn’t have Gary Taylor-Fletcher playing for them though. After a Punk IPA-fuelled day in Cwmbran the Saturday before, two separate conversations that day featured the topics of Cardiff Met University FC and former Blackpool striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher. Clearly all the Punk IPA had messed with my head as I genuinely had a dream that night about Taylor-Fletcher signing for Cardiff Met. I was disappointed when reality kicked in to say the least. There was a Marvin Emnes lookalike for Cardiff Met though, much to my delight, and he came close to opening the scoring, only to have his shot cleared off the line.
The game wasn’t too lively, but Ponty would open the scoring in an eye-catching manner. The Cardiff Met goalie came rushing off his line to clear only for his clearance to land at the feet of Aiden Lewis, who curled the ball over the keeper from 30 yards out with the keeper struggling to get back to his line.
Half-time: Cardiff Met University 0 – 1 Pontypridd Town.
With no bar or anything to entertain us, we spent half-time entertaining ourselves the old-fashioned way by ‘chatting’. I’d done ‘chatting’ with Pontypridd Town earlier that week in fact, as I agreed to an interview with their programme and so to anyone attending Pontypridd v Newport City next Friday you’ll find me within the programme. A reason to buy it if ever there was one.
It took just a few minutes into the second half for the home team to equalise. A low pass across the box was missed by one player, before his team-mate controlled and toe-poked home. “I meant that!” shouted the player who had originally missed the pass.
Alongside Nicky was his fellow commentator at Ponty, Craig, and as the second half came to life, Craig’s son came off the bench for Pontypridd. It would be Craig’s son, Owain, who would score the next goal, after a few deflections fell kindly for him to dart into the box and fire home. 2 -1 to Ponty.
Then it was time for ‘The Badman’. Brilliantly, Pontypridd have a player called Scott Badman which prompted actually LOLs from me. Nicky then told me that apparently following his signing, the other players genuinely thought ‘Badman’ was a nickname, only to learn weeks later that it was his actual name. I suggested to Nicky and Craig that they play The Batman song every time he scores – obviously replacing the ‘BATMAN!’ bit with chants of ‘BADMAN!’ Make it happen lads!
There had been the usual array of preseason substitutions and it seemed that Pontypridd were coming out of the vast changes better as goals 3 and 4 were added to round off a good night for The Dragons.
There was one injury scare for Ponty towards the end as one player stayed down as the final whistle approached. Out came the magic sponge and water and he was soon carried off the pitch. To recover from the injury he was offered “Ibruprofen or anyone of 26 bottles of water.” One Ponty player on the bench instead surmised that all he needed was a “good dose of man up!”
The closing stages were spent trying to take photos of the pretty red Welsh sky overhead (everyone loves a good sky picture on Instagram don’t they?) before the final whistle was soon blowing to confirm Pontypridd’s fine win.
Full-time: Cardiff Met University 1 – 4 Pontypridd Town.
Not a bad preseason friendly and Ponty Town looked impressive. It did seem that this wasn’t Cardiff Met’s strongest as they went on to smash Port Talbot Town 5-1 the next day.
Navigating my way out of the campus was less arduous than getting in, but still time-consuming and I was left with a dash through Cardiff suburbia to make the 21:34 back up to the valleys.
It seems that Cardiff Met University have an organised setup and it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll fair in the Welsh Premier next season. It’s not the most awe-inspiring arena to watch football at – it is what it is. If they announce they’ve signed Gary Taylor-Fletcher though, I may have to come back.
Highlights: day out on Westgate Street, decent game, free entry, big fan of Cardiff Met kit.
Low Points: it’s a uni campus football ground, no Gary Taylor-Fletcher.
See all my photos from my day in Cardiff and at Cardiff Met University here.