To be printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Merthyr Town Saturday 18th February 2017
hold my hands up and say that I’ve got a soft spot for Merthyr
Tydfil. Or maybe that should read a soft spot for Welsh cakes. One of
my earliest memories is the smell of them wafting around my Welsh
grannies house on the Wexham estate and I’ve loved them ever since.
dads family arrived in Slough from the Valleys looking for work –
and to escape disapproval with his mum pregnant and unmarried. My
politics were fired up by the Miners Strike and I was part of a
Slough delegation that spent a weekend in the Valleys listening to
their stories. Two of my mates even moved back to the Valleys in the
1990's and we always seemed to be heading up the M4 to South Wales
for a visit.
2006, a TV series ranked Merthyr Tydfil as the United Kingdom's
third-worst place to live and after the miners strike South Wales
definitely struggled with the closure of not just the pits but a way
of life that had sewn the community together for generations.
when I visited Merthyr on our last game of the 2015/16 season I must
admit I was presently surprised. As we soaked up the towns history in
the old Town Hall now the Redhouse arts centre I learnt of a town at
the forefront of industrial revolution with iron then coal. About the
1831 Merthyr uprising where thousands of workers marching under a red
flag which was later adopted internationally as the symbol of
communists and socialists. For four days, magistrates and ironmasters
were under siege in the Castle Hotel with the workers controlling the
town. Described by one historian as “the most ferocious and bloody
event in the history of industrialised Britain” the uprising was
eventually crushed and led to the hanging of the first working class
martyr Dic Penderyn. We of course had to have a pint in the pub named
after him – and the football club are nicknamed the Martyrs.
football club has also had a chequered past even appearing in the
football league for 10 years. Now supporters owned, fans campaigned
to get rid of their old chairman who at one point seemed to be
offering to sell their Southern league place to another club! After
they were liquidated, the fans began again as Merthyr Town in the
Toolstation Western League Division One playing home games 20 miles
away in Taffs Well. But it took them just three seasons to regain
their Southern League status. A league they have won more than any
other club in its history. Thanks to a £500,000 grant they
installed a 3G pitch and are doing up their ground. Company secretary
John Strand said: "The club sees this development as a
springboard for the club to become a hub for football development in
Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding areas." More matches on the
pitch, more income, more people involved in the club. In 2015 they
were named as the UEFA grassroots club of the year.
not much that keeps me out of the pub on an away day, but stumbling
across a market stall packed to the rafters with Welsh cakes is
definitely one of them.
Just seven years
after being liquidated, the new Merthyr Town are fighting for
promotion to the Conference South. And while we might be sick of the
sight of each other in the FA Trophy, I will never get sick of the
sight and smell of a good old Welsh cake.