They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, it’d been a while since I had flirted with the old lady, would she still be there? The same old place, the same time, the same welcome? I wandered up the Park Terrace, hands pushed deep into my pockets against the winter chill, I daren’t raise my head into the harsh wind that blew down the avenue, lest the inevitable tears be mistaken for grief. I was aware of my companions, their resolute foot-steps echoed through the ages, how many times had I bound up past St. Mary’s a black & white rosette pinned for ever to my heart? Now in my mature years I feel a duty not to get emotional about arriving at Penydarren Park, seasons may change but time stands still on the corner of the Tregenna, young Davey Martin is always the first to greet me, it’s a tradition really, I’ve walked around and made a fresh run at the gates if David has been called away. Some things just have to be right. Neil the Gate takes the loot, we discuss today’s horse or maybe the latest Wales match, its part of his training to ensure that the supporter is relaxed for the ninety minutes ahead. The incline to Strikers seems steeper today, it must be the withdrawal symptoms again, its only the vision of Hylene with the 50/50 tickets that keeps me going, that and the slab of Kendal mint cake in my back pocket mmm warm and flat just like a pint in Randalls Bar. Two tickets please. Deposit them in place of the cake and say a little prayer to our patron saint; St. Lyn of the Joneses. Today is going to be my day, my number called, I think I’ll buy some paint. I’m ill at ease now, I just can’t remember what my pre-match routine entails; is it bar, food, piss, gossip, speculate? Or food, gossip, bar, speculate, piss? Perhaps I’ll stand in the toilets with a pie & a pint, sure to be a captive audience. I plump for a hot pie and a look at the club shop, or boutique if you prefer, my minced beef & onion pie is hot & tasty, in fact its spot on and brings that tear back to my eye, a football pie should always be just that bit too hot, you know that moment when you bite into it and the roof of your mouth caves in, or it starts to disintegrate in your hand and the molten filling is heading southwards, those are great moments in a man’s life. How you react is so important. I took my time. A great pie but couldn’t we bring a few Clarks pies up from Cardiff? True they may not travel well. The Club Shop has undergone a transformation, a sleek modern outlet run with ruthless efficiency by Wingnut, unfortunately for me its Hulby behind the counter, I stand back and marvel at the man’s genius for customer relations. Everyone gets what they want but sometimes they may not realise it until much, much later. I stumble outside, blinking into the sunlight of this brightening day for Merthyr Tydfil FC, nothing seems to have changed, which is a good thing. The Merthyr support retains that brand of gallows humour that strengthens its ties to the Club. Everyone laughs but deep down it’s the hope that keeps us going, if we put in the time then we will be rewarded by the good times. And today for me is one such time, I’m usually useless at remembering specific games but I think this one will live long for me. Chippenham Town home on 25th October, a 2-0 win. It was nice to be back at the Stadium of the Pearl, first a leisurely lounge in the Colin the Monk Stand then a nostalgic perch in the Lucky Seats, I felt relaxed and entertained. The final whistle was a disappointment, there was more to come. So I slip out of the stand and join the throng heading back down the street, the steps here are livelier, the Town team has delivered for the Town, credit crunch or recession, moods have been lifted. Into a town centre pub, head to the bar, at almost every step the score is requested, then details. I turn and make the most of it.