Merthyr Town and my part in its downfall by Wolvesy

The current paranoia running through the 1st floor of the Price Strand folly at Penydarren Park seems not to be concerned with how Merthyr Town gets out of its current financial crisis but more about how a very small percentage of its loyal support spends their hard-earned loot on Saturdays.

Quite why the antics of a group of lads drinking in a tiny pub would affect a business with the turnover of Merthyr Town escapes us all but I’m trying to make sense of it by challenging my own part in this dastardly plan to close a much-loved football club.

I’m not that big a drinker anymore, I’m getting old, the hangovers last forever and my mental health comes first. However on a Saturday I still enjoy a couple of scoops prior to kick off in the Park View. I probably spend more on the jukebox than in booze but that’s just the way it is now. I go to that pub because of the atmosphere, the banter and of course the music.

I used to play darts for the Football Club and during the club’s season of exile we even kept the team going by playing out of the old Railway Club in town. We returned to the Candac Suite at the same time as the Martyrs returned to the green grass of Penydarren Park. Every other Friday our team would play home games in either the Candac or the Liars Room (which had a great spongy floorboard under the oche which always annoyed away teams). The place would be empty, every week, it would just be us and the opposition rattling around the building. We played on as we wanted to represent the club and at least get some money over the bar when it was of course run by amateurs. No one else seemed bothered apart from us. We hated home games to be honest but we carried on.

In short we’ve done our time.

The renovation of the stand starts and so we move to the Park View whilst we await the new Sports Bar to be built. There are delays and so the pre-match routine at the PV starts to embed with many loyal MTFC fans. Mansel the landlord at the time continues to lay on food, shots and a free jukebox which keeps everyone happy.

Webley’s Sports Bar is opened. It’s a featureless echo-chamber of a room. No likes it and there’s nothing anymore to hold us to the place. Not even a dart board (we were promised three!). So we stay at the Park View and start to use the infamous venue to challenge the tired clich├ęs about Merthyr Tydfil. You won’t get a warmer welcome in Non-League football than at the PV. The number of away fans who enjoy the pre-match atmosphere is growing every season – taking fans away from Webley’s is the accusation but we disagree – it’s more about making a visit to Penydarren Park unmissable during any season and hence admission costs, food and of course beer bought inside the ground too.

This tale has been told many times on message boards and social media but it just won’t go away and with every jibe or attack on the Park View Martyrs our reluctance to drink pre-match in Webley’s or Romans grows.

Merthyr Town FC is acting like a cult if it thinks every fan MUST spend all of its disposable income on a match day inside Penydarren Park. What is next? A tithe on our wages direct to the club? The world has changed and loathe as I am to agree with this but fans are now customers in more ways that we care to admit. If the product isn’t attractive enough then we will go elsewhere to satisfy our match-day needs. From first whistle to last though we support the black & white shirts on the pitch and that remains the hook that makes us trek up Park Terrace. Although cob & chips with BBQ sauce also makes my day.

The Park View pub is tiny. It’s standing room only on most Saturday match-days. There’s about thirty MTFC fans in there at any one time. But the “true fans” group continue to tell us that it’s this group of daft lads who enjoy listening to music that is threatening the existence of Merthyr Town FC. The average crowd at Penydarren Park can’t be far off 500 but the remaining 94% of our fans can rest assured that they don’t have to drink any booze in a doctor’s waiting-room to keep the club afloat. It’s OK as we’ve been allocated the roles of designated drinkers.

It’s a load of bollocks really.

The current crisis will be a catalyst for change but not based on the previous social landscape of the club. It is obvious that the gamble on the folly has been lost and that club operations will have to return to the enthusiastic amateurs amongst us. Bands are being booked, Q&A events sorted and maybe, just maybe, a dart board may appear.

There is a lot of love for the Martyrs out there and we all show that affection in different ways. Whether Brecon Road or Park Terrace it’s the same thing that unites us but don’t forget that variety remains the spice of life.

Chairman Mao 

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