Where did all this come from? by Chairman Mao
It’s been more or less 40 years of average football combined with a few highlights and disasters along the way, I’ve made friends for life and travelled all over the UK and also Europe following the mighty Martyrs but why did this club become such a passion for me? Why football and why Penydarren Park?
To answer these questions I had to turn to the source of many similar stories as my story is far from unusual in football, why did my Dad support the Martyrs? What sparked his interest in the black & white shirts?
David Evans stands on the Wank Bank for every match. If you want to get hold of him for any reason then you can guarantee for every home game he’ll be standing at the nearest barrier to Holvey’s Tea Bar. That’s where he stands for Merthyr Town. That’s his territory.
His football journey started when my Grampa, who never once mentioned football at all to me, took him to Penydarren Park to see Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday 5th December 1949 as that year’s FA Cup winners came to Merthyr to play us as the holder of the Welsh Cup, sadly all my Dad can remember of that famous match is being placed over the rickety wooden fence to see the game, he would have been six years of age though.
Pretty soon he was travelling with his school mate Don Davies, who also still stands on the Wank Bank, and sometimes Christie Templeman (who sadly passed away recently) from Cefn Coed on a corporation bus down the Brecon Road to see fifties teams including Dai James in goal, Harry Lowe, Stan Davies, Ken Tucker on the wing, Ronnie Skyme and Colin Hancock.
The old black stand was there for his early visits until it burned down later. It must have been well worth watching Merthyr at Penydarren Park in those days as crowds of 2,000+ were common, in fact anything below that figure would often spark panic in the Boardroom.
It was a different time of course where you had to go out and watch your local club to see any football at all but the arrival of Match of the Day on the BBC every Sunday afternoon widened the average fan’s horizons to finally see all the big games. You can guarantee that my dad would be in his Gran’s house on Pontycapel Road every week to watch those black & white pictures that changed how everyone followed the game.
When the sixties arrived he was working as a mechanic in a garage so he now had money in his pocket and like many of us he took the opportunity to travel away with the Martyrs, the football club providing an opportunity to escape the town if only for a day, plus of course at home, whether it was the Southern League or Welsh League there was always something to watch at Penydarren Park.
Ninian Park was also visited during the Bluebirds’ last proper stay in the First Division, like many lads from the Valleys my Dad was able to pick and choose his games in the capital to see the best teams with the best players. Public transport ironically seems to have been better over fifty years ago so a double-header of a Wales v Ireland rugby match at Cardiff Arms Park coupled with an evening visit to Ninian Park was no issue at the time. Another surprise for me was that my great-grandfather had started taking him down to Cardiff to see games.
The Sixties at Penydarren Park seems to be a forgotten decade after the glories of the fifties but there were still memorable matches to enjoy such as the FA Cup trip to Swindon Town in 1965. A special train was booked to take a thousand Merthyr fans to the game. Phil Howells was spotted on the train to the County Ground.
The club was trying to progress off the field of course and the purchase of a prefab building to provide a bar behind the black stand made visits to Penydarren Park all the more enjoyable for fans. The Rhys Tavern certainly changed the match day experience for many.
It was up to Mark Jones, manager of the Palace Cinema, to run the supporters’ club and he also arranged the match day catering for fans next to the black stand. The choices then stand the test of time now as we still love a cup of tea and a pasty on match days.
By the early seventies he had a young family and so my Dad did what a million other fathers have done over the generations and took me with him to see his club play football. Penydarren Park was, much like today, a safe place for any kid to come to play and make new friends. I loved it.
It’s as simple as that. And now my Grandson will continue the family tradition of supporting our local club. There are many more distractions to keep people away from the football these days but with a family’s investment over seven decades of football behind him it seems certain that our club will have another generation to carry on my Dad’s love of the club and more importantly the game.