Phil Howells writes ...


The ramblings of former journalist, former civil servant and playboy PHIL HOWELLS, who wishes to remain anonymous.

ANOTHER Day In Paradise or Dead And Gone? The former a hit for Phil Collins (did anybody like him?) and the latter an entrant in the US Billboard charts before its official release by someone called TI (I never heard of it or him either).

Well, those ditties could sum up Merthyr Tydfil Football Club over the 20 years since Dial M For Merthyr first came into the world, brash and informative, full of forthright opinions and criticisms but never libellous ( I hope).

Martyrs fans were always looking to a glorious future although the vision seemed more than just rose-tinted but this year the club could have been Dead and Gone!

As it is, we face a long battle to achieve security but there is a definite pulse there. We hope that progress can be made just as Dial M matured over the years and became a must buy to add to all the other costs of supporting our beloved club.

Football culture has absorbed music, fashion and drink in recent years just as a beer mat has soaked up a spilt pint of Allbright. When I took my first footsteps into the hallowed Penydarren Park , there was no Jubilee Club, Strikers, Candac Suite or even the Rhys Tavern. Post-match saw me heading for a local cafe for a sandwich and a cup of coffee before taking in the latest cinematographic offering at The Castle Cinema or Theatre Royal. Well, I was under 18 at the time!

Pop music was just being born (on easily breakable 78 rpm records) with Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jackie Wilson, Bobby Darin and Conway Twitty (the latter memorably mentioned by Mrs Warboys in a One Foot In The Grave episode). These artistes provided an antidote to such earlier offerings as How Much Is That Doggie In The Window by
Patti Page and Cry by Johnny Ray, who was deaf! This was before Def Leppard began to prowl!

You can still visit some non-league football grounds where they churn out the 1960s hits for pre-match entertainment as they have been doing since the 1960s.

At PP the disc jockey (are they still called that?) usually moved with the times. And at Strikers or the Candac Suite, in an attempt to still try and be trendy (do they use that word now?) I have enthused over such groups as The Killers (led by Mormon Brandon Flowers) when really I would be looking for Cortzez The Killer (nothing to do with Cortez Belle) by Neil Young.

In fairness, a female friend did select a Bob Dylan track for me in Strikers a few years ago. Bob is my hero! Some folk care about my musical tastes!

During Dial M's journey through life, the football trips have also kept pace with the changing music scene. When I was travelling on the team bus and writing the match reports for the Echo etc, in Lyn Jones' days, Andy Beattie would enthuse about his favourite blues singers. I don't think the fans have often been heard singing on trips although Wolvesy and Co seemed to be fond of The Fields of Athenry.

It's a classic Irish song. I was with my brothers a few years ago to see The Dubliners (one of many times) in Brecon. Chatting to Paddy Reilly (vocalist on Fields) and Eamonn Campbell before and after the show, we bought them a round or two. Sadly, before they could reciprocate, they had to return to their hotel! Four Green Fields or parched concert-goers?

Having been banned from the youth club, as being over age, even I have had to be aware of the disappearing years and I think my Saturday nights trawling the town hotspots have gone. I am usually to be found in a quieter establishment and back to drinking pints instead of all those bottled drinks which began to be in vogue a while back which meant you spent more money but drank less as far as volume was concerned.

All the fans loved Strikers so much that by about 7.30pm on a match day, dozens of us would depart for Town! Zone or Chambers, (whatever it was called) was first on the list because of the Happy Hour when folk would leave the bar clutching as many bottles of Bud as they could carry! You had to move around to avoid getting your feet stuck to the floor.

The Vulcan, with the latest House, Garage, Old School, New Wave or whatever the music was, would be on the schedule as well as such hostelries as Pitmans (Miners' Arms), where you would get your hand stamped as you went in, The Belle Vue, where they have always had a good jukebox, and Castle Hotel, where sometimes Cakey would be playing the music.

Then afterwards any ladies with us would demand that we hailed a taxi to travel the couple of hundred yards to The Three Horseshoes. We were never allowed to walk!

The bolder folk would end up in Koolers (at times known as Einsteins or The Kirkhouse as I think it is now titled again).

Then a dash for taxis home and dreams of the next game at PP, another day in paradise.

In fact, for several seasons the football was of secondary importance on a Saturday. Some supporters would not even bother to watch the game but would arrive in Strikers as The League of Wales results started to flash up on BBC Wales.

The gang bound for town has shrunk in numbers, the pubs have changed , Bryan Adams has been toppled off the top of the charts, but Dial M For Merthyr is still a part of Merthyr's football culture.

Whatever happened to Don't Call Me Butt?..........


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