Return Journey by Chairman Mao

This relegation battle thing could go all the way to the wire, which is quite tiresome to be honest, we face the possibility of returning from whence we came. We spent about 17 years in the Southern League North, then Midland, toiling away quietly in what was even then a decent non-league ground.
Penydarren Park had the small seated stand with the infamous but smaller Wank Bank opposite for the serious Martyrs fans. The big grass bank at the Theatre End was where I spent my Saturday afternoons either watching the Southern League boys under Dougie Rosser or the reserves in the Welsh League. Opposite at the Chapel End was the open car park where Nuneaton fans once threw me over the fence behind the goals. In those days there would always be a football match going alongside the real thing. Way up at the back of the bank would be about a dozen boys playing away whilst the drama unfolded on the pitch, to be honest the boys match was often better than the main fayre.
Visitors to the Park included Oswestry Town, I recall beating them 4-0 with Ray Pratt getting all the goals (?), Oswestry have since resurfaced in the Cymru Alliance League after a few years out of the game. Other clubs to have come and gone; Enderby Town (later Leicester United), Everwarm (later Bridgend Town), Witney Town, AP Leamington and Wellingborough. Away matches were never that far to travel, derby matches were at Jenner Park and Coychurch Road. Playing Newport County in a league game was a dream especially during their Aldridge/Tynan era, little did I know that they would join us and not vice versa.
What can I remember of those away matches? Well, the Fred's always seemed to have a bus from the Catholic Church, alcohol was allowed and Merthyr had one of the best away supports in non-league football. Rushden were simply "the Town" Irthlingborough Diamonds still existed. Jenner Park's main stand was held together by blackberry bushes, their terraces seemed to be railway sleepers. The best chip shop in the world was down the street from Coychurch Road. Gloucester played at Horton Road with one of the worst designed stands ever, you had to be six inches tall to stand on the last step of the terraces. Fog at Buckingham. Snow at Dudley Town. Getting lost every year on the way to Moor Green, you could see the floodlights only never to arrive. The referee getting kicked walking off at Oldbury. The birth of the M5 Firm at Sutton Coldfield. The massive fish from the chip shop outside of Grantham's old ground. Playing on the swings at Mile Oak Rovers. Those strange box like terraces at Wellingborough. Whatever happened to Coventry Sporting? Nightmare ground and trip but we always seemed to beat them. Sleeping in a service station on the way back from Shepshed Charterhouse. Losing 6-1 at home to Enfield, then being, chased all over town by the police but I still don't know why. The infamous matches at Bridgnorth Town, my moment of pride when I guided the supporters bus to their ground for the first match, sundry bans from the second, celebrations when Brian Thomas scored a late equaliser the following season.
In those days our reserves played in the Welsh League, we'd get about 100 for those games. At half-time in the Jubilee Club, the score from away would be met with sufferance by my elders. We beat Caerau 9-0 once, making up for the fact that I missed the 9-0 win over Corby Town. My first moment of joy was winning the Brains Cup at Ton Pentre, beating Sully 2-1, we were the underdogs. leuan Evans giving the Cup to the travelling youngsters from Merthyr, we set off on our own lap of honour around the Rhondda ground. Lyn Jones was to do the same after that Thursday night in May '87.
It was during these days that the majority of us became used to the routine of going to Penydarren Park no matter what the opposition. Then John Reddy and Lyn Jones came together and we shot out of the basement like a meteor, grabbing the headlines with a Welsh Cup win, two promotions and a trip to Italy (and Malta). So what if we go down? We've done it before, we can do it again!

Chairman Mao


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