Saturday 1st September 2012 ko 3.00pm
Gwent County League Division 3
ABERGAVENNY THURSDAYS 7 (Davies 19 36 Purvis 22 Wallace 43 Hopkins 51 Surtees 75 86) Ford sent off 89 (dangerous play)
PONTYPOOL 1 (Hatherall 87)
Att 28 (h/c)
So, when you’ve finished a gruelling 11 game tour of Welsh lower league football what do you do next? That’s right, do more of the same thing! There was also the bonus of the game being at the other end of my street! Yes, you have read that correctly, I live in Oxford, and at the end of my street is the A40. If you follow it for the small matter of 90 or so miles, you reach Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, just 6 miles over the border with England.
I’ve been puzzled by the name Abergavenny, or rather its welsh translation, “Y Fenni” for some time. Aber means “mouth of” and the River Fenni runs through the town, so why not translate it to “Aberfenni?” Its a pretty town, surrounded as it is by the beginnings of the Brecon Beacons, and the Black Mountains. In 1404 Abergavenny was declared its own nation by Ieuan ab Owain Glyndŵr, illegitimate son of Owain Glyndŵr. The arrangement lasted approximately two weeks. During the Second World War Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess was kept under escort at Maindiff Court Military Hospital near Abergavenny for treatment for insanity, after his flight to Britain in 1941.
With the possible exception of Ebbw Vale, who’ve folded altogether, no club has fallen further down the footballing pyramid after playing in the Welsh Premier League. They were inaugeral members in 1992, but the difficulties seem to have started with the Welsh FA’s insistance that a surety bond be put up guaranteeing that floodlights would be erected. The lights did go up, but the uncertainty led to the manager and most of the team leaving. In 15 years the club fell through the WPL, 3 divisions of the Welsh League, and 3 divisions of the Gwent League, ending up where they are today in its bottom division.
The Pen-y-pound stadium remains a crumbling reminder of past glories. The main stand is closed and boarded up, and I suspect the only reason its still standing is due the local rifle club using the building underneath. There’s a covered stand behind one goal which is well-maintained, as is the clubhosue at the same end. In a corner of the ground, the groundwork is taking place for a 3G training pitch, for both club and community use.
Given the club’s fall from grace, what I didn’t expect was a hive of activity. There were a host of players signing on for the season, and their ID numbers were being relayed to the referee as I jotted down the line-ups. The satellite dish was found to be broken, so a ladder, and a roll of gaffer tape found and running repairs done. The club are still proud of past achievements, I was escorted to the lounge and shown the various pictures and trophies on display. It all gave the impression of a club determined to regain lost glories.
Being the first game of the season it’s difficult to put a 7-1 scoreline in context. Certainly Pontypool were dreadful, just forward Simon Pugh caused Abergavenny any difficulty at all. And so the goals came, as with defending this poor they had to. Wayne Davies collected a brace despite clearly carrying a groin strain, he departed at half time, but he wasn’t missed as Toby Purvis, Kevin Wallace, Lee Hopkins, and Rob Surtees piled on the agony. The last few minutes though were bizarre, with firstly Jamie Hatherall chasing a long ball that the home defence chose to ignore to notch Ponty’s consolation, before Abergavenny’s Leigh Ford collected a daft red card for a terrible challenge.
Is this the start of a renaissance for this friendly little club, who knows, but this was a decent first step.