Saturday 28th May 2011 ko 14.30
Welsh League Division Two
TREHARRIS ATHLETIC WESTERN 2 (Harris 54 Glasey 65)
DINAS POWYS 1 (Jones 74)
Entry & Programme £3
I remember my first glimpse of the Welsh Valleys, as the A470 crept north past Merthyr Tydfil, heading north away from Cardiff. Other than the signs in both Welsh and English, the scenery whilst beautiful, Castell Coch is here after all, the scene only really changes when you head into the valleys. You’re heading into coal mining territory here, and the streets narrow, the hills get steeper and the lines of terraced cottages stretch as far as the eye can see. The book and film, “How Green Was My Valley,” was based on here.
In the midst of all this is Treharris, and even its name is hewn from the pit, the Harris is from the FW Harris Navigation Steam Coal Company, who sank the mine here in 1872. The Deep Navigation shafts were the deepest at the time in South Wales. With some shafts sunk to a depth of 760 yards, the colliery supplied coal to the likes of Cunard to power the transatlantic liners including the Titanic. With the good times, the town’s football team prospered, entering the English Western League, winning the competition in 1910. From there they entered the stronger Southern League but found the competition too tough, lasting only 4 years.
Times change, the pit closed in 1991, and the club’s on field performances are a far cry from their pomp. The club now ply their trade in the Welsh League, a feeder in South Wales to the national top flight Welsh Premier League, and when I saw them they needed a win to guarantee survival in that league’s second tier.
More experienced hoppers will often talk about some Welsh grounds in hushed tones, the valleys don’t half help, but I’ve yet to find anyone who’s visited The Athletic Ground, on Commercial Terrace that didn’t immediately fall in love with the place. There’s so much to consider, from the overgrown terraces where hundreds would have watched the likes of Southend United do battle. There’s the stand, clearly built from the fabric of the mine, rails and metal cladding. But I suspect it’s the balcony that most will remember the place for. Yes I know it says that it shouldn’t be used for viewing the game, but let’s face it, when the view from it is this good, why stop the practice?
With flat land at a real premium here there are only two sides from which to view play, and despite a net on the far side, the ball disappeared into the town on a fairly regular basis. And it’s that lack of space that could be a real problem for the club. You see, the pitch is too narrow for Welsh League regulations, the ground is allowed on “Grandfather Rights,” but if the club were to ever leave the league they could not be promoted back playing here.
At this game, that wasn’t an issue, the club won and maintained their Division Two status, but they weren’t so fortunate a year later, and finished 12th and bottom to find themselves in the lowest tier of the Welsh League, Division Three. The relegation hasn’t helped them find a more fitting level either, they finished 15th out of 16 in 2013, and 16th out of 19 this last season. That’s just one place above the probable drop-zone, a zone expanded this season after the late reprieves for Barry, Llanelli and Bettws as the season started.
I wish Treharris all the best, and I hope they improve enough to once again become a force in the Welsh League, their loss would make that league all the poorer for their demotion. That said, with my GroundhopUK hat on, we have history with the South Wales Amateur League, and they’re merging with the South Wales Senior League to form the South Wales Alliance in 2015-16. That will give us a whole bunch of new clubs we can hop at a later date; we’ve got accommodation and an excellent coach company, and I bet the Otley Arms in Trefforest misses us too!
But whenever we do go back, and if we do, I really hope the itinerary doesn’t include Treharris.