Sunday 27th August 2017 ko 14.00
South Wales Alliance Division 2
CWMBACH ROYAL STARS 0
TYNTE ROVERS 1 (Richards 2)
We left Penrhiwceiber and traveled up the Cynon Valley through the narrow streets of Abercwmboi (remember them from the 2005 hop?) then up the valley passing through Abersdare. From there we crossed both the railway and the River Cynon to the pit village of Cwmbach.
The name is translated as “Little Valley” and in this case is a small valley far above Aberdare and the main part of the Cynon Valley. Like just about everywhere else here the village’s raision d’etre was coal mining and both village and football club was born out of the Llety Shenkin and Cwmbach mines.
Some hoppers like to obsess about the facilities they’ll find, deriding anything that doesn’t have a stand, or isn’t enclosed. Well while it’s fair to say that Cwmbach doesn’t have a stand, and there’s no enclosing fence, there is a large part of the ground that was built by the miners themselves.
It’s the pitch itself, leveled from what must have been a hill with quite a gradient, by volunteer labour, a chain of miners moving bucket after bucket of earth to build what you see here now. Even if it were built by JCB the ground would be an achievement, but by hand? Words fail me.
There is of course cover; that comes in the form of what the club called “The Ginger Tree”, the oak tree that sits pitchside protecting those fair-of-skin from the elements. That tree gives the club part of it’s name from the reformation term “The Royal Oak” and the Star refers to the pub that is the club’s base.
A lot of the hoppers wondered why there were quite a few young men enjoying a drink or two in the garden of the house behind the far goal. The house is owned by the club’s sponsor, and with drinking banned at pitchside, the club sold tickets to their own reserves at £6 a pop to their reserve side, with plenty of “Pop” being consumed.
I am very aware of how much Chris Berezai and I ask of our host clubs and their volunteers. It is a lot, all to make them money, but just occasionally you see just how tough it is for them. We got the ground early, so I bought a tea and watched them cope with the peas from their faggots and peas taking longer than expected to warm up. It took time, and perhaps having mothers running the thing was a blessing as they quickly found a workaround. I’ll never forget what herculean efforts these clubs put in and I hope others don’t take those efforts for granted.
Mind you, a local microbrewery Grey Trees had set up selling 6 different real ales, and I suspect that people simply reversed the epithet “Food and drink” and simply bought a beer first! Judging by the empty bottles waiting for recycling as we left, the beer proved popular!
It all rather made up for the game which sparked into life with Matthew Richards early goal, spluttered then went out. The heat didn’t help, and a player was heard to comment,
“I’m f____ed, and I’ve only warmed up!”
He obviously needed to shelter under the ginger tree! It was an afternoon to relax, enjoy a beer, and be amazed at the view of the valley below. But as we trooped back to the coaches you had to reflect on the work of those miners to create the legacy you see today.