Abertawe, AFC Porth, Football, groundhopping, Liberty Stadium, Mayhill, Non League, Pri Deri Park, Swansea, Swansea City, Vetch Field, Wales, West End
Saturday 26th May 2018 ko 14.30
Welsh League Division 2
WEST END 1 (Hughes 46)
AFC PORTH 1 (Adshead 51)
Entry & Programme £6
It was the day that I decided to finish off Swansea, well in Welsh League terms anyway. When the Welsh Spring Hop diverted to Swansea City’s training ground at Landore it made the fact I’d never visited West End’s home at Pri Deri Park seem rather glaring. To make things worse, when Robyn and I visited the Liberty Stadium we ended up parking near to Pri Deri Park, in the Mayhill district of Swansea.
For this day Robyn’s nephew Kai was in tow, so I decided to take him for lunch at Rossi’s. Now if you’ve ever been to the Liberty Stadium I guarantee you’ve spotted this place, it’s the Fish & Chip Shop/Cafe opposite the ground with a long queue of Swans fans on matchday! But much as we enjoyed our lunches, this wasn’t a trip to Swansea City even if that club did succeed in making a couple of appearances later on in the day!
It’s fair to say Mayhill is a working class area, but as is usual when money is scarce the welcome was effusive. If the previous week’s trip to Ammanford was all about two clubs exploring the realities of what life could be like following promotion out of Division Two, those thoughts were irrelevant in this encounter.
West End were scrapping for every point they could muster in a relegation dogfight that ultimately saw them survive- just. That couldn’t be said about AFC Porth, destined to finish rock bottom not matter what the result. They’re a club that scholars of the Welsh Hop will remember with fondness. If we ever needed a club to be the away club at an odd kick-off we knew AFC Porth would never let us down.
The hop eventually switched to the South Wales Amateur League so when AFC Porth spent one season in the SWAL we made a beeline to Dinas Park, and they were fine hosts. Mind you, they’d seen enough of GroundhopUK to have learned all the tricks of the trade! Sadly since we visited the iconic stand at Dinas Park has been truncated.
I was intrigued by West End’s kit. I’m sure other clubs have had their shirts sponsored by a professional club’s players, and all credit to Jazz Richards and Jojo Shelvey for their kind gesture, even if it does mean that a Swansea-based side has a Cardiff City player as sponsor. I suppose West End do play in blue…..
It would be so easy to write the game off as a meaningless kickabout but South Wales football is never like that. I’ve seen good, bad and indifferent games here (and elsewhere) but the commitment was total, and AFC Porth looked a far better side than a side that finished bottom by 10 points. Hopefully they’ll regroup quickly in Division 3.
West End have had their own problems, with the usual ills of trying to run a non-league club- low crowds and lack of finance. West End do something well though, they place themselves back in the middle of their community, and in the end that usually allows clubs a this level to find their place.
It was a highly satisfying visit, but young Kai had asked me what Swansea City’s old ground was like so it was only right and proper we paid the site a visit!
Swansea Town, City since 1969, played at the Vetch Field from 1912 to 2005. The ground was named after the vegetable “Vetches” that grew there, so it is appropriate that part of the site is now allotments. Given that the allotments are in part over what used to be the infamous away end toilets, I’ve little doubt that the vegetables grow extremely well!
You can look up the statistics and superlatives, but my memories of the place as a visiting Oxford United fan was that it was tight, atmospheric and the loos were dark, damp and the smells were biblical. It was as far removed from the clean lines of the Liberty Stadium as is possible. I stood near where the circle of grass that marks where the centre spot once was marked and missed the place as much as anyone.
Hot dogs fed through the holes in the cage fence in the away end, they don’t make grounds like that anymore. I drove Kai back to Bristol feeling fortunate that I’d seen places like the Vetch, and am able to record grounds like Pri Deri Park, while they’re still here.