Saturday 4th May 2019 ko 14.30
South Wales Alliance Premier Division
MERTHYR SAINTS 5 (James 4 30 55 75 Randall 65)
GRANGE ALBION 2 (Howard 8og Jeremy 78)
I know what you’re thinking, didn’t I visit this one with GroundhopUK? Merthyr Saints have the distinction of being the very first club visited on the very first GroundhopUK hop in August 2002, although the organisation was Chris Berezai then living in Swansea, and styled “The Welsh Groundhop.” Merthyr Saints lost to Bridgend Town in front of 164, but I wasn’t there, my first Welsh Hop was 3 years later, and it wasn’t until 2009 when I became Chris’s deputy. Doesn’t time fly?
The roots of the club lie in Hoover’s works in Pentrebach near Merthyr Tydfil, and as Hoover Sports the works team plied its trade in the South Wales Amateur League. The factory was famous for being where Clive Sinclair’s infamous C5 car was produced under licence here with Hoover eventually suing Sinclair for £1.5 million of debt with the C5 failed to sell. When Hoover was bought out by Candy, and the parent company sold the works ground the club groundshared at Merthyr Tydfil with the factory finally closing in 2009.
At Penydarren Park, the club won the SWAL for the third time, and won promotion to the Welsh League thereby providing the quirk of simultaneous English and Welsh pyramid football being played on the same ground. However by 2000 Hoover Sports lacked either support from Candy, and with the club losing money playing at a ground larger than their needs they opted to rebrand themselves and move north of Merthyr, to Pant, just the other side of the A465 “Heads of the Valleys Road,” to another former works ground.
ICI had a plant in nearby Dowlais used mainly for the production of ammonia for use in armaments – presumably that’s where the “rifle” name comes from. The plant closed in 1963, and its sports facility ended up being taken on by the local council. It took £500,000 to improve the place for Merthyr Saints to able to move in. These days the ground does look a little careworn but the Polish graffiti is fascinating!
The club were relegated from the Welsh League in 2009, and have settled back into the Amateur, now Alliance League. I was fortunate enough to be able to watch this game with Richard Rundle curator of the excellent Football Club History Database website which seems supply much of the data for so many blogs without the authors ever crediting Richard for his invaluable work.
The game was typical end of season fayre, with two sides with little or nothing to play for still slugging it out with total commitment, that’s the way in the Valleys. James’ four goals won it for the Saints but it was as much a game decided by errors as it was by any one individual performance.
In the final analysis it was good to see two clubs I have time for, Grange were fine hosts for us back in 2016, simply enjoy a competitive game of football. And when you think about it, what more do you need?