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Sunday 25th August 2019 ko 18.00

Gwent Premier League Premier Division

WATTSVILLE 2 (Roch 29p McColl 75)

PILL YMCA 2 (Simmons 25p 37)

Att 243

Entry £3

Programme £1

“Time is going on
Time is leaving me
I got the Wattsville blues
I got the Wattsville blues now baby

But I still love the smile on your face
But I still love the sense of this place
I’m so happy I know I can never leave
Even though my, my brain it … bleeds”

Nicky Wire 2001

One way or another this hop seemed to see quite a bit of the Sirhowy valley. We ended up passing through Pontllanfraith and Ynysddu places that had rather scarred my existance for the days leading up to the event! One thing was certain, if things has turned put exactly how we’d planned them then we’d have travelled a lot less miles that day!

The village used to service the Nine Mile Point Colliery in nearby Cwnfelinfach. The mine closed in 1964, and the village was later immortalised by former resident Nicky Wire in the Manic Street Preachers’ song “Wattsville Blues”

We arrived in typically Welsh Hop fashion with Steve dropping the coach party off in the main thoroughfare knowing the side streets were far too narrow to navigate such a large vehicle through down to the football ground by the riverside. It meant we formed part of a throng that included both locals and independent hoppers that seemed to flow downhill using every access point to the field.

It gave Wattsville a problem, you simply couldn’t put a gateman on every access point. It meant that it was easy enough to avoid paying if you so desired, and while I can understand why a local not knowing about the compromise that is these events, I watched a couple of hoppers do it too. Do they not realise that not spending money ends a club’s incentive to host? Or is the ability to save 3 quid really the all-encompassing requirement? Either way, my card is marked, and if a hopper really objects to paying to watch a club that’s put themselves out for their benefit, then I’d rather they didn’t come.

You could see why Wattsville had been using Pontllanfraith 3G for home games until Caerphilly Council’s proposed closure of the facility saw them move back here. It gave us a game and despite the short notice the league gave them they did a fine job of hosting for us. But the stars of the evening weren’t really attached to the club!

Two young girls decided they’d sell cups of home-made lemonade, so they set up a fold-up table at one corner of the pitch. Now they’d certainly got a good market, and at the end of a hot day they certainly had a good product. They sold out quickly, rustled up more, and sold that too. Perhaps more importantly, they put a smile on the faces on everyone they met.

But for tired legs simply placing yourself pitchside with the lines of miners’ terraced cottages in the background, and the hills beyond was reason enough to me to be there. It’s why even after 15 years of groundhopping if I lack inspiration of where to head next, then the default position is still head to the valleys. I’m not sure my inspiration is at all akin to what Nicky Wire found here, but like him I found more than just a football match here.

That said, what occurred on the pitch was well worth watching. Pill YMCA have left the Newport YMCA ground we visited last year and have returned to their old ground in Pill. Certainly the upheaval hasn’t seem to have affected to any great extent, and led though much of this game. They’ll know doubt view Wattsville’s late equaliser as undeserved but it would have been difficult to begrudge our hosts any reward from this game.

Despite my tiredness I greatly enjoyed their company and if there’s any good that’s come out of the proposed closure of Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre its that Wattsville are back home and we got the chance to have them host a hop game. I hope they enjoyed the experience as much as I did.