Saturday 7th September 2019 ko 14.30
Welsh League Division One
BRIDGEND STREET 4 (White 23 62 Fowler 40 65p)
PONTARDAWE TOWN 2 (Silcox 42 Aylward 50)
The trip from Caerau Ely to Tremorfa surprised me. A drive through the middle of a capital city isn’t meant to be this easy, I parked up at my second game less than 20 minutes after I’d left the first!
Perhaps that first paragraph has given the game away, Bridgend Street are from Cardiff, not from Bridgend, and started life as a church mission club in Bridgend Street in the city to help alleviate poverty in Splott, then one of Cardiff’s most deprived areas. Bridgend Street, and the rest of the slums in Splott have long since been cleared but the name and the motto “Deeds not words” live on in the football club who now play behind the Willows High School in Tremorfa.
Unquestionably the stand-out feature in the background is the Celsa Steel Works, a small remaining part of a steel industry that once dominated this part of Cardiff, and now seems to be in terminal decline. I walked over to the ground, expecting very little, school playing fields don’t tend to be wonderful places to watch a game.
But if I’d found something lacking in Ely I found everything I’d been missing here. It helped that Cardiff City fan and groundhopper Steve Mounter was there supporting one of his local sides; its always good to see him and chew the fat. But as jaded as I’d felt, that disappeared the second I set foot in the clubhouse.
“You want a teamsheet? Let me write you one out.” How many clubs will do that for you? But even without that there was a lovely atmosphere about the place. I was joking with Steve about the roughest place I’d ever watched football (without question Butetown) but a Bridgend Street official overheard me and commented, “Yes, it is a bit RAF here, but there’s a real community here”
He was of course completely correct about the sense of community but RAF (Rough As f…) ? The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. And the ground is far better than you’d expect too, who couldn’t love that stand?
I’ve always got on well with the good folk at Pontardawe and it was good to hear that Parc Ynysderw is now fully plumbed in, allowing, finally, the club to progress after years of stalled progress. They contributed fully to a game that emphasised why if I’m ever stuck for where to go to football my default position is still to head to South Wales.
It was skilful, feisty, committed and exciting, and all in equal measure. Bridgend Street won deservedly despite a bout of pushing and shoving late on, but as I dashed back to the car headed back to Bristol for a surprise party (Happy 40th Kelly!!) it was lovely to drive past districts of Cardiff, then South Wales that contained so many of those wonderful clubs that made me fall in love with the place all those years ago. Perhaps it goes without saying but you can add Bridgend Street to that list.