With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.
Saturday 25th August 2007 ko 18.45
South Wales Amateur League Division Two
BLAENRHONDDA 0 Thomas (gk) sent off 30 (violent conduct)
TON & GELLI BOYS & GIRLS CLUB 2 (R. Jones 63,81)
Every so often someone asks me for some suggestions as to some wonderful football grounds in South Wales. I think most would start with Garw and the sadly now-demolished Treharris and I’d add the likes of Penrhiwfer and Ynyshir Albions too, and that is far from being an exhaustive list. I’d also point out that all but Treharris have been on Welsh Hops, and so was my visit to the another ground that really ought to be on any self-respecting groundhopper’s bucket list- Blaenrhondda Park.
The village lies at the top of the Rhondda Fawr valley and was built to service two collieries the North Dunraven and the Fernhill, the latter being the more successful closing in 1978. Such was the power of “King Coal” that the Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway felt it was worth their while digging the nearly two mile Rhondda tunnel near here. The railway has long gone, and the tunnel is sealed at both ends, but there are moves afoot to turn it into a cycle path, it would be quite an experience walking through!
We arrived at Blaenrhondda as the final game of the Welsh leg of the 2007 Welsh/ Hellenic Hop. Can you name the clubs we visited that day? Answers after the photos. Now any hop organiser will always be tempted to put the best ground last, and I always did enjoy the Welsh leg more than the Hellenic, but as we crossed over the bridge I became very aware that I was visiting somewhere special, if only for the fact that even the senior hoppers stopped and stared.
Blaenrhondda have a long and storied relationship with the Welsh League, but as coal declined, so did the fortunes of the club, and just like Garw the decline was rapid, and painful. From being Welsh League champions in 1991, the club were relegated 3 times in 14 years, and were relegated into the South Wales Amateur League in 2005. Worse was to follow, as they fell through the then 2 divisions of the Amateur League and spent from 2014-2017 in the Rhondda & District League. Thankfully the league was won in 2017 and since then they’ve won the South Wales Alliance’s Divisions 2 and 1 in consecutive seasons. They now ply their trade in the SWAL’s Premier Division, just one promotion from a return to the Welsh League.
We caught them on a bad day (on the pitch anyway) on a balmy August evening. The game attracted far more than the hoppers. Two PCSO’s decided their presence was required, but it didn’t stop a linesman from being briefly debagged! You could sense Blaenrhondda’s travails and losing your goalkeeper to a red card in 30 minutes really didn’t help their cause. They finished that season 5th, so in the end at least they got a little respite.
I will return to Blaenrhondda, I do want to get a shot of the ground from on top of one of the hills. But notwithstanding my ambitions, this isn’t a place to only visit once.
The clubs were, Llangynwyd Rangers, Brynna and Gilfach Goch Athletic.