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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.

Friday 24th April 2009 ko 19.30

Welsh League Division Two

ELY RANGERS 1 (Penikett 53)

U.W.I.C. 0

Att 88

Entry £3

Programme 50p

The more senior hoppers may look at this game and wonder with my GroundhopUK connections why I wasn’t at the visit here that proceeded the “Welsh Hop-Up” a year earlier? The answer was straightforward- I was in Newport Gwent Hospital’s maternity unit! I’d even travelled down for the game with the ex-wife, but half way down we’d got word that Bethan, our friend from Magor had given birth.

So we high-tailed it to Newport, rather than Cardiff, and since my ex-wife decided she needed to be there I diverted to the hospital. We ended up getting our wires crossed, visiting when Bethan was still pushing and continued to do so for for some hours more. It’s odd, typing this that Oscar is now 11! The escapade did take a little explaining to the hoppers the next day. As an aside I ended up finding a chippy in Newport that sold Jamie Oliver’s bete noire of the time – the Turkey Twizzler. It was foul, rather than fowl!

So I had a little catching up to do and since Ely have floodlights (more on that later) I simply waited for an evening kickoff. I should, though make it crystal clear what I was watching. This is the Ely in Cardiff, not the Ely City in Cambridgeshire. This is the Ely that also has Caerau (Ely) within its boundaries which in turn shouldn’t be confused with the Caerau near Maesteg- which it is, a lot!!!

There is a catch through and that is Ely Rangers don’t actually play in Ely. They play in adjacent Wenvoe and that fact has caused no end of problems for the club. And back when club chairman Bob Fry was a fixture on Welsh Hops we used to hear all the tales….

The first was how they got planning permission for the floodlights. Remember this is a club from a reassuring working-class area, with a ground in a very well-to-do area. Needless to say the NIMBY brigade came out in force with all the usual bunkum about harming the character of the area and so on. The proposal got turned down repeatedly, so how did Bob manage to convince them? He threatened to sell the ground to some travellers for use as a caravan site, and yes the necessary permissions were granted rapidly!

The other great Ely Rangers involves Cardiff-based singer Charlotte Church in the days before she started to prefer rugby union (well Gavin Henson) . When she was in her late teens she dated “Part-time model” Steven Johnson who happened to turn out for Ely Rangers. So every so often there’d be an Ely Rangers home game and very quietly there would be a major recording artist amongst the crowd. As Bob put it,

“She was as good as gold, but if someone bothered her she’d quietly walk out and go home”

I must admit I rather felt sorry for her, in much the same way I did Olly Murs when he popped up at a game at Haverhill Borough a few years ago.

With the benefit of a few years’ hindsight this game caught two clubs meeting while heading in opposite directions. UWIC, or the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, were destined to reach the Welsh Premier as Cardiff Met while Ely Rangers found life a struggle and were relegated to Division 3 in 2016. From then on they held on to their Welsh League status by the skin of their teeth before agonizingly being relegated to the South Wales Alliance in 2019.

Now you could argue that Bob’s battles with all and sundry to get Ely Rangers their floodlights added up to nothing, the South Wales Alliance doesn’t need floodlit grounds after all. But what the club has now is the facilities to muster a come-back, and I for one hope it happens for them and soon.