Barry Town, Bridgend Town, Bryntirion Athletic, Coychurch Road, groundhopping, Non League, Old Grounds, Pen Y Bont, Wales, welsh football
Friday 6th January 2006 ko 19.30
Welsh League Division One
BRIDGEND TOWN 0
BARRY TOWN 1 (Reddy)
My abiding memory of this game was arriving at Coychurch Road far too early, around 6pm as I didn’t know what time this game was to kick-off at. I knew nothing back then of course Coychurch Road had staged Southern League football, and Bridgend’s stint in English football had only ended in 1983, when the club had opted back into Welsh football.
The night’s visitors had been one of the “Irate Eight” who on the formation of the League of Wales in 1992 had wanted to remain in the English game. They’d played one season as Barri AFC playing out of Worcester City before returning to the Welsh game a season later. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t know what time kick-off time was either…
At times ignorance really can be bliss, I had no idea this was to be Bridgend Town’s last season at Coychurch Road. My thinking at the time was simply to clock up as many grounds as I could as quickly as possible and a Friday night game is usually manna from heaven to a groundhopper.
But whatever your view of the loss of Coychurch Road it did leave the club with a large wadge of cash courtesy of the supermarket that eventually built on the site. There seemed no end of possibilities for where they could build and with the money to do so we all expected something interesting. What noone expected was a move to Porthcawl.
Yes, Porthcawl’s Locks Lane ground, and to be exact the pitch the other side of the clubhouse, mainly due to the fact that the Welsh League prohibited ground-sharing. These days the “Bridgend” pitch is used by Porthcawl Town. Bridgend moved to the Tyn-y-Wern Fields at the University of Glamorgan in Treforest. It took the club some 20 miles away from Bridgend to a ground that was no more than a pitch. They bought two “Arena” stands to create a suitable ground but it looked temporary and was.
There were plans afoot for a move back home. One was for a 2,000 capacity stadium at Island Farm and there were also plans were put forward for a move to the derelict Waterton Cross stadium that was once home to the South Wales Police Rugby Club. Despite that in 2009 Bridgend Town moved once again. These days the university playing fields are used by Pontypridd Town.
This time the club moved back home to Bridgend and at arguably the best ground the club ever played at. They signed a 99-year lease to play at Bridgend Ravens RUFC‘s Brewery Field. The 8,000 capacity ground dated from 1920 and gave the club facilities fit for the Welsh Premier. I went towards the end of their stay and as magnificent as the ground was the problem was obvious, there were too few people watching, and too few people working with the club on matchday to make it work. Nevertheless the club dropped a real bombshell in 2013.
They opted to merge with fellow Welsh League outfit Bryntirion Athletic (also based in Bridgend) and the new club, Pen-y-Bont- the Welsh name for Bridgend have played at Bryntirion Park ever since. The Coychurch Road funds have paid for a slew of ground improvements including a 3G pitch and the club now plays in the Welsh Premier. But the Welsh Football fan in me does mourn the loss of a famous name in Welsh football. Clubs lose their grounds, often in far worse circumstances than Bridgend Town’s and they manage to survive and rebuild- the case of Leamington FC being a wonderful example. What made Bridgend Town any different?
As it is I look back at these less than ideal photos (taken on a old Sony Ericsson mobile phone!) and regret both the loss of both a ground, and an identity. It all feels so unnecessary.
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