Ground: Aberaman Park
Date of visit: Saturday 20th January 2018
Fixture: Aberdare Town v Dinas Powys
Welsh Football League Division Two
Admission: £5 (includes programme)
Oh the Welsh winter! Another weekend where games were washed out across Wales. It’s always a bit tense on a Saturday morning when the weather has been poor, checking social media and the Welsh League site regularly to stay up to date with what is being called off and where.
On a couple of occasions I’ve had a game planned, for it to be called off, then to head somewhere different. In the past, the postponements have been announced early, allowing a more leisurely search for an alternative. This week was my first encounter with a postponement when I was on my way to a game.
It is probably a sign of my own inexperience that I decided to go ahead with a game that was a 40 minute drive from home on a weekend when there was obviously going to be postponements, especially on grass pitches. Anyway I set off shortly before 1pm for Glenhafod Park – the home of Goytre United – and, as my good fortune would have it, I was using my phone as a SatNav so caught a glimpse of a Twitter notification. I pulled over and, as I dreaded, read the message confirming the game at Glanhafod Park was off.
Fortunately I hadn’t got very far (less than 10 minutes in the car). So here was a first for me: finding an alternative game on the road. This is probably a familiar problem for seasoned groundhoppers of lower league football and I will certainly learn from the experience (always have a backup in advance and phone the club before you set off). I was disappointed the Goytre United-Llanelli Town was off, but I can’t deny the scenario didn’t have a tinge of excitement about it. Would I be able to find a game I could get to in time for kick-off?
It was a case of jumping onto the Welsh League website to refresh my memory of the fixtures that weren’t postponed. Next, eliminating games that were not within driving distance of where I was; lastly, working out which games would be played on 3G as they would certainly be on. None of the 3G appealed to me, but I noticed Aberdare Town were at home.
I wasn’t sure whether their ground Aberaman Park was grass or 3G but they did finish a game a few weeks ago in a blizzard, so a bit of a downpour (I presumed) shouldn’t be a problem. Additionally, it was only 20 minutes from where I was parked, and a ground I hadn’t yet visited.
All set, I flew up the A470 towards the Cynon Valley. Fortunately, the game was on.
Aberdare Town FC trace their heritage back to the 1890s with the formation of two neighbouring clubs: Aberdare Athletic and Aberaman Athletic.
Early on it was the Aberdare club that was most successful, lifting a trio of Welsh League titles between 1907 and 1912; as well reaching successive Welsh Cup finals in 1904 and 1905 (they lost both). For their part Aberaman were runners up in the 1903 Welsh Cup.
The heyday for the football in the Cynon Valley was the 1920s when Aberdare Athletic spent six years as a Football League club between 1921 and 1927. Aberdare and Aberaman Athletic merged in 1926, although the name Aberdare Athletic was retained in the English Football League, while the side fielded in the Welsh League took the name Aberdare and Aberaman Athletic.
After finishing bottom of Division Three (South) in 1927 the merged club failed to obtain re-election and were relegated, joining the Southern League as Aberdare and Aberaman Athletic. The co-existence only last another year, Aberaman Athletic deciding to go their own way and join the Welsh League. The Aberdare branch folded.
There was a reformation of a merged Aberdare & Aberaman club shortly after the Second World War, but this was short-lived and from 1947 the present day club’s heritage is that of the Aberaman Athletic club. They have played in Welsh football ever since, their biggest success coming in 2009 when they won the Welsh League.
In 2012 the club changed its name to its current guise: Aberdare Town FC.
Given the club heritage, and as the ground name would suggest, Aberaman Park – the home of Aberdare Town FC – isn’t located in the town of Aberdare, but a couple of miles down the valley on the loose border between the communities of Aberaman and Abercwmboi.
The ground of the original Aberdare football club was the Athletics Stadium or Ynys Park. This no longer exists, but the present day sports complex, The Ynys, is located on the same site at the southern end of the town centre.
Aberaman Park is easily accessed one mile or so off the Cynon Valley’s main trunk road – the A4059 – at Cwmbach (about 10 minutes off the A470 Abercynon/Quakers Yard roundabout). It’s a 20 minute drive from Pontypridd, probably around 35-40 minutes from Cardiff. The nearest train stations are Fernhill and Cwmbach (the Aberdare line out of Cardiff or Pontypridd).
Aberaman Park boasts an interesting feature with its elevated grandstand. The pitch is well below the level of the road, the grandstand rests on top of an embankment above it. When you walk through the turnstile/gate and into the back of the grandstand it gives a really interesting perspective. I’m used to watching games at pitch level or from a marginally elevated stand, but the vantage point from the Aberaman Park grandstand (officially the ‘Brian Fear Stand’) gives a nice ‘tactical cam’ view of the whole pitch (minus a small section obscured by the dugouts). It really adds to the uniqueness and character of the ground.
The grandiosity of this feature dominates Aberaman Park and, unfortunately, there is little else to describe. There is a nice enough view towards the hills north of the ground, but nothing quite as jaw-dropping as you find at the Rhondda grounds. I have no doubt the view from the northern side of the ground, looking back at the grandstand, is the preferred view for the keen photographer, but I didn’t venture around that far.
In terms of the impending implementation of the FAW’s tier 2 ground regulations, Aberaman Park appears to hit the essential criteria. I didn’t go through the tedious task of counting every seat, but the club’s website states there are 250 seats. There is hardstanding at pitch level, accessed by taking concrete steps down from the grandstand, as well as PA system. Changing rooms are located next to the club house at the back of the grandstand, where I presume you also find the public toilets.
The pitch is grass, which wasn’t in the best of conditions, but considering we’re well into what has been a miserably wet winter this is no surprise. I have seen pictures from, presumably, milder times and it appears they have had splendid looking pitches in the past.
The Match Experience
Amenities: My wife is from the Lake District so we tend to spend our Christmas holiday up there. This year the local non-league team, Kendal Town, were at home on Boxing Day. I went along and I was struck at the football-ground feel of their stadium: a mixture of covered bleachers and seating, concrete terracing, grassy areas and hardstanding. What they also boasted was an elevated clubhouse from where you could watch the football. This is an English pyramid tier 8 club.
Given the playing standard was probably in line with tier 3 or 4 in Wales, it shows where the Welsh League needs to catch up in terms of the facilities they can offer spectators. Even though I am knew to the Welsh League, I have watched a lot of it this season and I believe, in general, the ground facilities do not do justice to the quality of football that is played. In that sense, maybe the FAW’s ground regulations for tier 2 and above is a step towards that.
The point I am getting around to making is that while some of the Welsh League grounds I have visited this season don’t provide the facilities their clubs deserve, no-one can make that accusation of Aberaman Park.
There is a clubhouse at the back of the grandstand where you can have a pint and not miss a second of the action. There’s also a fantastic tuck shop in the grandstand, serving the usual tea and coffee (£1), as well as an array of hot snacks including the intimidating sounding ‘4-4-2’ (£6.50) – a gut-bursting monster of a sandwich containing 4 burgers, 4 bacon and 2 eggs (if memory serves me well). The hot drinks are served in real mugs and I was even asked if the tea was strong enough. Superb!
There is a car park on two levels, which from my very quick glance I would say can hold approximately 50 cars (give or take either way). The lower level main car park is accessed through the main gates off the road. I’m not sure about the upper level. There are currently roadworks at the location on the B4275 and it wasn’t immediately obvious to me how you reach the upper car park. The car park was full by the time I arrived, but there are some residential streets about a quarter of a mile down towards Mountain Ash that provide plenty of unrestricted parking space.
For further and more exhaustive information the club’s website is one of the best I have seen in the league, it’s your best point of first contact: http://www.aberdaretownfc.co.uk
Programme: Aberdare Town FC’s Media Officer Ian Pearce told me the programme was a ‘labour of love’ and this shines through (Ian used to produce the programme for Frome in the Southern League). From my experience the range of quality in Welsh League programmes is very wide, but Aberdare’s is without a doubt one of the better ones I have seen.
I’m not overly concerned with print quality, I’d rather have something to read inside, about the club history, about the players, something that gives me some context and understanding of the team I am watching, the place I am visiting. I don’t necessarily want pages upon pages of adverts on glossy paper with little in the in-between spaces (although I appreciate the necessity of clubs placing adverts in programmes).
The Town programme boasts features like commentaries on from both the first team manager and the club chairman, that in this case were very informative in terms of where Aberdare Town are as a club right now. There is a fantastic club history piece. I knew that Aberdare once had a club in the English Football League, but I didn’t realise where the historical and modern club connected. There are an abundance of stats which give a real sense of the story of the club’s season; features on the reserves and youth teams, which is good to see as a really emphasizes that community club ethos. In particular I liked the small feature on Welsh Football news.
Overall, it’s a great programme which is given on admission. It’s produced with a great deal of professionalism, is well-designed and, above all else, has the look and feel of someone’s pride and joy; instead of being something thrown together because it’s a requirement of being in the Welsh League to produce a programme.
Fans: I didn’t do a headcount on this occasion, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say there were around 50 people sat in the grandstand, plus however many were in the clubhouse. A good mix in the crowd of older and younger people and it’s always nice to see a few under 16s at a Welsh League ground.
A good-spirited crowd, passionate and really engaged in the team. It is this welcoming, non-threatening experience that is one of the most enjoyable features of the Welsh League. I have become tired and despaired by some of the nonsense you’re subjected to by supporters at professional games – all in the name of ‘banter’.
The ‘hardcore’ in the Welsh League, they don’t care any less than fans of professional clubs; they just tend to support their teams with a bit more dignity. Aberdare Town’s support no less so on this occasion.
Aberdare Town 4-0 Dinas Powys
The fixture was set-up as a relegation six-pointer. Both sides are struggling towards the bottom of Division Two and on paper it looks like these two sides, as well as West End, are fighting amongst themselves to avoid finishing in the bottom two (along with AFC Porth) and face potential relegation to Division Three.
Aberdare changed their manager before Christmas and since Wayne Powell’s appointment they have picked up 11 of their 14 points (including this game) in six games. Dinas Powys were 15th (out of 16) in the table at kick-off, having played more games than both Aberdare and West End. They really needed something from the game, especially after beating West End away the weekend before. This defeat means Dinas Powys have fallen five points from safety and now relying heavily on other results.
The match as a contest was over before half-time as Aberdare scored all four goals in the first 36 minutes. The Town front two of John Phillips and Seb Haggett caused problems for the Dinas defence all afternoon and often the best attacking play involved some combination between the pair.
Phillips fired Aberdare ahead in the 4th minute from a Haggett cross. Then Haggett won a free-kick that was scored by midfielder Killian Kingston (to the embarrassment of the poorly positioned Dinas goalkeeper). Phillips made it three in the 20th minute, pouncing on a long punt upfield by Aberdare’s impressive debutant goalkeeper James Harris. Winger Rhys Tandy scored a looping half volley to complete the scoring.
Over the course of the 90 minutes Aberdare were far superior on the day. Even in the second-half when they by and large sat back, they looked the more dangerous outfit going forward. Dinas simply lacked the creativity or energy to force their way back into the game, not registering an effort on goal in the second half until the final ten minutes.
Phillips had a couple of hat-trick near misses: a first-half free-kick that was well saved, then a late effort (again after Haggett had created the chance) that produced an even better one-handed save from close range. It wasn’t to be for the striker though, but he did receive a warm ovation from the home crowd when he was substituted shortly before full-time.
(You can read my full match report here: http://clwbpeldroed.org/2018/01/22/aberdare-town-dinas-powys-continue-revival/)
A really interesting ground on the Welsh League circuit that is well worth a visit. It is very accessible, provides a good experience for the spectator and a programme that would make a worthy member of any groundhopper’s collection.