Well, it’s been the craziest week of my life. A week ago today, I married my best friend and soul mate, Danielle and rather than ask my guests to raise a toast to my “beautiful wife” and all that stuff, I announced her as my “marquee signing” and handed her a Wales shirt with her new surname on the back. I then spent a good 3 hours of the evening of my wedding wearing a Spirit of 58 bucket hat – yes, I’m probably the first and am probably lucky not to be divorced already!
So as our short honeymoon has come to an end and the joys of working 9-5 continue tomorrow, I thought I’d post once again on The Armchair Supporter Blog, and I’m currently debating on whether to call the blog something completely different altogether, you’ll learn why a little later.
As most of you who know me or have read my blog before, I’ve always had two teams I’ve followed very closely, Arsenal (since I was a boy) and Cardiff (since I was old enough) but since the start of the year and my last blog post, there’s been a change to proceedings.
Ever since the Euros last summer/my first blog post, I noticed a lot of my followers on Twitter/people who’d liked my tweets were actually Merthyr Town fans. As I live in Bargoed and Merthyr is literally a 15 minute drive away, it got me wondering..
Then I saw it.. the Dial M for Merthyr football fanzine which Laurence of EatSleepFootyRepeat had tweeted about. I was completely intrigued and did a bit of enquiring and Mark Evans soon got in touch. Fair play, Mark or Wolvesy as he’s more commonly known sent the fanzine to me in the post along with a fixture card and on January 24th I took my first steps to becoming a Martyr and away from being a full-time Armchair Supporter!
I’d googled pictures of Penydarren Park and I was sold before I’d even visited the stadium. For me, the biggest disappointment I had watching Cardiff City was when the club moved from Ninian Park to the Cardiff City Stadium as I feel the club has lost identity ever since and that’s not just due to the farce of the rebrand a few years back. The fact Merthyr’s facilities i.e terraced stands, cheap food and a club shop next to the ground reminded me so much of the old Ninian Park, was probably the biggest selling point. I’m sure a lot of Cardiff fans who’ve watched Merthyr over the years probably feel the same.
The first game I watched against fellow play-off challengers, Banbury was a tense affair despite Merthyr seemingly controlling the game for the majority of both halves (from what I can remember), it was only late in the first-half where they broke the deadlock with striker Kayne McLaggon finding the bottom corner. Banbury then fought back and managed to win a penalty which seemed harsh from where we were stood but Merthyr’s keeper Oliver Davies pulled off an unbelievable save low to his right to keep a clean sheet and give the Martyrs the win! Not a bad start, a win, clean sheet and a penalty save!
Since then, I’ve only missed two home games, both in February against Chesham (when I was on my Stag weekend in Prague) and the defeat to Frome Town (because we went to watch Cardiff instead). Here’s a sneak peek of the stag (apologies for the bottom left):
So far, I’ve watched Merthyr 6 times and they’ve won almost every game. The only game they haven’t won was a 2-2 draw against Weymouth where Merthyr player Keyon Refell was harshly sent off. That game was probably the second most memorable because the Weymouth fans were probably the noisiest I’ve seen, well at Penydarren Park at least. Even ex-Cardiff boy Stuart Fleetwood got on the scoresheet for the Terras!
In terms of memorability though, it will take a hell of a lot to beat the St. Ives game the day before my wedding, mainly because I was royally stitched up by my best man, Geraint. Upon arrival, we made the decision to have a few pre-game beers in Webley’s, the supporters bar inside the stadium. As we got to the ground though, I noticed Geraint shiftily hanging around by the front entrance rather than walk towards the turnstiles, it was obvious at that point, that something (probably embarrassing/awkward) was about to happen.
As we entered the bar, I was given the lovely surprise by Business Development Manager, Phil Jones that I was to be “today’s official mascot” at the ripe old age of 26 and would be walking out with the players and referee.
Rather than have a dignified walk out, I could not have looked any more awkward if I tried, feeling like a Vegan at a Hog Roast! In my defence, I think the Community Development Officer, Elliott was definitely in on the joke – the alarm bells began to ring when he told me I’d also be doing the coin toss! Oh and to add to the embarrassment, I was given an XL goalkeeper shirt to wear as I walked on to the pitch (which somehow looks quite snug on me). And who did they line me up next to? Oliver Davies, the goalkeeper! Even Captain and Player of the Year, Ashley Evans had to tell me where to stand!
If anything, this was a blessing in disguise because it made me hell of a lot less nervous when it came to declaring my vows on the Wedding day! Who would’ve thought 4 months ago that Merthyr Town would play such a big part of my marriage, eh? Speaking of the Big Day, here’s a photo of the bride in all her glory:
So after a nice little honeymoon in Tenby for a few days, Saturday arrived again and the Martyrs were home for the last game of the regular season and had already secured their position in the play-offs – a win would guarantee a home fixture in the play-off semi-final! To ensure I wasn’t a mascot for two weeks in a row, I made the conscious decision to have pre-match beers in the Park View, a small pub just around the corner from the stadium. The decision was the correct one as we enjoyed a few cheap beers and met some great people. The Park View has become an iconic part of the football club in recent times and although much smaller, reminds me of the old Ninian Park pub down Cardiff. The pub even has its own Twitter account, too! @parkviewmartyrs
Merthyr ended up winning 4-0, their form has peaked right in time for the play-offs and their defence has more clean sheets than Dot Cotton! Oh and look who made the match-day programme two weeks on the bounce (bottom left, big name).
So although I’ve only been watching Merthyr since the end of January, it does genuinely feel like I’ve been watching them for 10 years! Moving forward, I’m keen to get more of the lads to watch the Martyrs and I’m on to a decent start already because I seem to have recruited at least 7 of the lads to come and watch them against Hitchin on Wednesday. Not a bad start and I’m sure more are likely to follow.
Considering I created this blog based on my inability/lack of enthusiasm to watch Cardiff City, I’ve realised I’ve watched more live football during the past 4 months than I have in the last 4 years. I think it may be time to possibly change the name of the blog – after all, the only time spent in the armchair is when I’m writing a blog!
If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears!
Despite my new found love, I will always have a special place in my heart for Cardiff and how could I not after Kevin McNaughton assisted my best man, Geraint with his wedding speech..
Until the next time..