Treharris Athletic Western: the ‘pioneering’ club seeking a new dawn closer to home
Saturday 5th May 2018: the day many groundhoppers and supporters of Welsh football hoped would never come.
On a sunny morning in the Merthyr valley bulldozers finally moved in to flatten the derelict structures that formed the iconic and famous Athletic Ground, the home of Welsh League Division Three outfit Treharris Athletic Western for more than 100 years.
Speaking to Treharris secretary Steven Broome this week, he described it as “quite a monumental and sad day really”. Broome described the event in further detail to the site.
“There’s a lot of personal pride in the building for myself as generations of my family, including myself, helped to build and renovate the building over many years. I believe the building was constructed just after WW2 in 1946; at the end looked every bit of it. We had quite a turnout to see it get demolished with many people giving us their fond memories of playing or spectating there.”
“On a professional level I was personally glad to see the back of it. It had become increasingly harder to maintain the building especially in the last few years as we were loathed to spend dead money there knowing we were leaving soon. I won’t miss boiling numerous kettles to thaw pipes out during the cold winter months!”
It had been two years since Treharris Athletic Western kicked a ball at the Athletic Ground. After being forced to move out of the ground due to health and safety concerns, the club have had to endure a nomadic existence playing at Rhiw Dda’r, Taffs Well’s home ground, the Centre of Sporting Excellence at Ystrad Mynach, and more recently at the Welfare Ground in Fochriw.
Brrom said the lack of a dedicated home during this period had “hit home that we need to be playing back in the village”, while first-team manager Ross Porter said it would be a “massive boost” to have a ground they could settle into, yet praised his players for not complaining about the recent ground situation.
“You cannot underestimate how important it is really,” Broome continued, “The Athletic has been the base for over 100 years and offered a stability no matter how many players, managers or committee come and go. The club will always be there. The Athletic was the soul of the club.”
Sadly, the future lies permanently away from ‘The Athletic’ and next season Treharris will finally have a ‘home’ again. The club will play next season in Parc Taf Bargoed, less than a mile from where ‘The Athletic’ once stood. Work is ongoing to develop the ground to Welsh League standards, meanwhile, Broome is excited by both the potential of the new ground and it’s historical significance for the community.
“This new facility is the start of the next chapter in the club’s proud history and now with a very strong mini and juniors section, the club should and will have a base for the next 100 years hopefully. Also the fact that the new pitch is built on the old Deep Navigation Colliery – where it all started with the miners [that formed the club] – makes it feel quite special and I’m certain once we adjust to the new surroundings we will feel like we’ve always been there.”
“The Athletic was the soul of the club”
The move promises to signal the beginning of a new era for Treharris. But, what can supporters and Welsh football enthusiasts expect of the new ground?
“Initially we always intended to have a state of the art 3G pitch, however, that was proving so difficult. With time running out for us we scaled it back to a traditional grass pitch with new pre-fabricated changing rooms, including a cafe area, and a 100 seat stand. There are floodlights in place which will hopefully be upgraded soon but we’ve basically been making sure we meet the minimum tier three criteria at the moment.”
“Once we settle in we will keep looking to improve the facility as we honestly believe the potential at Parc Taf Bargoed is endless. Just the surroundings of the green flag park in itself are impressive. It would do the park and the whole southern cluster of the Merthyr valley proud to have a pitch and facility that’s deserving of its surroundings.”
“We are very thankful to Treharris Area Community Trust, which myself and treasurer Kevin Bounds joined a number of years ago, to help secure the funding necessary along with the help from Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and numerous other funders. I can assure the club will not be resting on its laurels and will be striving to further strengthen the club as well as our new facility and home at Parc Taf Bargoed.”
With a secure infrastructure now being established for the club, attention turns to ensuring that on the pitch there is a side that is a credit to the facility, club and local facility. After years of flirtation with relegation from the Welsh League, there has been a marked improvement in performances on the pitch under the management of Porter, a Treharris local who played for Merthyr Town as a junior but was forced to give up playing due to an ACL injury.
“This new facility is the start of the next chapter in this club’s proud history”
In his two years in charge, Porter has steered Treharris to 5th and 4th place finishes in Division Three. Porter said that he felt last season could be judged “a success”, finishing below a strong top three in promoted Swansea University and Bridgend Street, with Welsh League Cup winners Trefelin BGC finishing 3rd. However, Porter said “a slow start cost us any chance of competing and the top three were way out in front to be fair.”
Next season Division Three promises to be competitive once again with YCPD Club of the Season and South Wales Alliance League champions Penydarren BGC joining the Welsh League. Richard Ryan will no doubt be targeting promotion next season with Trefelin and there are a cluster of sides that finished below Treharris that have shown similar signs of improvement.
Despite the challenge Division Three will present, Porter believes his side are in contention because “our run towards the end of the season shows what we are capable of”. Short-term the ambition is to “just keep improving”; Porter adds he hopes Treharris Athletic Western “can go to the next step” and provide a memorable and successful campaign to mark the start of the club’s new dawn.
(Featured Image: Andy the Photographer)