Burns Road Ramblings: 2016, relegation, re-structure & everything in-between

This article has been provided by the Port Talbot Town Supporters Club.

The first-half of 2016 was a rollercoaster for the Blues, the first-team under Andy Dyer made it to the Welsh Cup semi-final against Airbus. Traffic problems saw most Blues supporters arrive with ten minutes remaining, only to see their side on the wrong end of a 7-0 drubbing. Then there was the fiasco regarding unusual betting patterns during our away game at Rhyl, and let’s not forget the club’s relegation to Division One after failing to secure an FAW Domestic License on financial grounds.

The second-half of 2017 has had its low points but by and large it’s been successful and has put us in very good stead for the future. Our HMRC debt which saw us landed with a winding-up order in July, was settled and no more issues are expected on that front. The club underwent a very thorough restructure during the summer, and is now in a far better position to lay a proper foundation for the club to progress not just on a first-team level but for the entire club, be it the clubhouse, the Academy as well as the Girls and Ladies setups.

As most of you will know, life back in Division One has been rocky to say the least. The Blues have sat in and around the relegation zone since the opening weekend, but considering the complete overhaul the first-team has seen since the end of last season, it’s hardly surprising that our form isn’t quite there yet. Paul Evans and his coaching staff of Phil Holmes and Steve Lewis came over from Tata Steel and brought a number of good talents from their former-club, this includes Matthew Herman and goalkeeper Matthew Stanton.

The start of the season saw only two players stay in the first-team squad from last season’s Welsh Premier League side, Luke Bowen and goalkeeper Connah McFenton chose to continue with the Blues – although McFenton has since left for Llanelli Town. Bowen however has played a crucial part in keeping the Blues’ initial aim of staying in Division One alive before rebuilding the squad and aiming higher.

Since then, Jonathan Hood has returned to the Genquip Stadium. The forward left the Blues to return to Division Three club Caerau last season, but he has since returned and has already begun to garner a reputation for himself as being a force to be reckoned with in this divison – his outstanding goal against Afan Lido is a perfect example of how his passion and hunger makes him a phenomenal asset to our squad.

Results have turned back in our favour near the end of the year, and following the Blues’ wins over Lido and Cwmbran Celtic – Evans’ men now sit in 11th place going into the New Year. Five points ahead of Risca United at the top of the relegation zone.

Corey and Casey Thomas‘ temporary return during the Austrlian soccer off-season has been a massive boost for the squad, along with the recent signings of former Goytre United striker Anthony Rawlings as well as goalkeeper Rory McCreesh, who has played a significant part in the Blues’ improvement in form over the last few weeks.

2016 was definitely a rollercoaster of a year, but given the club’s stronger standing financially and internaly, we are in a far better position to go into the New Year with the aim of building on from the re-building work put in over the last few months and to push forward, with the eventual aim of becoming a formidable outfit in Division One and hopefully, in the long-term, in the Welsh Premier League again.

It’s been a tough battle, but we’re making it through slowly and surely. The club is looking stronger than it has in years, and is far more sustainable than when we were in the top-flight. There was a bit of unrest amongst the fans and the wider Port Talbot community at the start of the season, but it’s fantastic that all that anomosity appears to have gone and everyone now seems to be committed to pitching in together to progress this club in the right way.

Happy New Year to all connected with Port Talbot Town Football Club, and here’s to 2017! Allez Allez.