In the return of this fan feature where supporters get to tell their stories of following Port Talbot Town Football Club, Brandon Arthur, Liam Griffiths, Ben Keefe and Sion Cleaver talk all things from a famed away day amongst fans. They look back fondly on the day (and night) of 20 December 2014, as a Martin Rose second-half hat-trick sealed a stunning 3-0 win over Aberystwyth Town in the Welsh Premier League. For The Fans Who Were There, it was a Christmas overnight stay full of tales.
What’s the first thing that stands out about the trip?
It seems that things stood out before the trip even began as Griff recalls “picking Ryan Lowe up from outside the Tesco in Port Talbot and finding him in a condition far from mint (a precursor of things to come that weekend). His scuffed dress shoes and bloody shirt were the least of our worries, what the with dark cloud of his busted lip and bruised eye combination hanging over us. More rational people might have driven him straight to A+E! Luckily enough, he reassured us that he had just enjoyed a ‘typical night out’ down Station Road. He hadn’t been home since the night before and had no intention of going back. He didn’t even bring an overnight bag!”
“Ryan definitely stands out from this trip” remembers Brandon. “Any trip he comes on there seems to be a ‘Ryan story’ to tell. As for the trip itself, the first thing that comes to mind was just what a fine 24 hours at the football with friends. An away day that will stand out for eternity.”
Sion echoes similar sentiments when it came to the close proximity of those on the trip, describing “while I’d been on overnight trips supporting PTT before, this was the one where I got to know a number of people that have since become very close friends.”
Ben recounts how he ‘went there quite optimistic and looking forward to spending time with the lads at the game and mixing with some of the locals. And of course, having a few too many drinks.
What is it that made Aberystwyth so appealing for an overnight stay?
“Aberystwyth is definitely up there in terms of away days” begins Ben. “It’s always a good night out and even better if we win, but if we don’t, we still make a cracking night of it.”
“I think it’s just the perfect destination to be honest. It’s not too far, it’s incredibly picturesque and the football ground itself is a match made in heaven for supporters like us. Staying overnight around Christmas time made perfect sense, even if it was pretty dead being the night after Black Friday!”
Griff describes how “Aberystwyth is a beautiful seaside spot… in the summer. Unfortunately, the first two times we went up there were Christmas weeks 2013 and 2014. In both years the weather conditions in the area made national news! We were there only a fortnight prior to the seafront buildings being evacuated because of those conditions. The appeal for us was that we got to turn ninety minutes of football into forty-eight hours of causing more havoc to the SY postcode region than any storm could!”
For Sion, it was the relatively close proximity of the town being ‘a two-and-a-half-hour drive for most of us. It was a trip that wasn’t too close or too far away. There wasn’t enough travelling that it dominated the trip, but it was far enough to give it a proper away day feeling.”
Do you have any funny stories to share about the journeys up or down?
Sion continues detailing how “most of our Aber trips over the years have blended into one in my head and coupling that with the amount of alcohol that was consumed, the memories of the journeys up and down are quite hazy.” Ben simply recounts how “the journey up there is long enough in itself so after it, it just makes sense to stay the night.”
“Even in the dead of winter, parking for free in a seaside town can be hard to achieve but paying to park when going away in the WPL wasn’t something we were used to” recalls Griff. “And it wasn’t something we were going to start doing now, even if we were there for the weekend! After spending twenty minutes searching for a parking space, we pulled into a permit holder only space to asses our options. Almost instantly two ghastly pensioners emerged from their front garden to sharply ask us ‘I hope you don’t think you’re parking here?’ Jaded from the dark and long roads I had just driven in the early hours of a December morning; this wasn’t exactly the welcoming committee I had in mind! After nearly biting their heads off, they kindly directed us to nearby car where they explained that the locals had superglued the meter coin slots in protest of the parking prices there. Free parking accomplished.”
“As Griff mentioned earlier, Ryan wasn’t exactly in the best state from his Black Friday antics hitting the town and I had the displeasure of being in the back seat with him on the journey up” remembers Brandon. “I think it was the longest two-hour or so journey of my life, just fearing the imminent vomit effects of his session a few hours earlier spraying the back seat. Thankfully it didn’t come into fruition but there were some shaky moments!”
What do you remember most about the match?
“The match had a fantastic atmosphere from what I remember” says Sion. “There was a big away day feeling to the trip so us PTT fans in attendance certainly made ourselves heard.”
“I don’t remember too much about the first half, but that second half was superb stuff. We were behind the goal with the wind blowing a gale at us, but we hardly noticed after seeing Rosey hit the net three times in nine minutes to give us a fine win on the road. I feared the worst after he missed a penalty at 0-0, but he more than made up for it!”
Ben remembers a pre-match incident in the clubhouse where an accident nearly got out of hand, “one of our fans nearly setting their clubhouse on fire stands out a lot. That was quite funny with little flames on the floor but luckily no one noticed as we were quick to stamp it out.”
“Even if we lose heavily on the pitch, we can still look back fondly on away games” Griff explains. “However, this particular weekend blessed us with both a great outing and a 3-0 win no less! Albeit one that needed the sending off of the home goalkeeper that completely turned the game in the second half.”
The PTT fans seemed to have a good reputation in Aberystwyth for being vocal and passionate, do you think Park Avenue’s setup helped with that?
“Absolutely” states Sion emphatically. “Park Avenue is one of my favourite grounds in the Welsh pyramid. It has a mix of old and new stands and it really feels like a proper town football club.”
Brandon agrees with Sion there, “It’s a fantastic venue that stands out in the town which is rare in the Welsh pyramid. The terraces are superb and the feeling you get when walking through the gates is uncanny. A really good stadium with fans that were always complimentary of our support.”
“Funnily enough the year before we ended up split in different stands we liked it that much!” recalls Griff
Can you tell us about the interaction with some Aber players in town the night of the game?
Ben remembers how “we bumped into a couple of their players and the sub-keeper who made two or three costly errors. His teammates took the mick out of him a bit making a point to say that this is the keeper that won us the game.” Sion also seems to remember “spotting a few Aber players out on the lash after the game, which was an interesting revelation considering they’d succumbed to a 3-0 drubbing a few hours prior.”
“That was a comical moment” recalls Brandon. “They were quick to jump all over their goalkeeper who’d gifted us the first two goals in the game, but what stood out to me was the fact they instantly recognised us as the Port Talbot fans. That spoke volumes about our support.”
Griff details that “despite the usual torrid abuse hurled at them, they were quite pleasant when they recognised us that night. Particularly the red-carded goalkeeper who probably had his freed-up Christmas schedule to look forward to.”
Are there any other good memories to share, either of the game or the night in Aberystwyth itself?
“It has to be seeing Ben and Benji trying, and failing, to smuggle their cheap booze into the ground” Griff continues. “The Co-Op opposite had a deal on battles which saw them both take out the impulse buy of the year and fill their bags full of their little green friends. That was the easy bit but getting them past the stewards was the key challenge. The clanging of bottles couldn’t even be muted by stuffing their jackets in the bags and seeing them blag their way through the turnstiles? Priceless.
Sion recalls the incident Ben earlier mentioned, describing how “one of the PTT fans in attendance, who we’ll call Rudolph, took it upon himself to modify his lighter in the clubhouse before the game. However, he clumsily dropped it and set some of the floor alight momentarily. Thankfully there was no last damage. Rudolph was quite a rascal in those days, but he’s calmed down a bit since then.”
For Ben, “obviously the result stands out but the day and night as a whole couldn’t have gone any better.”
Overnight stays in Aberystwyth would continue after this trip, would you consider this your favourite away destination?
“It’s a tough one to label as a favourite away destination, but it probably does come out on top with the distance, town and stadium as a whole. It’s no surprise that this was just the first of several overnight stays in the town because of these factors.”
“The people of Aberystwyth always make us feel very welcome every time we go up there, so it ranks highly” says Ben. “They pretty much let us do whatever we want in the stands and in the clubhouse which didn’t always happen.”
“Each of the overnighters were special in their own way and hopefully we will get a chance to reflect on them all” Griff details fondly. “To say one was better than the other would do a disservice, but when it comes to the result 3-0 away from home is about as good as it gets.”
For Sion, “Aberystwyth is probably my favourite away day. Unlike many clubs in the top Welsh tiers, there’s that proper town football club feeling there. It’s also nice to have an away day in a town with an array of pubs, shops and hotels. Have you ever tried finding a Tesco Express on a cold night in Risca?”
And just how much would you like to go back for a friendly or cup game in the area next season?
“It really is the dream town for a cup draw” says Brandon. “With the current Covid-19 situation and our run of away games to finish the season, there’s a decent chance we’ll still be in tier 3 next season which would mean the FAW Trophy. If we could get an away draw in that area, I think it would go down a treat. Another overnight stay would be organised in no time.”
It’s clear to see just how fondly Aberystwyth is thought of amongst these fans who were there, as Griff explains “if I had to pick the first away game outing to go to after the lockdown ends, a stay over here would be first on the list.”
“I think an Aber away friendly would draw a number of fans who have dropped away from regularly attending games in the last few years, myself included” says Sion. Ben also hopes for a future fixture, hoping that “we can get a friendly up there again soon as we will take good numbers, drink loads and make a lot of noise.”
Match Highlights: http://www.s4c.cymru/sgorio/e_/gem/aberystwyth-port-talbot-4/
NB: These are views and stories of Port Talbot Town fans, and not endorsed by or are those of the football club.