In a new website feature, Brandon Arthur talks with The Fans Who Were There about a match and all that comes with the day of a Port Talbot Town fixture. To kick things off, he caught up with Craig Mapstone, Liam Griffiths, Dylan Llywelyn Edwards and Ryan Lowe to discuss their memories of a famous day amongst supporters.
To set the scene, this was the opening day of the 2013/14 Welsh Premier League season and the first competitive fixture since the Steelmen’s heart-breaking late defeat to Bala Town in the UEFA Europa League Playoff Final three months prior. At our first chance to put that right, we lost 6-0 and yet it was one of the greatest days following the Blues. Let’s see why.
What’s the first thing you think of when TNS 6-0 Port Talbot Town is mentioned?
“One hell of a day out” says Craig, whilst Dylan simply remembers it as “the most enjoyable hammering ever. Ryan recalls that ‘the first thing that comes into my mind is that this was my first away game with the Port with an amazing group of boys. It was full of memories I will never forget.”
“For me, there was just so much going on” adds Brandon. “After a summer without football and the heartbreak of the Playoff defeat, this was the first big opportunity for us all to get together again and show our support. Of course, it all went wrong on the field, but off it was memorable.”
“Chaos!” starts Liam Griffiths (Griff), “Funnily enough there are plenty of tales to tell from this trip, but the main talking point was when one of our fans (who I will keep anonymous) got into a shirtless scuffle with a steward, whilst holding something lit that he shouldn’t have been. Needless to say, he was slightly over the limit leading to this and despite the ultras begging him to stay calm and be smooth, the skirmish led to his neck suffering severe burns from the flame. Ah, memories!”
A 6-0 loss doesn’t seem the obvious choice for a favourite away day, but what is that makes this many supporters’ favourite?
“I think it has all the makings of a classic for us really,” says Craig. “Or at least the occasion. It was the opening day of the season and it was being covered live on Sgorio so I think it was another excuse for the supporters to make a racket live on the box.”
Dylan echoes similar sentiments, stating “it was so memorable because it was the first game of the season, the TV cameras were out and the whole day we did not stop laughing and singing from the moment we got on the bus to the moment we got off for the game and then back home again.” Ryan remembers this one fondly simply because “the boys were in full voice in the stands.”
“Defiance,” remembers Griff. “Despite the countless resources of the opposition, their luxurious clubhouse and their thumping victory that led to yet another WPL title that years, there was only set of fans making noise from the first to the last minute. It was a real example of not only solidarity being on the opposite end of a ruthless result, but also the fact that football without fans is meaningless.”
“It’s a combination of all of the above really,” recalls Brandon. “The cameras were on us quite a bit, so we got to show our support, we had the whole stand to ourselves and we didn’t stop singing despite the score line. It was just a magical day out with friends having a great time on the bus and in the stands. The result really didn’t matter.”
Do you remember anything about the match on the field?
“Not a great deal about the match, no!” laughs Dylan. “Too much fun was being had in the stands.” Griff has a similar lack of on-field memories, “I would be lying if I said I did remember anything about the match itself. Maybe it’s my brain blocking out the trauma of seeing TNS run rampant, or perhaps I was having too much of a good time in the stands to notice.”
Brandon remembers a positive first half, “We were only 1-0 down at half time and away at TNS that really isn’t disastrous. But then the goals just kept going in and I think by the time they’d scored four, I was just laughing at how frequent the goals kept coming. The emphatic nature of the result meant I’d accepted defeat very early in the second half so I could just enjoy myself in the stands.”
“Just the respect the players showed us after the match” is what Craig remembers of the on-field action. “It wasn’t even a necessarily bad day at the office for PTT. TNS were just so much better that day and were major value for money. Obviously, the score line reflected that.”
Port Talbot Town supporters had quite the reputation at this time in the Welsh Premier League, but the noise didn’t always travel up north in big numbers. However, the interest in this fixture was so big that us fans needed their own bus (usually we’d just hop on the players’ bus). It sold out immediately and it set us up for an epic day.
Any good memories to share of the journey up or down?
“It was myself, my brother and my sister’s first away game all together and the trip introduced me to a lot of lifelong friends whilst bringing me out of my shell,” says Dylan.
For Craig, “it was all great. One of the supporters had drunk his fair share on the way up and to sober up inside the ground, somebody had bought him a cup of coffee. However, he decided to tip it over his head in attempt to cool himself down.”
Some of Ryan’s best memories from the trip came on the journey, “we were singing and dancing on the bus both before and after the game. Great times.”
Griff’s journey was a little different. He’d driven up after missing the bus and was tasked with a detour on the way home as he remembers “sitting in A+E until 3am (on a bank holiday weekend no less) with my recently char-grilled chum. It turns out that the attending doctor had quite a few questions regarding how someone had managed to ‘drop’ a flame onto his bare neck.”
It’s a match famous amongst fans for being a number of regular supporters’ first match. What do you think it was that attracted them for a three-hour journey across the border?
“One of the coolest things about following this club is that anyone is welcome,” describes Griff. “So, as the word of mouth was spread by the core group of supporters, more and more of their friends decided to give the experience a try. From that point many first timers were hooked and went on to be regulars through the Sand Siro gates.”
Craig echoes similar sentiments, “we’ve always attained a bit of a reputation for being a bit different. Whether or not you want to interpret that as good or bad is another matter. So, it was just being part of that ride and enjoying the trip just like other football fans across the country do on a weekly basis. I’m glad some of them are still around to this day.”
For Ryan, this was his first competitive game following Port Talbot Town and what attracted him “was the stories I had been told about the fans, the away days and past games up north.”
“I think it was definitely some of the stories we told to first-timers coming along to friendlies. We played a pretty strong Cardiff City side a couple of weeks earlier in front of a big crowd and we showed our support in a big way,” remembers Brandon. “We only had one block in the main stand for ourselves, but all the attention was on us. Telling stories like winning in the last minute at Llanelli and the day that entailed on the train and in front of the S4C cameras definitely would have attracted them.”
What are your memories of the atmosphere in the stands that day?
“I think to this day it won’t be topped. At least not on the road. Drum, banners, colour, noise and a lot of laughs along the way,” reminisces Craig. Dylan also remembers how “the atmosphere that day was electric. We had banners, drums, confetti, toilet roll. Just chaotic.”
“It really is right up there,” says Brandon. “It’s got to be in the top three which is saying something considering the score line. I honestly don’t know what it would have been like if we’d won or even scored! It was just non-stop noise and there were more than a couple of confused looks from the home end. That’s always fun.”
Griff fondly remembers “responding to each goal TNS scored by chanting that we would win by one more goal than them. Picture thirty Port Talbot Town fans chanting ‘We’re gonna win 7-6!’ despite being 6-0 down in the ninetieth minute! I really think it took the gloss off the TNS victory and if it didn’t, it should have.
If you can pick just one, what moment stands out from that day?
For Brandon, it was when “we had a conga going at about 5-0 down but when we realised we wouldn’t have much to cheer, we decided to do the ‘Let’s Pretend We’ve Scored a Goal’ chant. Of course, it was the loudest thing that happened that day and I just remember being behind the aforementioned drunk fan and watching him run down the stairs and plummet headfirst into one of the seats and cracking it. I was buckled.”
“The colour in the stands and all the noise” stands out for Ryan, whilst Craig is unable to pick just one moment, “I couldn’t pick. There were so many. Fun fact, I still have this game saved on my TiVo box!”
Dylan also struggles to conjure up just one standout moment, “I have about three. The first is my dad being escorted off the pitch at the end of the game whilst waving his Bob Marley flag in the air. The second is one of our fans lighting something up at the end of the game and getting his back burned in the process. Finally, us pretending to score a goal ended up in a riot. My dad was feigning an injury lying on the floor clutching his head and mu sister ended up getting a busted lip. That led to my dad accusing the steward and it seemed like he wanted to fight him! It turned out that it was the melee of pretending to score that hurt my sister as she’d banged her lip on the railing.”
For Griff, it was “walking into the ground about twenty minutes later than the other fans and sensing the horror of the few associated with the home team that day as they were seeing that their ground had been taken over by an army of blue. TNS may have left with the three points that day, but only one side sounded like winners.”
It was a memorable day for so many memories outlined above, along with so many others not shared here. Port Talbot Town had a Bank Holiday home game against Connah’s Quay just 48 hours after this 6-0 loss. It was a drab 0-0 draw, but the only talking points in the stands that day were reflecting on the adventure two days prior. It’s a day that is still talked about today, and for years to come.
Check out the match highlights: http://www.s4c.cymru/sgorio/e_/gem/seintiau-newydd-port-talbot-3/
NB: Views are those of fans and not directly those of Port Talbot Town Football Club.