Football: Fan's Eye View - Merthyr Tydfil: Welsh `Martyrs' surviving against the odds

I HAVE noticed over the last 20 years or so that our supporters have a tendency not to sing or chant, except for a few enthusiastic young teenagers who find it difficult to achieve much volume.

This may sound surprising, given that we are a Welsh club, but generally the singing gets left to the rugby supporters. Our poor performance in this area serves to increase my irritation with vociferous groups of travelling away fans who come and stand near my usual spot on the half-way line, singing and chanting what at the time sound like taunting and insulting attacks, but which, when I return to the cold light of day, I realise is harmless nonsense. However, during the game my irritation grows gradually until, by half-time, I have developed a healthy hatred for the enemy choir.

Martyrs by name. Martyrs by nature. That is the recent lot of fans of Merthyr Tydfil AFC of the Dr Martens (Southern) League Premier Division. The club's nickname, the Martyrs, is based on the fact that the town is named after Tydfil, a fifth century Christian martyr. But in recent years the club supporters have been martyrs themselves, due to a series of events which have constantly threatened the club's existence.

Merthyr Tydfil is unusual in that it has, for the last 80 years, been a football oasis in south Wales, where rugby union is traditionally king, and is still the premier spectator sport. After the Second World War the defunct Merthyr Town were reformed as Merthyr Tydil AFC. In the following eight years the club won the Southern League five times, a record unsurpassed since the war. Eventually the good times came to an end, with the club alternating between the divisions of the Southern League for the following 30 years, although the club attracted many fine players towards the end of their careers, such as John Charles, Tommy Hutchison, George Wood and Bob Latchford.

Success returned in the 1980s. The Southern League title was captured once again, along with the Welsh Cup. There followed a memorable, narrowly lost, European CupWinners-Cup tie with the Italian side Atalanta. Several years were spent in what is now the Nationwide Conference, where a consistently enjoyable high standard of football was the norm. During this period there was a determined but unsuccessful attempt to force Merthyr to play in the League of Wales, which still collectively pulls in less fans than any one of the top clubs in the Conference.

In recent years things have dramatically declined. We have changed owners more than most clubs change managers. We have had four owners in less than four years, with three managers this season alone. This has been accompanied by relegation back to the Southern League.

At last, however, the club is in the "money." A new consortium has rescued the club. It has the backing of a wealthy businessman, who originates from South Wales, and the new Chairman is Lyn Mittell, a Merthyr Tydfil show-business personality whose stage name is Owen Money.

There is a feeling among Martyrs fans that the new owners will have the appropriate commitment. The early signs are good. The first game after the announcement of the takeover was against the runaway league leaders, Nuneaton Borough. They brought a large band of supporters to Penydarren Park a few weeks ago, outnumbering us. A larger group than usual stood nearby and started the usual arrogant and taunting chants. All we could manage was a half hearted "Come On Merthyr."

However, the unexpected happened and we led 1-0 at half time. Another goal followed, with the Martyrs dominating the second half. As always, the most enjoyable effect for me was the silencing of the Nuneaton choir. We even managed to extend the chant of "Come On Merthyr" to 80 per cent of our supporters, to drown out any remnants of the Nuneaton singing. After recent events this enjoyable result was a reminder that, if you are patient in football the good times will come around again - assuming you still have a club.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea