Come in a taxi…

Sunday 2nd August 2015 – Port Talbot Town 2 – 4 Hull City XI

Pre-Season Friendly @ Genquip Stadium, Port Talbot

“…you should have come in a taxi….”

We all know how the chant goes. But I am obliged to point out, that on 2nd August 2015, the away contingent for the pre-season mash-up between Welsh Premier League side Port Talbot Town, and a Hull City XI, did actually come in a taxi (from Port Talbot Train Station at least) – all three of them!

This was one of two games featuring The Tigers in the same day; whilst the ‘stars’ took on Sheffield United further North at Bramall Lane, a youthful Hull City side travelled Wales. Why? I am not so sure; the only link I could make is Tony Pennock, Head Coach of the City youth setup, who used to keep goal for Port Talbot and also managed them for a brief period.

Despite taking almost 4 hours to travel to from London, this felt like one trip that had to be made – when would we ever play Port Talbot again?

Work colleagues had pulled their noses up at my weekend plans the Friday before: “Port Talbot? Total shithole” , “what are you going there for?” , “Have you never seen it from the motorway between Swansea and Cardiff?” I have not….

The arrival at the train station doesn’t do its reputation any favours; the place is a total building site. To one side is the famous Tata Steel Mill, but opposite are the rolling hills of South Wales, beautiful, but scarred by industry. It was a hot day though, sun shining brightly, and the place had a friendly feel to it.

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It wasn’t immediately obvious which way to go for the ground – so yes, we got a taxi. The one thing that struck me as odd at this point was the lack of people around the town centre – and cars. Almost like the place had been emptied….

Five minutes later and we were dropped off down the side street of a housing estate which led to the entrance of the ground – but it was locked! After four hours of travelling, we were hoping the game hadn’t been called off (a quick look at Twitter said not), alas five minutes later some locals started hammering on the door of the turnstiles and in we went.

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The Genquip Stadium feels quite big given the overall stature of the club; there is a stand immediately to the right of the main entrance, and another directly opposite (which looks the biggest of the two) with a car park behind. At the goal ends, a club house immediately to the left of the players tunnel, and a bank at the other end. The ground is surrounded by a housing estate and has a good old-fashioned feel to it.

Entrance was only £6 and it was pleasing to find out that these are the normal prices, not reduced pre-season rates. Programme was a £1 and beer in the club house just £2.70! So a cheap date. The only downside being that you couldn’t take your pint out onto the pitch, which with the sun as it was, was a real shame.

We had a few beers and spent some time trying to work out who was turning out in Black and Amber – a very young side. I am 30 years old, and even I felt old enough to parent some of them!

I was interested to see how Port Talbot fared; Welsh football has had a well publicised renaissance recently, with the national team looking a good bet to feature in France next summer (and who would likely have qualified even without the expansion from 16 to 24 teams), and one of their sons tipping up alongside Ronaldo et al at the Bernabeau. The Welsh Premier League though gets little mention; this article however sums up the growing popularity of the domestic game, and dispels the myth that the Welsh are only bothered about games with egg-shaped balls.

The game itself was far from the usual drab pre-season default setting; played in front of a crowd of c. 100 (with a dozen or so ultras in the far stand), the City Clearasil XI went in 3-0 to the good at half time, but it didn’t really reflect the run of play. Port Talbot had made a good go of it, and deserved their two goals not so long into the second 45. 3-2 and game on – but it was wrapped up towards the end with a fourth Hull goal.

We made our way back to the centre about half an hour after full-time, enjoying a couple more pints in the club house. We even got to wave off the City team as they boarded their coach. They didn’t quite know how to react to cries of “THE TIGERS!” though – more coaching needed on how to handle fame I think…..

Pre-train pints were had in the town’s Wetherspoons, The Lord Caradoc – big, open and friendly place – but again, very few people – and in the town centre itself. Slightly like a ghost town…..

But it was a good day – Port Talbot fans are a friendly lot (just don’t mention Afan Lido…) and were intrigued (if not bemused) by our presence. The Genquip is a tidy and welcoming ground, with an old school feel, and well worth a visit if you are in the area.

The Welsh results are normally announced at the end of Final Score; at least I now have a team to look out for!

Other photos from the trip:

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