Match: Pwllheli 3 Barmouth & Dyffryn Utd 1 HT: 2-0 ATT: circa 93 (hc)
Comp: Welsh Alliance (Welsh Step 3)
Additional: Entrance £2.50 No Programme Tea/Coffee 50p
Pwllheli’s ground in pictures
I am becoming more and more enchanted with Welsh football this season, and this game was the first time I’d dipped my head below the top division. As you may imagine the Welsh Leagues have to divide into regional divisions very quickly, such is the size and geography of Wales. After the Welsh premier division you have their second tier, which is split into two – north and south. The Cymru Alliance, representing North Wales and the McWhirter Welsh League, representing the South.
Design2Print Welsh Alliance – Teams in the Welsh Alliance (17), notice Amlwch from Anglesey have lost every game this season.
The third tier is split into four, the southern bit being an extension of the McWhirter Welsh League and the other three representing Mid and North Wales. One of these is the Welsh Alliance; in which the two teams today play. Most of the teams from this division are very small towns and villages from Anglesey and upper North Wales.
I was on holiday in Llithfaen, a tiny village on the Lleyn Peninsula, and noticed in the Non-League paper that Pwllheli (pronounced Pur-hleli. The ll sound in Welsh has no English equivalent. According to the dictionary the best approximation is the of tl of Antler. However, having heard it from Welsh mouths all holiday the sound is more like a hl with the tongue on the roof of the mouth. Or you can just go for Pur-thelli for ease) were at home on the Wednesday. Pwllheli was only a four mile drive away – it was a must, despite probably breaking my own rule of a ground requiring floodlights and one stand. The fact that it was a Welsh level three game kind of made up for the lack of stands and floodlights. After all. this was the equivalent level of Leeds United and Leicester in the English League.
I snuck away at 5.30 for the 6.30 kick off at Pwllheli. I guessed the ground was without floodlights on account of the early kick off. Rhydymwyn (also Welsh Alliance) were also playing tonight, but at 7.30. On the journey to Llithfaen we’d driven by Rhydymwyn’s ground and I’d noticed the floodlights. Rare for this level.
Having set off for Pwllheli’s ground, I realised that I didn’t actually know where it was they played. I stopped off at Pwllheli rugby club, a mile or two outside of the town, to see if they shared their ground. Luckily there was some football training going on and I was able to ask a trainer if this was where the football club played. I was surprised to find out it wasn’t. He gave me directions to the leisure centre (Canolfan Hamdden) where they played.
The Leisure centre was large and had ample parking. A small hut to the side of the centre was the entrance to the ground (as shown in the pic above).
The visitors today were fellow mid-tablers Barmouth & Dyffryn Utd, from the West coast, representing the seaside resort of Barmouth and the town of Dyffryn Ardudwy. They were founded in 1863 making them one of the oldest clubs in the world. CPD Pwllheli were founded in 1878 – another very old club. (the CPD is Welsh for Football Club – Clwb Pel-Droed)
I tried to judge what sort of level this compared to in England, but it is very difficult to ascertain. The top flight of Welsh football is meant to be about Unibond/BGB/Ryman level (ie step 3 of non-league or level 7). I reckon the second division are probably about Step 5 or 6 (level 9/10), so the Welsh third tier is probably English local county level.
Because of this deduction I made in the car on the way to the ground, about half a mile from Pwllheli town centre, I was expecting only a handful of spectators, most of which would probably be connected to the club or players in some way. I wasn’t sure if I’d even need to pay. I was amazed to find myself one of nearly 100 paying spectators (£2.50) with a very nice little tea hut. Most of them had the air of being regulars, too. It was also good to see lots of youngsters there.
It never fails to surprise me; the vastness of the league pyramids in Britain. Even in this rural backwater football is thriving and attracting big crowds. Football, like water, has a way of finding the gaps and seeping into every area, no matter how remote.
I’d heard from the trainers at Pwllheli Rugby club that tonight’s match was a bit of a grudge match as Barmouth & Dyffryn had three players who had defected from Pwllheli recently, in a sort of protest at their new manager. This information added a bit of spice to a game for a neutral fan.
Most of the supporters stood on the elevated bank in front of the leisure centre, which was the best viewpoint. There were no stands in the ground, unfortunately, and as expected, no floodlights. Despite the lackings of a typical ground, it was a good venue and the turnout made for a good atmosphere.
The tensions were high and Barmouth & Dyffryn had one of their ex Pwllheli players sent off in the first half for calling the referee a twat. In spite of the sending off Pwllheli were the better team and should have won by more, some poor finishing letting them down.
There was a long stoppage in the second half which meant the the game finished in almost complete darkness, reminding me of summer as a kid when you carried on playing with the sun setting all convincing yourselves there’s enough light, while running face first into lamp-posts.