The Pioneers (Treharris Athletic Western FC)

Treharris Athletic and their wonderful Athletic Ground home are veritably steeped in history. The football club were formed in 1889 and original played at a ground called Graig Berthlwyd. They were well supported drawing support from the inhabitants of the town that had sprung up around the Deep Navigation Colliery named after its owner, F.W.Harris. It was reported that an 1893 match against Cardiff City drew a “large number of spectators” to Graig Berthlwyd.

Real pioneers of the round ball game, the club were founder members of the South Wales League in 1890 and won the first two championships and truly dominated the football scene in South Wales. Sometime around 1900 Treharris moved to their new ground off Spencer Place which was christened the “Athletic Ground”. Ton Pentre provided the opposition in the opening match.

The Treharris first team competed in both the South Wales League and from 1902/03 the Rhymney Valley League before becoming one of the first clubs to compete outside of Wales. This happened in 1906 when Treharris joined the Western League. They also remained in the Rhymney Valley League which would later become the Welsh League. Crowds at the Athletic Ground would frequently top 2,000 spectators. By 1910 the club had become so strong, winning the Western League title in 1909/10, they joined the Southern League Division 2 with the likes of future Football League clubs Cardiff City, Merthyr Town and Aberdare. In April 1912 Treharris’ David Walter Davies was capped by Wales when he played against Northern Ireland at Ninian Park. Davies would later play for Oldham Athletic and Sheffield United. The club remained in the Southern League until finishing bottom of Division 2 at the end of the 1913/14 season.

Since those heady days the club has been Welsh League stalwarts but have never replicated their sole championship win in 1910/11. The whole town, let alone the club, was hit when the mine was closed in 1991 and since then the club have laboured in the lower reaches of the Welsh League. Relegation from Division Two was suffered following a bottom placed finished in 2011/12. The following season saw a wretched season for Treharris, finishing next to bottom with only Bettws beneath them. Since 2009/10 the club has been known as Treharris Athletic Western.

The Athletic Ground is truly magnificent, probably the only sizable reasonably flat area in the town. All the facilities are on one side of the ground, a small tea bar and changing room building provides a viewing balcony to augment the stunning covered terrace that has peered down over proceedings for over 100 years. Therein lies the dilemma for a club like Treharris, do they hang on to the vestiges of their glorious past or look to the future? The club has decided to move on and rather than hire the historic venue from the local council they have decided to up sticks and head to nearby Trelewis and take up residence at the Parc Taff Bargoed, vacated by the now defunct Trelewis Welfare club. With improvements underway to bring the facilities up to scratch, this historic club can look forward to a new chapter in their incredible history.

Once again this season Treharris have been hovering precariously close to the relegation zone. However, recent form has been excellent and tonight Athletic take on Newport YMCA in what is billed as the penultimate match at the historic Athletic Ground. Treharris mean business tonight with skipper Matthew Sellick opening the scoring after just 80 seconds. Second half goals from Brad Jones, Sellick again, and Aaron Caffell right at the death secures a comfortable win and another vital three points in their great escape bid.

The Athletic Ground is one of those football grounds that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. What the council will do with the site once Treharris leave is not clear, one can only hope it survives in some form. Whether the Millennium Park project will be ready for next season remains a mute point but to all intents and purpose this is the last hurrah for this ancient and evocative venue.

th

Wednesday April 22nd 2015 – Welsh League Division Three

Treharris Athletic Western (1) 4 (Sellick 2, 74, B.Jones 66, Caffell 90)
Newport YMCA (0) 0
Attendance: 57 (at the Athletic Ground)

Treharris:

1. Alex Lewis, 2. Keiron Jones, 3. Alun Thomas, 4. David Mitchell, 5. Thomas Harris, 6. Brad Jones, 7. Aaron Caffell, 8. Peter Corkery, 9. Sam Wills, 10. Bleddyn House, 11. Matthew Sellick ©.

Subs: 12. Rhys Jones, 14. Christian Evans, 15. Ashley Tandy (for 3, 79 mins), 16. Callum Tandy, 17. Rhys Tandy (for 9, 62 mins).

Newport YMCA:

1. Mark Drew, 2. Lee Drew, 3. Lee Morris. 4. Alex Stewart, 5. Nathan Hardwick, 6. Alex Jenkins ©, 7. Jamie Martin, 8. Jason Lewis, 9. Nial Simmonds, 10. Tre Merrett, 11. Craig Ford.

Subs: 12. Ellis Parks, 14. Macauley Corten, 15. Mo Hassan (for 10, 31 mins), 16. Joe O’Brien (for 8, 74 mins).

Yellow Cards: Corkery (Treharris), M.Drew, Jenkins, Martin, Hassan (Newport YMCA).

Gallery

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Bohemian Like You (Vålerenga IF)

Vålerenga Fotball can trace their ancestry back to a club called Fotballpartiet Spark who were formed back in 1898. When that club folded in 1913 a new club called Idrettslaget Spring assumed seniority in the area. A year later, the new club changed its name to Vaalerengens Idrættsforening.

Initially Vålerenga would be contemporaries of other Oslo based clubs like Lyn and Frigg before they gained promotion to the Oslo Championships. Before there was a national league this was a very senior Norwegian competition and Vålerenga would win the title on four occasions before joining the new national league, the Norgesserien for the 1937 season.

After a dismal spell in the 1950’s when relegation was suffered twice the turn of the decade was to provide a golden era for Vålerenga. Cult players like Einar Bruno Larssen, Leif Erikssen and Terje Hellerud bought not only success on the pitch but their off-field antics would gain the club the nickname it is still known by, “The Bohemians”. The club won the first of so far five national titles, now called the Tippeligaen, in 1965 ahead of eternal rivals FK Lyn.

Fortunes waned however and Vålerenga were relegated in 1968 and again, to the third tier, two years later. A revival occurred in the seventies prompted by the arrival of the prolific former Rosenberg striker Odd Iversen, father of future Tottenham forward Stefan Iversen. Odd Iversen’s goals took the club back to the top flight. He would hold the Norwegian Tippeligaen goalscoring record of 158 top flight goals for many years until it was beaten by Pettar Belsvik. Iversen is now fourth in the all time list which is headed by Sigurd Rushfeldt with 172 goals.

In defeating Lillestrøm 4-1 in the 1980 Norwegian Cup Final the Bohemians started another golden period. Under the guidance of Leif Eriksen Vålerenga won three Tippeligaen titles in four years between 1981 and 1984. However, the 90’s proved to be a mirror image of the 50’s and relegation would again be suffered on two occasions.

Nowadays the Bohemians are managed by former 83 cap Norwegian international, Kjetil Rekdal. In his first spell at Vålerenga he coached the side to their fifth, and most recent, Tippeligaen success in 2005. His second spell however has been dogged by the club battling severe financial problems. Last season sixth place was admirable in the light of off-field issues and Rekdal’s signing of Viðar Örn Kjartansson from Fylkir proved to be a masterstroke. The Icelandic international scored 25 goals in just 29 games, but the prolific front man has now been sold to Chinese club Jiangsu Guoxin-Sainty to help balance the books at the club.

After lengthy spells at the Bislett Stadium, Vålerenga have played at the national Ullevaal Stadion since 1999, initially as co-tenants with FK Lyn. However, FK Lyn had a lengthy, and costly, court battle during the 1990’s with the Norwegian FA over their shares of the Ullevaal. When Lyn were relegated in 2009 they decided to play their home games at the run down, but less expensive Bislett Stadium. This has left Vålerenga as sole tenants at the stadium, although Oslo’s other major club, Skeid, considered the Ullevaal tenancy but ultimately decided to stay in their more intimate stadium at Voldsløkka.

FK Lyn had played at the Ullevaal since it opened in September 1926. The Lyn members had considered a number of sites for their new ground but after reaching an agreement with the tram operator, Akersbanerne, land was secured close to the newly built Sognsvann line. The new stadium had a capacity of 35,000 and was officially opened by Crown Prince Olav before a friendly between FK Lyn and Örgryte IS of Gothenburg.

Subsequently the stadium has been renovated no less than six times, most recently as 2013, and is now fully owned by the Norwegian Football Association (Norges Fotballforbund). The current capacity is 28,000 and the NFF have plans to increase this and install a retractable roof and artificial playing surface.

The record attendance at the Ullevaal is 35,495 for a Norway match against Denmark way back in 1935. The highest gate recorded for a Vålerenga game at the Ullevaal is 24,894 for a match against Rosenberg BK in October 2005. The club currently pays the sum of 150,000 NK (around £13,000) per match to play at the national stadium. However, the Bohemians have longed for a stadium of their own in the spiritual homeland of Valle Hovin. After lengthy delays, mainly due to financial issues, to the proposed 22,000 seater stadium, work is supposed to start this year.

Tonight’s game is the first match of the third round of the fledgling Tippeligaen season and sees FK Haugesund making the 400 mile journey east to the capital. The visitors never really get going and its a simple home win for the hosts who benefit from two goals in a minute from their lively Jamaican forward Deshorn Brown. Sadly his double salvo before half-time effectively ends the game as a meaningful contest and the second half is devoid of any real excitement. The home fans are colourful and in good voice but one does wonder if there is any real benefit to playing in a two thirds empty stadium every home game? I will await the developments regarding their new stadium with interest.

th

Friday April 17th 2015 – Tippeligaen

Vålerenga IF (2) 2 (Brown 36,37)

FK Haugesund (0) 0

Attendance: 8,007 (at Ullevaal Stadion)

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