When most people hear the words ‘Merthyr Tydfil’ they think of…well, not much actually. The Welsh town has produced some good boxers over the years and the Ironmen were one of the founding clubs of the Welsh Rugby Union back in 1881, but other than that the town is mainly known to most people because of its links to the iron industry.
That is, of course, except for those of us that have a love for Merthyr Town Football Club. The club was originally formed in 1909, folded in 1934 to be replaced by Merthyr Tydfil Football Club, then reformed in 2010. You can’t say it’s a boring life being a fan of the Red and Greens! We’ll have a look at the club’s chequered history amongst many other things on this page.
The History Of Merthyr Town
Merthyr Town’s history is a fascinating one even if you don’t support the club, largely because of the manner in which it ended up where it is now. It was formed in 1909 and almost immediately joined the Southern League’s Second Division. That was primarily a league for English clubs, but a couple of Welsh ones were also in it.
The Welsh sides that you’d recognise nowadays were the likes of Cardiff City and Swansea Town; this was before Swansea had been made into a city in its own right! Merthyr did well and got settled into the league quickly, finishing third at the end of the 1911-1912 season and gaining promotion to the First Division.
Some yo-yoing followed before Merthyr were placed back into the top division once football resuming after the First World War. Despite finishing bottom of the league in the 1919-1920 campaign, Merthyr managed to remain in the division because the Football League decided to create a new Third Division that year, which was basically just the Southern Division’s top-flight.
In the years that followed, however, Merthyr Town suffered a decline that was almost year-on-year. Eventually the club was voted out of the Football League in 1930 and was replaced by Thames, but they didn’t last long in existence. Despite dropping back into the Southern League, Merthyr ceased playing and was wound up in 1934.
Merthyr Tydfil F.C. Is Formed
Merthyr Tydfil as a town couldn’t last that long without a football club. The demand to watch people kicking a ball around was too much, so Merthyr Tydfil Football Club was formed in 1945, immediately after the Second World War. It joined the Welsh League and finished as runners-up in its first season, going on to be even more successful in the years that followed.
Merthyr Tydfil F.C. won the championship five times between 1948 and 1954, only dropping one point at home in the 1947-1948 campaign. In the 1950-1951 season Tydfil won the Southern League, Welsh Cup, Southern League Cup and Welsh Challenge Cup, yet despite that huge level of success still wasn’t elected to the Football League.
Between 1960 and the late 1980s, Merthyr Tydfil F.C. bounced between the various Southern League divisions, not winning the title again until 1989. The victory saw the club enter the Football Conference, but more bouncing around divisions followed until a relegation back to the Southern League in 1995. The club was eventually dissolved in 2010.
The Return Of Merthyr Town
The liquidation of Merthyr Tydfil F.C. meant that there was once again room for a football club to be formed in the Welsh town. The reformation came under the old title of Merthyr Town, with the club required to drop down three division to Division One of the Western Football League. They were also forced to change grounds, but gained promotion at the first time of asking.
The club gained promotion back to the Southern League Premier Division in April of 2015, a mere five years after being expelled from it. Despite being fully owned by a supporter’s trust, the club suffered financial difficulties during the 2017-2018 season and got beat 13-1 by Chesham United when a group of youth players had to make up the team for the match.
What League Do They Play In?
Now that you’re caught up on a potted history of Merthyr Town, it’s time to have a look at some more specific details. We’ll start by looking at the division that the club plies its trade in at the time of writing. It’s obviously worth bearing in mind that that could change at any moment, especially if The Martyrs are able to get a string of wins together.
For the 2019-2020 campaign the club played its football in the Premier South division of the Southern Football League. Those of you that spent your time watching the Premier League and the Championship might not even have heard of the Premier South division, but we promise you that it exists! The Southern Football League was formed in 1894.
In the years following the Southern Football League’s formation it was realised that it would be best off splitting into different regions based on geography. This was both to assist the clubs in not having to spend huge sums of money travelling around from place to place but also for the simple purpose of administration and organisation.
The Southern Premier League is split up into four sections:
- Premier Central
- Premier South
Along with the Isthmian League and the Northern Premier League, the Southern Premier League helps to make up levels seven and eight of the English Football League. You can probably see how far down the list we’re talking about now! It offers promotion to the National League South or National League North and relegation to any one of seven divisions.
Penydarren Park Stadium
We’re not being stupid when we say that the stadium is in Merthyr Tydfil. Given that the likes of Wimbledon seem to be playing wherever they fancy, it’s worth clarifying! The club plies its trade at Penydarren Park, which was its home when it was first formed and up until the dissolution. It has been used for numerous sports over the years, including rugby.
Situated on a hill in the town, it was once a Roman military encampment and then became part of Penydarren House’s estate during the industrial revolution. The area had long been used by locals for various exercises and then in the 1890s a cinder running track as well as a cycling track were both added. It was the start of a move to properly change the area for sporting purposes.
The new iteration of the club has been playing its games at the ground since 2011. In July of that year the club hosted Llanelli in a friendly and took up permanent residency thereafter. Not far from the River Taff and close to the Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates Court, the stadium’s position on a hill pretty much in the centre of town means you can’t really miss it.
It’s tricky to talk about the club’s best result without being clear about whether you’re talking about the club in either iteration or you want an answer specifically about the current version of Merthyr Town F.C. If it’s the former of those two options then there’s a very easy answer. Merthyr Tydfil F.C. won the Welsh Cup in 1987, meaning it could play in the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
That was largely because the Heysel Stadium tragedy had led the British government to inexplicably withdraw all English teams from taking part in European competition. As a result, Welsh clubs took part in the Cup Winners’ Cup in their place. Merthyr Tydfil were drawn to play the Italian club Atalanta in the first round.
The first-leg was played at Merthyr’s home ground, which they went on to win 2-1. Despite all of the league championships won over the years and the promotions gained, that will surely go down in history as being one of the club’s finest ever victories. Not even the fact that they went on to be beaten 2-0 in the second-leg and knocked out of the cup can change that.
In terms of the modern version of Merthyr Town F.C., there’s nothing quite as dramatic to choose from. The victory in the Welsh Football League in 1931 is still something that gets talked about, as does the Welsh Football League Cup win in 1926. For most people, though, the Southern League Cup win in 2016 is a moment of immense pride.
Famous Former Players
Let’s be honest, Neither Lionel Messi nor Mohamed Salah were likely to have passed through the doors of Merthyr Town during their formative years. In fact, there aren’t a whole host of recognisable names that have called Merthyr Town home at one point or another. Yes, the likes of Henry Cockerill ended his career here, but that’s not a massive claim to fame.
The club has welcomed more than a few journeymen over the years, such as Thomas Potter Smith, who spent his career moving around the likes of Hull City, Cardiff City and Brighton & Hove Albion. Likewise Tommy Barber won the FA Cup with Aston Villa before spending a year in Merthyr. George Beel went on to be Burnley’s best ever centre-forward.