Date of Visit: 27th July 2019
Competition: 2019-20 Pre-Season Friendly
Ground Number: 115
- Founded: 2019
- Ground: Treborth Playing Fields, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2RQ
- Colours: Blue shirts with red trim, white shorts, blue socks with red trim
- Website: https://www.bangor1876.com/
- Twitter: @Bangor1876
The last full week of July could be considered the start of a ‘new era’ for many different reasons. Firstly, earlier in the week, Prime Minister Theresa May’s replacement was finally announced. The Conservative and Unionist Party (in their ultimate ‘wisdom’) thought it would be a superb idea to appoint Brexit hardliner, Boris Johnson, as leader of the governing party and thus the new British Prime Minister. When individuals, such as Jacob Rees Mogg and his fanatical imperial measurement approach, start getting government positions, you do realise that the landscape of British politics has certainly changed. Whether it’s for the best or worst, I’ll let you decide upon that one…
In more happier news, the landscape of Welsh football also changed, and certainly for the better in my opinion. After weeks of intrigue, hints and teasers, the FAW finally announced the new names for the top two tiers of the Welsh football pyramid. The Welsh Premier League has changed its name to the more culturally appropriate “Cymru Premier League”, whilst the former tier 2 Cymru Alliance and Welsh League Division 1 leagues are changed to the “Cymru North” and “Cymru South” respectively. All three leagues coming under the umbrella title of the “Cymru Leagues”, which will also encompass the four tier-three leagues in the 2020-21 season, as scheduled by the FAW’s massive restructure of Welsh football.
Whilst in the Gwynedd city of Bangor, a new era was commencing as Bangor 1876 were playing their first ever home fixture. The club was created by disenfranchised Bangor City supporters earlier in the year, and the 76ers were playing through their first ever pre-season schedule. After a couple of fixtures away from home, they would be making their long-awaited home debut on the 27th July. Their opponents for his historical afternoon was Holywell Town, so naturally as a loyal Wellmen supporter and groundhopper, this pre-season game was a MUST VISIT game for me, not just for the 1876 fans!
Sadly it would mean that I would miss the Welsh independence march in the nearby town of Caernarfon, which was also happening on the same day and also starting at 1pm. I did wonder whether this might affect the attendance, as I knew a few Holywell regulars were going on the march instead of the match. Regardless, I did wear my pro-independence badges in support with the marchers – I may not have been there in person, but I was there in spirit. Whichever side of the fence you sit on Welsh independence, the fact that public marches are occurring, indicates there is a ‘new era’ developing in Welsh politics also…
…wow talking about politics in a groundhopping blog…it must be a new season… 😉
THE FOUNDING OF BANGOR 1876
The creation of Bangor 1876 has resulted from the massive fall out between the owners of Bangor City FC and the Bangor City FC Supporters’ Association (BCFCSA). There is no doubting that Bangor City are a grand, old club within Welsh football, with a fine and illustrious history, and historically a big and loyal fan base. However increasing frictions have arisen between the club and supporters since the introduction of Vaughan Sports Management (VSM) as the main sponsor in 2016, with the company eventually taking over control of Bangor City.
[NOTE: I would suggest googling the Vaughans’ involvement with previous football clubs, such as Barrow AFC and Chester City, to get an idea or come up with your own reasons why perhaps some people were a little ‘unsettled’ with this company’s involvement in Bangor City. I really don’t want to talk about it here…]
Initially there was success and positive signs under VSM’s management, but having finished in second position in the 2017-18 Welsh Premier League, the FAW surprisingly revoked the club’s Tier 1 and UEFA license, due to not meeting within its financial criteria for approving Tier 1 licenses. This resulted in the club not just missing out on European football, and qualifying for the Irn-Bru Cup, but also being automatically relegated to the Cymru Alliance and second-tier of Welsh football.
Sadly financial problems and issues were the main topic of discussion during Bangor City’s season in the Cymru Alliance last season. The club’s auditors resigned after having concerns with the club’s financial affairs, and then the club were temporarily locked out of their ground in Nantporth at the start of the year over unpaid water and electricity bills, resulting in having to play a few games ‘away’ at Conwy and Llandudno. Not to mention having to face threats of winding up orders at the start and end of the season from HMRC over allegedly unpaid taxes.
They have also been hit with a 21-point deduction from their 2017-18 points tally, and a fine from the FAW, after the club was found in breach of various league and FAW regulations throughout the season. Initially they were given a 42 point deduction, which would have seen them relegated to the third tier, but it was halved on appeal. This decision meant that Bangor would maintain its position within the second tier by goal difference.
Enough was enough for the BCFCSA and in April 2019, they had a meeting to agree to become a Supporters Trust, and to create their own team which would be a true representation of the city, and a club for disillusioned supporters of Bangor City. The name “Bangor 1876” was the overwhelming choice among the members for the new club, with the suffix ‘1876’ being the founding year of the original Bangor club. They had their application to become a full member of the FAW accepted by the national association, and in June 2019, were announced to be placed in the Gwynedd League (Tier 5 in the Welsh pyramid) for the 2019-20 season.
Bangor 1876 made their intentions very clear early on when they brought in former Bangor City legends, Les Davies and Michael Johnson, into the club. Both players were at Bangor City during its golden period under the successful management of Nev Powell. Both players have vast amounts of Welsh Premier League experience, with Davies having played in the top flight last season with Llandudno. The club also brought in former Llandudno and Caernarfon Town manager, Iwan Williams, as part of their playing and coaching staff, as well as former Connah’s Quay and Bangor City striker, Jamie Petrie for added experience. Not to mention, adding a vast amount of talented, local youngsters from various clubs in the area to create a talented squad, who are capable of competing in the Gwynedd League this coming season.
In preparation to their first ever season, Bangor 1876 had played two pre-season games already, both against clubs who are owned by Supporters’ Trusts. In their first ever match, Bangor 1876 played against FC United of Manchester at Broadhurst Park. Even though the result ended up 12-1 to the home side, the result was irrelevant for the supporting fans, who were just ecstatic to see their dream of a supporters’ club come to fruition. Although Benn Lundstram’s consolation goal was hugely celebrated by everyone at the club, as they knew how significant a moment it was for everyone at Bangor 1876.
In their previous pre-season match, played on the Thursday prior to this upcoming game, they played against Chester FC at the Deva Stadium. Despite conceding a goal in the third minute, Bangor 1876 played exceptionally well against the English National League North side. Les Davies got the equaliser in the 21st minute, but they conceded to a Matty Hughes goal four minutes after. However they didn’t concede any further goals in the second half, and that is how the scoreline stayed. They could take away a lot of positives from a 2-1 defeat against an established side.
As mentioned previously, the game against Holywell Town would be an historical game for Bangor 1876, as it would be the first time they would be playing within the city of Bangor itself. The club previously announced it will play all their home games this upcoming season at Bangor University’s Treborth Playing Fields, which is situated on the banks of the Menai Straits, and on the north-western outskirts of the city. Their new ground for the Gwynedd League is just 1,5 miles down the coast from the Nantporth stadium, home of Bangor City.
THE OPPOSITION – HOLYWELL TOWN
Holywell Town’s pre-season friendly results prior to this game:
- Wed 3rd July: Runcorn Town (n) 1 – 4
- Sat 6th July: Caernarfon Town (h) 1 – 0
- Sat 13th July: Cammel Laird (h) 1 – 0
- Tue 16th July: Greenfield (h) 1 – 0
- Sat 20th July: Avro FC (h) 1 – 2
- Tue 23rd July: Wrexham Youth (h) 1 – 2
After agonisingly suffering relegation to the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division in the very last game of their Cymru Alliance season (see my blog on that day HERE), it was time for Holywell Town to prepare for life back in the third tier. They almost had a reprieve when Bangor City were initially given a 42 point deduction, which would have seen Holywell stay up and the Citizens go down instead. However the reduction to 21 points deduction saw the Nantporth-based side stay up on goal difference, and finally confirmed* the Wellmen to third-tier football.
[* – Not quite confirmed yet as Bangor may be inflicted with another potential points deduction]
With a large number of players coming in and out of the club during the pre-season, and a team rebuild necessary, manager Johnny Haseldin, had organised a considerable number of friendlies to get the team prepared for the upcoming season and used to playing together as a team. The first game against Runcorn Town was a good first run-out for the Wellmen, who played well despite the 1-4 defeat at Ysgol Treffynnon’s 4G pitch. The scoreline flattering the visitors somewhat.
Then came a run of three 1-0 wins at Halkyn Road, with the most impressive being the 1-0 win against Cymru Premier League side, Caernarfon Town. It was also impressive to see the Holywell defense look more assured with three clean sheets. However in the past week, the Wellmen had suffered two home defeats, 1-2 results back-to-back. Firstly to Manchester-based side, Avro FC, and then to the academy team of Wrexham AFC, although the team showed signs of encouragement in both games.
One concern in the pre-season friendlies has been a lack of goals from Holywell, with the Wellmen only scoring one goal in each of their friendly games so far. Whilst the defense held firm in the earlier games and looked impressive, the missed chances in the last two games had come back to bite them. Therefore, Haseldin was keen to see more goals from his Wellmen side in their first away trip of this season.
TREBORTH PLAYING FIELDS GROUNDHOP
- Distance Travelled: 49 miles
- Travel Time: 55 mins
- Bus Ticket: £5.00
- Entrance: £2.00
- Programme: N/A
- Chocolate Bar: £0.50
- Packet of Crisps: £0.50
For this historical game, I would be travelling to Bangor on the Holywell Town team bus with the players and management team, as well as a number of other paying supporters. All of us having paid the exceedingly cheap price of just £5 for the 49 mile journey there and back on the coach = bargain. We set off just before 11am from an overcast and showery Holywell – certainly a huge difference in weather from the scorching heatwave of a couple of days previously. Thankfully the often feared and expected traffic jams of the A55 Expressway, in the summer months, surprisingly failed to materialise throughout our westward journey meaning our trip was not hindered, and we arrived on the outskirts of the city for about 11:50am.
The entrance to the Treborth Playing Fields and Bangor 1876’s ground is on the corner just before the iconic Menai Bridge, which lifts the ancient A5 road over the Menai Straits to Ynys Môn / Isle of Anglesey. However with the coach driver stopping in a lay-by just before approaching the bridge to check on directions, a number of us decided it was the best time to jump off the bus, and have a couple of pre-match drinks in the nearby Antelope Inn. The scenic looking pub is located right next to the Menai Bridge, and only a shortish distance from 1876’s ground.
As I walked inside the Antelope, my initial impressions were that the gastropub looked very nice and welcoming, although it did have that similar modern décor that many other gastropubs seem to have nowadays (not that it’s a bad thing in my opinion). I still thought that it looked like a decent place to come for a meal, and admire the views of the Menai Straits from its raised position above the A5. I can imagine the place is packed on a sunny day during the summer months! Thankfully for us, there was no-one at the bar when we arrived, and so could quickly order some drinks.
With the Brains Smooth sadly unavailable, I bought myself a pint of John Smiths, and a pint of Stella Artois for the grand price of £7.60, so it wasn’t the cheapest of places for a round of drinks, but then these kind of gastropubs never are. A pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits cost £4.10, much to the surprise and grumblings of some of the Wellmen supporters. With needed drinks in welcome hands, and the weather in Bangor overcast, but mild and dry, we all decided to gather outside in the beer garden.
There we met and got talking to a few 1876 fans, who were also enjoying some pre-match tipples. We all chatted about Bangor 1876’s founding and previous pre-season games, as well as the status of the other Bangor club, and Holywell’s pre-season. Crucially we also got some directions to the ground from the pub, or at the very least, had someone to follow to get to the game. I was also impressed with the new Bangor 1876 shirts that they were wearing. The blue shirts have a red v-neck collar, and have a retro vibe and style which I really liked. Considering I saw many of those shirts being worn throughout the afternoon by the home supporters, it would seem that the supporters really like the shirts also, and that the club and Teejac Sports (the local shirt manufacturers) have made a killing with them!
There was just enough time (or so we thought) for another half to be bought and consumed in the Antelope’s beer garden before it was time to head down towards the ground for the 1pm kick off. Following our new Bangor friends, we walked through the Gwynedd tower of the Menai Bridge before heading down the lane to the Treborth Playing Fields.
[NOTE: If you’re coming to watch Bangor 1876, do not park in the car park of The Antelope as you will get fined £80 if you’re not a customer! There is parking available down by the ground.]
Treborth Playing Fields are located right on the coast of the Menai Straits, adjacent to the infamous and treacherous stretch of the Straits named “The Swellies” (Welsh: Pwll Ceris), so called for its numerous whirlpools and surges at that location. The area is owned and managed by nearby Bangor University, and is situated in the land between the Robert Stephenson built Britannia Bridge to the west of the complex, and the Thomas Telford built Menai Suspension Bridge to the east. In the area, there is an athletics track, a rugby pitch, a 4G and grass football pitch (which Bangor 1876 will use this season), as well as an American football pitch also.
It’s fair to say the walk from the pub to the ground was certainly not a “five minute walk” but more like ten to fifteen minutes along the lane. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice pleasant walk from the pub to the ground through some nice woodland and past some pleasant looking houses with picturesque gardens. I think if I hadn’t have rushed to get to kick-off on time, I would have appreciated it and the Treborth Botanic Garden much more. Alas the walk was longer than we all expected and kick off was rapidly approaching. It became a bit of a trek for some people in our party, as they were desperate for the toilet just five minutes into the walk. I am certain they would have beaten Mo Farah or Usain Bolt in a race at the rapid speed they were walking/sprinting towards the ground!
Having walked along the lane for about ten minutes or so, the athletics track finally came into view along with changing rooms and site complex next to it, which crucially and most importantly had toilets within it ha! After everyone had made full use of the facilities, we approached the entrance into the ground and paid a very reasonable £2 to the high-visibility clad volunteers. Sadly there was no accompanying programme available for this first home match, although I never do expect them for pre-season friendlies.
The walk from the changing room complex down to the football pitch was a further couple of minutes, walking past the impressive looking 4G pitch, complete with small seated stand next to it. I can imagine that’ll be used by Bangor 1876 during the season, when the weather and the grass pitches are not in an ideal condition for football. The football pitch is situated on lower level next to the gridiron, which is used for the university’s American football team – certainly the first gridiron I have come across on my groundhopping journeys.
As I feared, the game had already started with five minutes having been played, although thankfully no goals had been scored early in the game. I was certainly impressed with the amount of supporters who had come to the game today, with a majority of them wearing some kind of Bangor 1876 merchandise, which was pleasing to see. They had all filed along the top of the bank, along the side of the gridiron, and were looking down upon the pitch. In fairness, from the top of the bank, it did provide an excellent view of the entire pitch, and I can see it being a favourite with a large number of groundhoppers when they arrive here during the season.
Despite the great view from the top of the bank, we decided to congregate with the other Holywell supporters who were standing on the opposite side of the pitch. Please note that if you are visiting the ground, there are unsurprisingly no concrete paths around the pitch, so it could get muddy and slippy in worse weather or later in the season. Thankfully for us, it was only overcast and a touch breezy, so the walk around was fine, with only the overgrown bushes next to the pitch causing any slight concerns.
Unlike other grounds in the Gwynedd League this season, Bangor 1876’s ground possesses fixed floodlights, which will be naturally handy later on in the season. So it was no surprise that I managed to attach one of my logo stickers to side of (aptly) floodlight number 4 on the walk around the pitch. With the game currently underway, I fixed the 94th Minute flag into position onto the permanent standing barriers, which surround the pitch, and settled in for the game. As one of the supporters said as I was fixing the flag to the barrier, it was first away flag at Bangor’s new ground, so I’ll take that bit of history with me haha!
Holywell started the brighter of the two teams with a couple of off-target efforts within the first ten minutes, although as the first half developed, the home side started to settle into the game. 1876 came close from a Jamie Petrie strike after nearly a quarter of an hour played, although they would soon register their first home goal not long afterwards. A Petrie corner was volleyed by Dylan Summers-Jones, but it was successfully blocked by the visiting defence. Alas for the Wellmen, the deflection fell kindly to midfielder Dion Jones, who slotted the loose ball in at the far post to give Bangor the lead after eighteen minutes of play, much the absolute delight of the Bangor fans on top of the bank.
CPD Bangor 1876 FC 1 – 0 Holywell Town
Having gotten the first goal of the game, Bangor’s confidence was rising and they continued to threaten Holywell’s goal. The best chances of that dominant period going to Benn Lundstram, who initially was unable to cleanly connect with Summers-Jones’ squared pass across the face of the goal. Then he saw a later effort zip wide of the Holywell goal, after he had latched onto a through ball that allowed him to brake clear of the visiting defensive line.
Despite finding themselves at a goal disadvantage, Holywell continued to threaten the Bangor defence throughout the first half. Youngster, Jake Cooke’s passing and vision being impressive, whilst Shaun Tuck’s endless running and darting sprints stretched the Bangor backline out of shape on a number of occasions. Sadly the visitors were unable to capitalise on their period of dominance and find that crucial equaliser. A glancing header was easily dealt with whilst a late free kick from Tuck and superbly headed away by the home defence.
The one downside to the first half was the injury to former Llandudno and Caernarfon Town manager, Iwan Williams, who had to be substituted as a result of a muscular strain which he picked up in a challenge a few minutes earlier. However despite this injury, the first half had been ideal for Bangor in their first ever home game, and they went into the half time interval with the goal advantage.
HALF TIME: CPD BANGOR 1876 FC 1 – 0 HOLYWELL TOWN
At half time I decided to make the long walk back to the changing room complex to make use of the facilities again. Naturally the teams stayed out on the pitch, rather than walking all the way back to the changing rooms for their half time discussions.
Back at the centre, I noticed there was a tea bar there selling all the usual arrangement of hot drinks and some snacks, although at this point, I was neither hungry nor thirsty. There were also volunteers in the centre taking orders for season tickets, and the blue home or red away shirts. Up close, both shirts do look really impressive, and for just £20 each, I was incredibly tempted to get one myself. However considering I was there supporting the away team this afternoon, it would have looked a bit odd had I bought one, so I decided against it. However you cannot argue with that value for shirts, and there was a long queue of people putting in their orders. No wonder so many people were wearing them this afternoon!
Bangor had the perfect start to the second half, as just two minutes after the restart, and they doubled their advantage. Left back, Shaun Lock, sent a long throw-in towards the towering Les Davies, making his formidable presence known in the penalty box. The former Bangor City and Bala Town striker flicked the ball towards the far post where Jamie Petrie used his experience to get beyond his marker and finish with aplomb, to give the home side a 2-0 lead.
CPD Bangor 1876 FC 2 – 0 Holywell Town
Bangor’s confidence was rising once again, and just ten minutes after the restart, then they extended their lead to 3-0 for the afternoon. A long diagonal ball from Lock was pumped beyond the high defensive line of Holywell and towards Petrie who was running onto the long, arched pass. It looked as if Holywell’s keeper, Mike Platt, would intercept the pass and quench the danger. Alas the oncoming keeper completely misjudged the flight of the ball as the ball drifted past him whilst jumping to intercept it. It left Petrie clear on his own to score into the empty net with the easiest of tap-ins, and to get his second goal of the game.
CPD Bangor 1876 FC 3 – 0 Holywell Town
Both of the teams started to make changes through substitutions, with Bangor bringing on a number of trialists, whilst Holywell brought on Wayne Edwards, who had been in great goalscoring form in previous pre-season games. The changes allowed Holywell to work their way into the match, with the dual between Edwards and Bangor’s right-back, Kieron Price, being entertaining viewing. Throughout the game, it looked as if Holywell’s best chance of goal were to come from set pieces, and so it proved when they scored a consolation goal on the 78th minute. Centre-back, Jacob Wise, rose above the bustling crowd in the penalty box, to nod the corner past the trialist goalkeeper, and give the visiting fans (and myself) something to cheer about, although it left the rest of the ground in stunned silence.
CPD Bangor 1876 FC 3 – 1 Holywell Town
It provided an exciting and thrilling end to the game, especially as tempers between the players was hotting up. The continuous exchange between Edwards and Price was becoming more tasty, whilst ‘Big’ Les Davies was causing problems for the increasingly aggrieved visiting defense, who were consistently complaining about Davies’ flailing arms during challenges. It was during one of these challenges with Les Davies that the goalscorer Wise got himself sent off for something. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but the official gave him a red card and so Holywell had to play the last ten minutes with a man disadvantage.
With just a few minutes remaining, both teams could have added to their goal tallies, but were kept at bay through excellent defensive displays. Firstly Mike Platt produced a world-class save to keep Lundstram’s curling free kick from hitting the top corner of the net. Then at the other end, the Bangor substitute goalkeeper made a fine low save to stop Holywell getting a second goal. From the resulting corner, a bundled chance was just cleared off the goal line by the home defense to keep the two goal advantage for the home side. Goal line technology was definitely needed there!
Alas for Holywell, that would be the final chance of the game and the official soon ended the friendly contest. The huge cheers from the home support went around the ground as Bangor 1876 had achieved their very first win in their history, and had done it in their first ever home game. History had been made!
FULL TIME: CPD BANGOR 1876 FC 3 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN
POST GAME & CONCLUSION
Once the game had come to a conclusion, we all took the long walk back to the centre to wait around whilst the players returned back to the changing rooms. It was at this point when the heavens started to open and the expected rain, which had threatened throughout the game, had finally arrived and was starting to cascade upon Bangor. It was a light shower at first but it got heavier as the afternoon progressed. We all watched the conditions worsen and the skies darken from the comfort of the sport hall complex.
Considering I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, I was now famished. So I bought myself a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar from the tea bar for a combined total of £1 to keep me going. They certainly helped fend off the hunger twinges although I did bemoan about how small the chocolate bars have become nowadays in comparison to how they used to be ‘back in the day’…jeeze I must be getting old…
The players and staff all returned from the changing rooms, and had some of the numerous amount of sandwiches from the post-game buffet that Bangor 1876 had laid out for them (I may have had a couple of the remaining butties that were not eaten…) before it was time for us all to return to the coach, and head back to Holywell. However our journey did make a couple of stops on the way back. Firstly to pick up some cans of booze from the nearest supermarket, and then the lads went into (now) rainy Bangor for a couple of pints in Wetherspoons to de-stress. I was shattered by this point, so I had a little snooze on the bus whilst waiting for them to return from a soggy looking high street.
It rained all the way back to Holywell, although the journey was kept lively with a number of beers dished out around the bus (a perk of being on the team’s coach), whilst a few of the new members of the squad had to sing a song for the rest of the team. The classic initiation for new players joining a team! A couple of them were of a good standard, whilst a couple were….well…they’re not going to win X-Factor any time soon! Ha!
So in conclusion, although the result was not what I wanted from the afternoon, I really enjoyed the day trip to Bangor 1876 and being present for this historic day for them. I can imagine it’s been a long and tough road for the 76ers to get to this point, so I am very pleased for them that it’s all come together and it’s looking positive for the future. Plus their team looks a very decent one, having deserved the 3-1 victory from the afternoon’s game. Providing all their top players stay fit, they have to be strong favourites to claim the Gwynedd League title this season, and gain promotion to the fourth tier.
One thing is for certain, they will certainly have a huge support behind them throughout the season anyway. To get a 300+ crowd for this pre-season game, considering the other events that were occurring on the same day, was really damn impressive, and I would imagine the crowds will increase once the season properly starts for them. I sincerely hope this season goes absolutely brilliantly for them, and it’s great to see so much enthusiasm and excitement for a Bangor side, which had been missing these past couple of seasons. The supporters have their team back, and it’s heartwarming to see it in action! Watch out for the 1876, they are a club on the rise!!
Very best wishes to everyone involved at Bangor 1876, and to all the supporters also, and I hope you all have a superb season. Thank you very much for the warm welcome you all gave us, and I really enjoyed the visit (despite the result).
“Didn’t we have a lovely time, the day we went to Bangor (1876)?”
Yes, yes we most certainly did…