Posted by: musinganorak | July 8, 2010

And so it begins..

Today saw me heading to South Wales for my first match of the 2010/11 football season, 43 days after my last match in the 2009/10 season. In groundhopping circles this makes me a bit of a lightweight. Some groundhoppers never stop. Their season ends on the 30th June and starts again on the 1st July. However I don’t go to matches in summer leagues, I haven’t yet dipped my toe in Scottish Junior football, which has nothing to do with children, and I don’t personally do pre-season friendly matches. I’m not saying that I’ll never do any of the aforementioned, I just don’t at the moment. Step forward, therefore, the early qualifying rounds of the UEFA competitions. Proper competitive football in July!

After arriving in Port Talbot mid-afternoon I had time to visit a couple of pubs. I headed out to Cwmfelin where I visited the Cross Inn, sampling Newmans Shifty Nibbler. This was very much a local’s pub, albeit with a very friendly welcome. I then returned to Port Talbot and went to the Lord Caradoc which is the local Wetherspoons pub. In here I had Rhymney Export which was very tasty. The pub, however, was just your run of the mill Wetherspoons. This is not meant as a criticism, it’s just that if you’ve visited a number of these establishments then you can probably picture for yourself exactly what it is like.

And so on to the football. The match was Port Talbot Town v TPS Turku in the UEFA Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 2nd Leg. Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue! TPS Turku had won the first leg in Finland last week 3-1. The Welsh team’s away goal meant that the tie was still alive and so it was disappointing that the ground seemed barely half full. I did manage to catch up with a number of hopper friends who were also there and I watched the match in the company of “Sad Hopper” the Non League Paper columnist.

The match itself wasn’t a particularly even contest, and in the end Turku finished 4-0 winners for an aggregate score of 7-1. They were helped greatly by the fact that is currently midway through the Finnish season whereas Port Talbot have only played one hastily arranged friendly to get some match practice. The home side started brightly and narrowly missed taking the lead after 5 minutes. Unfortunately their next decent chance didn’t come until deep into the second half when they were already 3-0 down. Turku’s goals came from 2 superb long range efforts in the first half that both found the top corner, a mazy dribble and finish for the third and a great defence splitting pass for the final goal. A number of the Finnish players caught the eye, notably Sami Rahmonen, Mika Aaritalo and Babatunde Wusu. Unfortunately the Welsh looked like a team who were just starting to prepare for their season and they can’t really have any complaints about the final score.

My most surreal experience came well before kick off, and may prove to be the most surreal experience of the whole season. I had just finished walking around the ground taking my pictures and I turned to retrace my steps back to where I could get some food. At this point I was met by a steward who told me that nobody was allowed to walk behind the goal. I pointed out that I had just come from that very spot but he was adamant that nobody was allowed there. I must have imagined being there then!

I don’t know when, or where,  my second game will be but I suspect that it will not be until the 7th August. A whole month to wait. That doesn’t matter though. The new season has started. That’s what really matters.

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