Ahead of Sunday’s (4 December) live televised JD Welsh Cup Round 3 match against Bangor City at Ynys Park, the Football Association of Wales have featured the Bulldogs on their website, FAW.Cymru.
You can read the article in full below and tickets for Sunday’s big cup clash can be purchased in the Clubhouse between 7-9pm every weeknight.
History will be made on Sunday when football is televised live from the Rhondda for the very first time. The S4C Sgorio cameras will be at Ynys Park as Welsh League outfit Ton Pentre host Dafabet Welsh Premier League side Bangor City.
But while the Citizens will be favourites to tame the Bulldogs, the profile of the fixture has provided the perfect platform for this ambitious fan-owned club to take another step forward in their dream of a top-flight return.
“Ticket sales have been good and there is a lot of local interest in the match,” explained Ton Pentre’s Partnership Manager Gary Matuszczyk to FAW.Cymru earlier this week.
“From a Rhondda perspective, it’s the first game ever to be televised live here, and I’m sure it will raise the profile of both the club and the area. It will certainly help in highlighting how we are growing the club and building on what we have already put in place, and I hope the interest in the match will help in getting people to realise the potential that we have here.”
A club steeped in history and synonymous with football in what is traditionally a rugby heartland, Ton Pentre are no strangers to the Welsh Cup, but the last time they reached the final of the domestic showpiece was way back in 1922 when they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Cardiff City in front of an estimated crowd of 8,000 people in Pontypridd. However, the club recently reached the semi-final of the competition in both 2001/02 and 2002/03 despite playing in the second tier, but respective defeats to Barry Town and Cwmbran Town prevented another appearance in the final. “I have some great memories of our Welsh Cup performances,” added Matuszczyk. “And although Bangor City will be favourites, we have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.”
Manager Lee Phillips was part of the Barry Town side that reached the Welsh Cup final at Ton Pentre’s expense back in 2001/02, but the former defender will need to right the wrongs of the 5-0 league defeat to Goytre United last weekend as he prepares his side for the challenge of Bangor City.
Currently eleventh in the Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Division One table, inconsistency has cost the side this season, but Bangor City are a side in transition and new manager Ian Dawes will take charge of his side for just the second time when the two teams meet on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the match coincides with a poignant anniversary for the club, as it was 30 years ago in November 1986 that Ton Pentre hosted Cardiff City at a packed Ynys Park in the 1st round of the English FA Cup and attracted national interest with their appearance on BBC’s Football Focus show.
But while the two managers focus firmly upon matters on the field, the occasion also offers the ideal opportunity for Ton Pentre to showcase their work off the field.
Gerwyn Rees has been a supporter at Ynys Park for over 30 years, but his interest in the club stretches far beyond win, lose or draw. “I live locally and the ground is a 10 minute walk from my home,” explained Rees to FAW.Cymru.
“I’m also a volunteer for the Tenovus Cancer Care charity, one of the clubs community partners, and I act as the link between the two. Community partnerships are very important to our charity and the club have been absolutely fantastic in raising money, from sponsored walks to recently wearing a pink kit for Breast Cancer awareness month. The money the club has raised has made a real difference.”
However, Rees is also keen to talk about his team and what they could achieve this weekend. “Everyone is talking about the game, there really is a lot of excitement about it,” he added. “It’s been well-publicised and the club do some great work promoting things on social media, which really makes a difference. It’s certainly generated a lot of interest in the match. Ticket sales are going very well, and with a good crowd it should be a great day for the club. Depending on the weather, the pitch could prove to be a leveller too, so who knows. Hopefully it can spur the club on by bringing some new people through the turnstiles.
“I remember when we played Cardiff City in the FA Cup, there was a great atmosphere there that day, and it will be great to see another big crowd back at Ynys Park. The fact that it is also live on television is great for the club and the community, and hopefully the club can really build on the back of it.”
His sentiments were echoed by Matuszczyk, who believes that this can be just the start of a new era of success for a club that competed in European competition back in the 1990’s. “This is a new phase for the club and we are trying to develop things in the right way,” he said. “We are building links with local youth groups and our aim is to provide a platform for youngsters that when they reach the age of 16 they can continue to play football at youth and then senior level.
“There are plenty of clubs in the area that run excellent junior teams and we are not trying to take over from them, but we want to work with them, and offer a pathway for their players to progress once they finish playing junior football.
“We also need to attract younger board members, as we need continuity to ensure that we continue to progress as a club and build on what we already have in place. We have to be pro-active from a marketing and business perspective, which applies to any sports club in the present time. We’re not trying to take over the world, but I do believe that Rhondda Cynon Taff should have a team in the Welsh Premier League, such is the potential for it in the area.”
Ton Pentre’s credentials of a return to the top-flight will be put to the test on Sunday, but while the club will temporarily turn its attentions to the magic of the cup, their longer-term ambitions remain very much driven by wider measures of success.
In September this year the club published a strategy document with a vision of what the club can achieve on and off the field by 2022. The central theme of the document entitled ‘Leading Football Excellence in your Community’ focuses on links and partnerships with all aspects of the local community, channelling the efforts of a targeted membership of 2000 people to ensure that Ton Pentre becomes the central sporting hub of the Rhondda. The strategy is ambitious, just as it should be, and it stretches far beyond temporary sporting success.
After years in the Welsh League wilderness Ton Pentre are slowly but surely planning their return to the glory days that made them one of the most recognisable names in Welsh football, and with history set to made on Sunday as football is transmitted live from the Rhondda for the very first time, there could be no better occasion for the club to make a clear statement about their future ambition.