Result: Brymbo 2-4 Holywell Town (Welsh National League Premier Division)
Venue: The Crick (Saturday 21st December 2019, 3pm)
Att: 200 (approx.)
The final pre-Christmas weekend of the year saw a first trip over the Welsh border since the very first game of the season. Nor were either ground all too distant from each other either, as I headed to Weston Rhyn for Chirk Town’s first outing. For today, the venue was the Crick in the Wrexham suburb of Brymbo – or just outside to be exact – and I would be joined along the way by blog regular appearance maker, Paul. The morning journey saw me again head Cheshire-wards, passing through Warrington in the nick of time to catch the express to Chester. Once there, a 25 minute wait was split up by, first, being told I’d given the ticket office girl a Aussie cent (my reply of “I don’t remember that trip” made me feel like a comedian for a very brief moment) and a pint of Punk IPA in the Town Crier just outside the station entrance.
Before long, it was time to catch the train to Wrexham, where I would meet Paul in one of their two Wetherspoon offerings, prior to grabbing a bus up the Crick. This all went surprisingly smoothly, for once, and after a Bud Light each in the Elihu Yale, we were soon stepping onto the number 14 service from the bus station just around the corner, which also offered journeys to Ruthin, Denbigh and elsewhere in the country’s rather complex transport map. However, it was a little easier for us, and within 15 minutes, we were debussing outside the Rollers Arms in Tanyfron, complete with neighbouring stream. Now, the Rollers isn’t exactly a looker from the outside it has to be said, but inside it is pretty cosy and decent and the pints of Coors (£3~) went down well for each of us.
Brymbo is a large village local government community out in the hills to the North East of Wrexham, of which it is part of the county borough. It probably derives its name from the Welsh Bryn Baw (mud hill) and first appeared on record in 1339 although the area had been populated for a long while before that – shown by the Brymbo Man, a body dating back to 1600BC. Upon the times stated before, Brymbo had become a township, surrounded by a number of smaller outlying settlements and other unclaimed areas, whilst in 1440, the burgesses of nearby Holt were granted permission to mine for coal in “Harwd” and Coedpoeth – the former being a previous name for Brymbo, likely coming from the English “Harwood” (Hare Wood) and referred to a common in one part of the township.
Also in the 15th century, landowner Edward ap Morgan ap Madoc, gentleman, built a dwelling that would become Brymbo Hall, the perennial home of his descendants, the Griffiths. Coal mining continued on a small scale up to the 18th century when the activities grew, particularly John “Iron Mad” Wilkinson bought Brymbo Hall and began to develop its estate, mining coal and ironstone and creating ironworks which later became the village steelworks. By 1821, there was a total of 41 mines on the estate alone, whilst numerous deep mining holes were sunk around the area, with Brymbo village largely becoming a redevelopment for the workers in these industries. The village itself was built on the hillsides overlooking the Cheshire Plain and had a railway station until 1950.
Howver, this topography would later cause issues in the 1950’s, when new parts of the steelworks were built upon a vast artificial plateau of slag from the furnaces and then filling the valley and most of the village, the houses of which were demolished beforehand. The steelworks continued production whilst the pits fell aside financially and geologically by the Great Depression, the last deep mine closing in 1938, though the smelt drift mine continued to 1967. The steelworks finally closed in the early 1990’s, again adding to the financial problems of the area. The current Community of Brymbo also takes in the surrounding villages; Tanyfron and Bwlchgwyn and other smaller settlements around them. It was in the county of Denbighshire until 1974 and then Clwyd to 1996, when this was abolished and it’s now a part of Wrexham County Borough. It has recently had new houses added and further redevelopments of the steelworks’ brownfield sites is to follow.
As with last week, we had another 2pm kick off on our hands and, with Brymbo village being a fair way off still considering the time frames involved, I followed Paul’s plan to instead pay a visit to the Brymbo Sports Club itself. You see, I can play it safe if prompted! Anyway, it was a decent choice, as the uphill walk soon showed up our recent lack of respective fitness and by the time we arrived, we were very much in need of some refreshing, frosty ones….and not a snowman. The bear outside the club was already on it as we arrived, perhaps our spirit (mythical) animal had finally been discovered?
After a Holsten had been downed, it was time to head outside and to the ground, although we weren’t quite expecting the entrance we would see upon turning the corner. A few flights of steps lead up to the crest of a hill, upon which stood a club building, the gate, and the Crick’s two pitches in behind. Once we’d cambered up groundhopping’s answer to Everest (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating), we paid our entry dues of £3, but discovered a lack of programmes on the day. Apparently, they do usually issue, but expected the game to be off, and so didn’t print any. It has to be said, though, that I haven’t seen much evidence of these anywhere as it is, but who am I to speculate? Paul was even spurned in his quest for a team sheet. Not sure he’ll cope!
Back onto matters at hand, and we reached pitch side just as the game was getting going. The ground itself is a tidy set up, with hard standing around 3 sides and the far end being netted off to avoid balls flying off down the hill. Though it has to be said, I did skim around it, so it is possible. Both sides of the pitch play host to stands, the near side featuring a seated and small covered, metal terrace and the other populated by an older stand, whose seats, it can be certainly stated, have seen better days! Behind the near goal are the aforementioned club building (housing food bar and dressing rooms), as well as the secondary pitch, which wasn’t in use today, but seems to be kept in some nick. So that’s the Crick and this is the back story of *ahem* Crimbo Brymbo…
Brymbo Football Club was founded in 1943 as the works team of the Brymbo Steelworks, however the village has hosted a football club since the late 1800’s, with Brymbo Institute (1890-1897; 1907-’09), Brymbo Junior (1899) and Brymbo Victoria, all representing the area during the more formative years. During this time, it was Victoria that saw the majority of success, winning a Wrexham & District League title in three successive seasons through 1904-’06, although these are stated as two Division One’s and one Division 2 – in that order. Strange, as the year after the apparent Division 2 win in 1906, the club then moved into the Flintshire League for a season, before returning to the Wrexham & District League system, alongside the re-formed Institute side. Institute would win their own Division 2 title in 1909, although this proved to be the last season of their existence.
Brymbo Victoria continued on, moving into The Combination to take on Birkenhead’s fixtures in 1909 and were joined on the field by Green United who joined the Wrexham & District League too, just as their predecessors. They spent two years there before seemingly disappearing in 1912, one year after Victoria had also seemed to halt playing. Brymbo Institute restarted life in the two seasons pre-World War One playing in the North Wales Alliance, and continued there upon the restart of football, now alongside Brymbo Green, whilst Brymbo Junior re-joined the area’s footballing scene in 1921, competing in the Ffrith & District League, although this seemed to be a bridge too far and they again lasted the one season. Meanwhile, Institute carried on to 1924 in the Welsh National League North’s Division One until merging with Division 2 East’s Brymbo Green and continuing under the latter moniker, whilst another brief rekindling of Junior back in the Ffrith League again fizzled out after the one year.
Green continued on, playing in the Wrexham & District League Division One for the next few years, though apparently disappeared in 1936, though came back as Brymbo Steelworks, it seems, post-World War II. Competing in the Welsh National League’s Senior Division, the club finished 2nd in its first year, before enjoying a golden era in the WNL’s Division One through to 1983, where they won a total of 12 league titles, and won the Welsh Amateur Cup in 1967. Anyway, in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division, the Steelworks continued until 1991, whereupon they simply became Brymbo F.C. and moved to the Cymru Alliance, finishing as runners-up in 1995, before merging with New Broughton to form the, imaginatively titled, Brymbo Broughton F.C. and winning both the 1996 North East Wales F.A. Cup. and the same year’s Cymru Alliance President’s Cup.
The club remained in the Alliance until 2002, when they were relegated back to the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area), where a poor season, as Summerhill Brymbo following a merger with Summerhill United, saw them end 2005-’06 in 16th place, but Brymbo avoided the drop, before the simpler Brymbo F.C. name returned once again. Back under their former name, they immediately won the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) title for two straight seasons, though remained in the league regardless, and added to these the F.A.W. Trophy in 2007. They have since remained in the same league system, although they did suffer relegation in 2017 to Division One, they bounced back immediately to take the 2017-’18 Division One title and finished last season, their Prem return year, in 15th.
They were also re-joined on the field by the reformed Brymbo Victoria, who took on a place in the North Wales League – again ensuring two clubs playing senior football in the area. However, the season wasn’t without an interesting footnote, as Brymbo actually finished 3rd before having a whole 63 points deducted (somehow only the second highest in Welsh footballing history), though still avoided an undeserved drop due to the demise of FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay, and the acceptance of relegation by Hawarden Rangers. As Steelworks, the club also won eight WNL (Wrexham Area) League Cups (or alternative, spanning 1948-1986), four N.E. Wales Cups (through 1970-1985) and, as Brymbo, have added a further two Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division, in each of 2008 and 2013.
The game got underway with an early strike for the second successive game, the visitors striking within the first five minutes. After earning a free-kick just outside the angle of the area, Sam Jones’ ball in evaded everyone and nestled into the bottom corner. A great start for the visitors almost got even better seconds later, but Mark Connolly struck the bar, but it would be two on 10 minutes – Connolly seeing his headed effort kept out by Brymbo ‘keeper Declan Morgan, only for the ball to be forced over the line by the alliteratively-pleasingly-named Dan Dobbins.
With a two-goal advantage, it looked as though Holywell may well have been on course for another high-scoring victory (they’ve scored more than ten on a few occasions this season already), but Brymbo had been unbeaten against the Wellmen up to this point, securing a point away from home and defeating them in a cup game a few weeks earlier. However, despite denying Town a third by the time the half-hour ticked by, another ball in would just evade Jones and run to the back-post where Dylan Allshorn pounced and finished with aplomb. Allshorn would be booked for apparent simulation just before the break – though it did look to be a penalty from my view – but the sides headed in with Holywell remaining three-up and in control; so much so that this led one visiting player to declare Brymbo a “pub team” on his way to the dressing room. This could have come back to bite him hard.
Finishing up a hot-dog (it was that or a Chicken & Mushroom Pot Noodle) from the food bar, the second half began and it was pretty much the same as the first had started – only that it was the hosts that were now in control of the early stages. Indeed, they netted soon after the restart, a cross from the left-hand side being met at the back-post by Charlie Bell, who found the net only a few minutes into his debut, having come on at the break. It was pretty much his first meaningful touch too, so not a bad start to a career! Minutes later, it was game well and truly on, when an awful error by Town ‘keeper Mike Platt saw him drop the ball right at the feet of, the surely disbelieving, Billy New, who made no mistake. 2-3!
This proved to be the catalyst for Brymbo to start testing Platt a little more with high balls, but despite one shaky moment soon after, he regained his composure well. Indeed, Jones almost made it 4-2 to the Wellmen, when he outpaced the Brymbo skipper Vito Mbolokele and rounded Morgan, but his poked shot towards the empty net was cleared off the line by another back-tracking home defender. The hosts responded with a free-kick being well saved by Platt, before Town began to gain the upper hand once more in the last twenty minutes or so. After a fizzing drive by right-winger Luke Edwards cannoned off the crossbar, full-back Jake Cooke showed good persistence which allowed him to capitalise on an error by his opponent on the right, advance forward into the area, whereupon he showed good composure to work himself a better position and fire home beyond the helpless Morgan.
Substitute Lee Butterworth also hit the woodwork late on for Town, whilst Brymbo almost netted a late third in stoppage time, when good play by Jamie Cumming allowed him a sight of goal, but alas, the home #7’s drive would only clear the cross-bar and that would be that. Holywell avenged their 4-2 defeat here a few weeks earlier in the FAW Trophy by inflicting the very same score-line on their hosts and for us, it was off up to Brymbo itself.
Post-match, Paul and I beat a hast retreat back down the stairs and out to the road to catch the apparent bus service up the remainder of the hill to the village. However, this proved to be something ghostly and couldn’t be seen and so we set off on foot, arriving into the Miners Arms pub at the crest of the hill slightly more sweaty (in my case anyway) than would be ideal! Our stay here would have been rather uneventful, had it not been for Adrian Lewis almost hitting a nine darter, whilst two games we were mentioning both tied in with goals just as we spoke. Sadly for Paul’s bet, the Tractor Boys wouldn’t play along.
Coors (£3.30) finished, we headed onwards to what I think was the highest point in Brymbo, where we came across the George & Dragon which, surprisingly, was a J. W. Lees pub, rarely seen in these parts. However, I reckoned I’d play it safe and so couldn’t partake in their Mancunian offerings, although Paul bypassed his Scouse inclinations to sample a Manchester Lager. I plumped for a Corona (no lime, £3~) before we paid a visit to the Railway Tavern a short distance away where I had a Corona (with lime, about the same) and Sam Smith (though not officially one I think) was defeated. Nice.
We rounded off our trip with a stop off at Y Cai, from outside of which we would catch the bus back down to Wrexham Station. Inside, we met dogs and their humans, Paul indulged in mince pies and I had a pint of either Coors or Stella (for some reason this one escapes me) whilst watching some of the pretty underwhelming Club World Cup Final which Liverpool would eventually be successful in, lifting Paul’s footballing mood, after his Ipswich-related setback!
Bus duly caught, we returned quickly back to Wrexham, where we had time to waste and so I introduced (maybe, Paul wasn’t sure) my companion to the Turf Hotel, right outside the Racecourse Ground. Always a pleasure to visit, and the Amstel rounded off the trip….well, if you don’t count the can of Foster’s I was forced into having on the train back to Liverpool. Connection easily caught to round off the day, and it had been a festive thriller. Six goals, a near comeback and a bit of silliness on the side. Pubs had been good, the ground nice enough and so was the company as always (aw, football fwend!). Merry Crickmas, all!
Value For Money: 7