Martyrs Prepare To Face Old Rivals Hereford In Southern League Clashes

Merthyr Town are set to play rivals Hereford United and Worcester City in Southern League Premier Division action next season.

Both look set to join the Martyrs in 2017-18. Hereford, who include former Merthyr defender Ryan Green in their team, won the South and West Division with 107 points, while Worcester have been relegated from National League North.

Margate, Gosport Borough and Royston are among other possibles.

Decisions on which teams will join the Southern Premier have yet to be made, but Hereford and Worcester could be challenging manager Gavin Williams and his Merthyr team.

The modern Martyrs and Hereford teams have not met in league action, but there is a rich history of matches between the two clubs.

Former Wales, Cardiff City and Leeds United player John Charles was with both Merthyr and Hereford during his career.

Back in the 1950s the two teams were rivals at the top of Southern League Premier Division football when that competition was, along with the Northern League, the top standard outside the Football League.

In the five seasons from 1949 to 1954 Merthyr were Southern League champions four times without really having a sniff of a chance of being elected to the Football League in those days, long before automatic promotion.

Hereford were runners-up to Merthyr in 1950-51. That was a season in which the Martyrs scored 156 goals.

In the early 1970s Football League team Hereford were drawn at home against Merthyr Town in the Welsh Cup quarter-finals. Charles, by then aged 41, was player-manager for Merthyr and the team also included former Wales international Mel Nurse.

Almost 8,500 spectators watched the match and 5,196 attended the replay at Edgar Street when Hereford won 3-0.

Colin Addison has been manager of the two clubs, while former Wales international and Hereford player Gavin Williams is now the Martyrs’ manager.

Merthyr-born Williams has made it clear he is keen to stay in charge of his home town club next season when he will aim to steer the club it promotion.

They missed out after qualifying for the play-offs in the season just ended and Williams said: “We had a great season.

“I couldn’t have asked anything more of the players. They gave it their all, but sometimes you do not get what you deserve in football.

“The support has been great all season, particularly away, and it was outstanding in our play-off semi-final against Hitchin Town.

“A big crowd showed the level of interest in Merthyr football, which has always been a footballing town.

“We will go again. We need to keep the players we have, look to strengthen and go one better next year.”

Merthyr have already arranged a pre-season fixture against League Two Newport County on Wednesday, July 19 (Penydarren Park, 7.30pm).

A club statement says: “The match will also be a ‘Pay What You Want’ fixture for all supporters as a thank you to your continued, loyal support.

“It will also mark the 30 year anniversary of our Welsh Cup Final victory against The Exiles in May 1987.

“County have secured their status as a football league club after a dramatic 2-1 victory against Notts County on the final day of the season.”

Merthyr Town will now have a women’s team in 2017-18.

The club, along with the Martyrs Community Trust, make the growth and development of women’s and girls football a a priority.

They have held a number of girls only open days and formed an under-16 squad.

Trust Manager Elliott Evans said: “We are looking to recruit more girls who are ambitious and committed to help us progress to the highest level of women’s football in Wales.

“The launch of our under-16 squad has been a success and the number of girls taking part is growing.

“We are launching our girls only football hub every Thursday which will cater for girls from the age of seven up to 15-years-old. The sessions will start at 5pm.

“All girls are welcome to attend and take part in a safe and friendly environment at the LoadLok Community Stadium.”

Merthyr play in the South Wales Women’s and Girls League One from the start of 2017-18.

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