A Season With Merthyr Tydfil (part one)

Can history be re-written? That is the question I have as I travel back in time to 1994 via Premier Manager 3 a long forgotten management sim from the days before Football Manager. Taking the reins at Merthyr Tydfil F.C can I defy history and steer the Martyr’s back into the football league and away from their inevitable demise?

During my teenage years, and well into my early twenties  I spent an inordinate amount of time playing football management sims. Entire days, weeks and months at a time would disappear into a black-hole as I sat staring at the screen sifting through the squad data of obscure Finnish football clubs in a search for undiscovered talent – hoping that MyPa 47, or Turun Palloseura would provide me with a world-beating striker, or a midfielder, one even more sublime than the legendary Matt Le Tissier, who would then sweep my team to glory.

The high-point in my managerial career came in Championship Manager 2 with my all conquering Ajax side dominating Dutch and European football for over a decade winning every prize there was to win from the Eredivisie to the World Club Cup, but sadly it wasn’t to last; Increases in computing power mean management-sims have become more in-depth than ever with thousands upon thousands of match-affecting variables. Getting through a season now takes almost as long as a season in real-life and the kind of work and family commitments which have arrived with age mean I just don’t have the time anymore – my time at Ajax having coincided with my student years.

Occasionally, like the desire to smoke a cigarette, I get the urge to pick-up the latest management sim,but this craving soon passes when I think of the time factor, but recently spotting one of my old favourites, Premier Manager 3, among the old manager sims sitting all dusty and unloved on an abandonware website the urge got the better of me and I decided to come out of retirement, if only for a very short spell – just the one season. Oh go on then.It was more than simple nostalgia though I also wondered what playing a game now some 18 years old could reveal about the management sim and even football itself, after all some of the players gracing today’s game would not even have been born at the time of its release. Premier Manager 3 isn’t just a game it’s a historical document.

The Premier Manager series, which still continues today, first began with the release of the original Premier Manager in 1992 with versions on the Amiga, PC and Atari ST. The third in the series Premier Manager 3 was released on the Amiga and PC (I had the Amiga version) in 1994 featuring data and league tables from the 1994-5 season. One feature of the early titles in the Premier Manager series was that would-be managers must begin their careers in the rather unfashionable Conference league – Premier Manager being one of the first management sims to even include the Conference.

Having the pick of clubs in the Conference I decide to choose a club which no longer exists, or rather who have reformed with a slightly different name. There are several to choose from; Farnborough Town (now simply Farnborough), Halifax Town (now F.C Halifax Town) and the club I finally choose Merthyr Tydfil (now Merthyr Town). It shows just how much changes that out of the 22 Conference clubs only six (Gateshead, Kidderminster, Macclesfield, Southport, Telford and Woking) feature in the division which has since been extended to feature 24 clubs. Shockingly of the original 22 only three clubs, Dagenham in League two and Yeovil and Stevenage in League one, now play at a higher level meaning that the majority, 13 out of the 22, now play at a lower level.

Merthyr Tydfil are among this last group. The club finally succumbed to extinction being liquidated, at the end of the 2009-10 season, whilst playing in the Southern league premier division – some two steps below the Conference. Re-forming as Merthyr Town F.C – the name of a club which graced the football league in the 1920s before folding in 1934 –the club were forced into dropping a further three divisions into the Western Football League Division One.

Can I turn the clock back and save Merthyr Tydfil from this fate?

Time will tell.

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