Barry Town United will lift the Welsh League Division One trophy on Saturday afternoon, bringing a unique set of circumstances full circle at Jenner Park.
7th May 2013 was a watershed date in the rollercoaster history of Barry Town United Football Club.
That fateful day, Barry supporters arrived at the ground to watch the final home match of the Welsh League Division One season, a hotly-anticipated meeting with historic rivals Ton Pentre.
Steered by the same supporters, the Town had enjoyed a fine season’s football, reaching the Welsh Cup semi-finals and representing themselves well in the notoriously-competitive Division One.
However, there would be no final game of the campaign that year, as Barry’s controversial former owner had recklessly withdrawn the team from the pyramid entirely, a matter of hours earlier.
As dumbstruck fans gathered in the stands for the duration of what would have been the match, Barry’s future appeared uncertain at best. In reality, a century of football was on life support.
Now, 1,452 days later, the teams will try again - only this time, under markedly different circumstances.
As Ton prepared to ply their trade in Division One in 2013-14, Barry fought tooth and nail through the summer to reclaim their Welsh League status; eventually entered into Division Three, where they would clinch the title on the final day of the season, with 90 points from their 36 outings.
As the months and years rolled on, the climb continued, with Barry taking the Division Two title in the spring of 2015, duly reclaiming their Division One status and re-joining the Bulldogs in the mix.
Now, as the fate of the fixtures should have it, the clubs will bring down the curtain on Barry’s Welsh League stay in the most positive of fashions; a remarkable contrast to that bleakest of days in 2013.
After steadying the ship against all odds, in the most turbulent seas imaginable, manager Gavin Chesterfield used 2013 to set out a five-year plan for the club’s return to the Welsh Premier League.
To him, his coaching staff and the players’ utmost credit, this task has been now accomplished with a full year to spare, with a dozen of the names that endured uncertainty, demotion and three gruelling promotions back now able to call themselves Welsh League Division One, Two and Three champions.
Having thrown off the shackles of past regimes, Barry Town’s reinvention as a united, community-based, fan-run entity has been nothing short of inspirational; aided by a cluster of volunteer heroes.
With local sponsors and the supportive Vale of Glamorgan Council throwing their weight behind the project, a previously-tired Jenner Park has been brought to life once more, with the Jenner Suite regenerated and the famous old ground’s new 3G surface the foundation of on-field successes.
Growing to include an expansive youth programme, hundreds of ladies and girls now enjoy their football under the Barry Town United banner, as well as a successful multi-age pan-disability section.
With futsal and development offshoots providing additional pathways into the winning first team, the future of the club has become a bright one; something that once seemed a distant proposition.
This Saturday, many at Jenner Park will look back on that infamous Ton fixture, one that was nixed so cruelly against their wishes and threatened their club’s existence like nothing before.
Fittingly though, these same people will now have so much to look forward to, as Barry Town United prepare to fly the flag for Wales’ largest town in next season’s Welsh Premier League.
Arriving at Jenner Park as manager for the first time in 2007, Gavin Chesterfield has grafted determinedly to bring the Welsh League Division One title back to Jenner Park; a feat accomplished by Barry sides eight times before, but not since 1994, when Andy Beattie’s team captured the trophy.
That success soon led to much more and hopes will be high that the Town can replicate the feat of their predecessors, by becoming an established force in the national top flight for the second time.
For now though, all associated with the club and town itself are welcomed to bask in the glory and celebrate the culmination of a job well done, with the Welsh League Division One trophy to be lifted at Saturday’s final match against Ton Pentre.
Fellow local heroes Lee and Andrew Selby will be on hand for the presentation, with several hundred of the club’s young players poised to be in attendance, for what should be a memorable occasion.
Entry to the last Welsh League match between Barry and Ton Pentre (a 2.30pm kick-off at Jenner Park) is £5 at the turnstiles, with the regular concessions for senior citizens, students and children.
Updated 12:22 - 26 Apr 2017 by Ashley Cox