Even before his distinguished playing career at Penydarren Park had come to an end, Garry Shephard was placed in charge of the Martyrs in pre-season 2007 as player/manager and wasted no time in bringing former team mate Danny Carter in as a Joint Manager.
During his time as a player Garry experienced 10 different managers. As joint managers, Shep and Carts would provide much needed stability and remained in charge for the next 7 seasons.
Thankfully for the Merthyr Board, they had finally struck gold with their latest appointment after a catalogue of errors. The Club’s supporters could relate to Shep and he epitomised the identity of the Club. Pride was restored, and a fresh impetus was developed, with the younger players in the squad coming of age. The Martyrs would pass and move their way through the season as they learned a system installed by the new management regime.
Together they set the Martyrs on the path of rejuvenation, implementing both a cultural and football awakening. His own fully committed, all-action playing style set the benchmark for hard work and a team ethic. They needed to revamp the side bringing Dean Clarke and Dale Griffiths back to the Club, adding Andrew Thomas and Mike Jones, plus promoting a crop of Academy players including Marcus Griffiths, Matthew Glassey, Matthew Harris, Lee Hartshorn and Ross Porter as regular members of the first team match day squad. In that first season they used a total of 39 players.
Unfortunately, Garry picked up a serious cruciate ligament injury in our second game of the season at Team Bath that kept him sidelined for 8 months. This provided him with an unwanted opportunity to study how the team functioned from the dugout. At the conclusion of the season Garry said “This has been an education for me! The injury crisis we had at Christmas with 8 first team players out was difficult. Some of the lessons I’ve learnt are don’t trust anyone, don’t take anything for granted and don’t make rash decisions.”
Highlight of that first season was a Fourth Qualifying Round FA Cup game against Oxford United as the Martyrs finished in 13th position in the British Gas sponsored Southern League Premier Division.
Ashley Evans, Sam O’Sullivan and Andrew Delve were signed before the 2008/09 season and by the end of January the Martyrs were lying in second place but tailed away and finished in 7th, a significant improvement on the previous season and just 3 points outside the play-offs.
During 2009/2010 season the team was run by the Supporters Society under a trading agreement with the Administrator. By the end of the year Merthyr Town FC had been reformed by the Supporters Society, now reorganised as a Sports Club Community Mutual called the Merthyr Town FC Society. Because the club was in administration, it started the season on minus 10 points. Despite avoiding relegation on the field the club were demoted three steps to the First Division of the Toolstation Western League, a league in which the Club had competed 101 years ago, when it was won by local neighbours Treharris.
Even a final day 1-1 draw with Swindon Supermarine ultimately failed to prevent a drop of 3 divisions, when our temporary home at Taffs Well failed to meet the required ground grading for the Western League Premier Division. Unfortunately, demotion was unavoidable and the joint managers found themselves dropping down to the sixth step of non-league football that would lead to an eventual resurgence under their guidance and loyalty.
Following the liquidation of Merthyr Tydfil FC, the lease reverted to Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, who then offered the club a new short term lease in September on advantageous terms. The start of 2011/12 saw the club return to play its 101st year at Penydarren Park.
Garry and Danny subsequently led the team to consecutive championship wins in the Western League. With a blend of attacking football (the Martyrs scored 214 league goals in two seasons) and a well organised defence (only 7 defeats in 70 league games) a return to the Southern League was achieved after just two seasons absence.
In 2012 Garry was also busy setting up his own company, LcL Wear Limited based in Treochy that supplies safetywear and sports clothing.
The team was partially re-built for the 2012/13 season as Gary Colbourne and Nathan Davies joined a returning Jamie Rewbury as the Club finishing 3rd in the Southern League South and West Division at their first attempt, but there was further heart break when they suffered a disappointing 1-3 defeat at the hands of Hungerford Town in the Play Off final.
The Martyrs battled with Cirencester throughout the 2013/14 season for the title but eventually missed out by three points. Adding the nuance of a second consecutive play off final defeat at the hands of Paulton Rovers, those fine margins and psychological effects can be devastating. As the Martyrs wobbled at the end of the season Shephard and Carter resigned after 7 successful years in charge.
Garry’s unwavering belief in how football should be played and his confidence in the philosophy he was imposing saw them cut teams apart with quick transitions. In the latter stages of game’s Garry’s teams scored freely and remained at the top end of the table even in the more testing periods, the joint managers demanded that their style remained entertaining, fluid and easy on the eye. Winning ugly had never been a consideration by the joint bosses.
Between August 2007 and April 2014 the rookie managerial duo won 176 games, drew 72 and lost 93, scoring 707 goals and conceding 458. In the extenuating circumstances of this traumatic period the pair achieved a truly remarkable win percentage of 51%, only losing one in four games or 27%. The record of 340 games under their management is only surpassed by Lyn Jones total of 357 games in charge (with a win percentage of 54%). Garry had been involved in a total of 652 games over a span of 16 years as a player and joint manager. After leaving Merthyr Town Garry started entering Triathlons and regularly competes in events throughout the UK and in Europe.