The Summer preceding the start of the 1998/99 season had once again been full of turmoil and uncertainty, following the exits of both Chairman Charles Stanley under a dark cloud and the dynamic manager Colin Addison, who had led the Martyrs to runners-up in the Dr Martins League.
At the start of the campaign the club was in the middle of a protracted takeover by the Acting Chairman Sharon and her husband Eugene Caparros. They had provisionally appointed John Lewis as manager and he had experienced a frantic time rebuilding the side after the departure of eight players during the close season.
After playing against the Martyrs in a pre-season friendly for Ton Pentre, 22-year old Garry Shephard arrived at Penydarren Park initially on a months loan and made an impressive debut on Saturday 29th August 1998 against Burton Albion at Eton Park. The Martyrs won 1-0 with Shephard scoring the only goal of the game and being awarded the Supporters Club Man of the Match.
His home debut was made 48 hours later in the 1-2 defeat against Gresley Rovers on Bank Holiday Monday. After suffering four consecutive defeats the Martyrs ended the run by scoring half a dozen times against Tamworth, with Shep scoring two of the goals that night as he also picked up another Man of the Match rating. He followed this up with another goal in the 3-0 away win at Boston United four days later.
Garry had scored four goals in his first seven appearances for the Martyrs, while picking up three Man of the Match awards so there was very little chance of him returning to Ton Pentre at the end of his loan spell. Unfortunately, in the second half of the season Garry’s performances at the Club were overshadowed by off the field problems.
In early December issues came to a head when a number of players refused to travel on the coach to an FAW Premier Cup game at Rhyl. The ten players that stayed on the bus included Garry Shephard, answering a desperate last minute plea to play Richard Parker travelled to North Wales on his own, averting yet another crisis in our chequered history. After the game John Lewis left the Club and Eddie May was appointed as the new Merthyr manager.
With the saga of the take over of the Club still not concluded and the gates locked for a short period of time, Gary Pettit was appointed as Administrator as the potential ownership issues rumbled on. After the ‘Just Players’ Consortium were successful in their bid to to take control of the Club, and spending just ten weeks in the dugout, Eddie May left and Gareth Abraham/Mark Williams were installed as caretaker managers for the crucial home game against league leaders Nuneaton Borough, that resulted in a fully merited 2-1 win.
After three games under the caretaker managers, Shepard experienced his fifth manager in just seven months at Penydarren Park as the new owners appointed Roger Gibbins.
Despite flirting with relegation the Martyrs eventually finished in 15th position, Garry contributed a total of 13 goals from 44 appearances plus 3 as a substitute, that saw him finish runner-up to leading scorer Cohen Griffith.
Garry’s second season at the Club started full of optimism, with Wyn Holloway the new owner, Peter’s Food Service the new sponsors and an impressive kit deal with Nike.
However, the season started badly and a few weeks after the embarrassing defeat against Newtown in the FAW Premier Cup, who played a third of the game with only nine men, Roger Gibbins was relieved of his managerial duties. In just over 12 months as a Martyr Shephard had now played for six managers when the Club appointed 46-year old Jimmy Mullen.
Despite only scoring 4 times in the first 6 months of the season Newport County manager Tim Harris had seen something in 24-year old Shephard that he liked.
On 10th February 2000, Garry left CF47 8RF after scoring 17 times in 58 appearances plus 24 as a substitute, to move to Newport County with Dean Clarke returning to the Martyrs as part of the deal. At the time Garry was working as a Production Manager at Griffin Windows.
During his stay at Spytty Park, Shep scored 62 goals in 180 appearances and was voted Player of the Season twice. He ended his exile in March 2004, returning to his spiritual home for a nominal fee and on his second appearance immediately scored the winning goal against Hednesford.
Six weeks earlier Craig Steins, who became Shephard’s soulmate in the side, had signed for the Martyrs scoring on his debut in a 3-0 win at Welling. Over the next three seasons the dynamic duo terrorised the opposition defender’s scoring a combined total of 87 goals between them and probably added the same number of aggregate assists during this period.
Shephard eventually outscored Steins in 2005/06 and 2006/07 before a knee injury sidelined Garry for almost all of the 2007/08 season.
Despite the serious nature of the long term lay-off Shephard scored a further 31 goals over the next five seasons before he played his last game in a Merthyr shirt on 21st April 2013, when he also scored his final goal for the Club in the 4-0 home victory against Bridgwater Town.
During his playing career at Penydarren Park, Garry experienced ten different Merthyr managers. Andy Beattie was in charge when he returned for his second spell from Newport County, before he was succeeded by John Relish. Tim Harris was next in through the gates before he was replaced by Paul Sugrue.
In his twelve seasons as a player Shephard made 312 appearances scoring 92 times.
Garry had also been appointed player/manager in 2007/08 season, which was the start of another chapter in his career as an adopted son of Merthyr.