It’s 20 years since the formation of the League of Wales and in order to celebrate the birthday, Gary Pritchard has been scouring the history books to tell the story of the seasons starting with the inaugural season of 1992/93.
Story of the season
In October 1991, Football Association of Wales General Secretary, Alun Evans, announced that a new national League of Wales would be formed to start in August of the following season.
Wales was almost unique in world football in not having its own national league. Wales’ larger clubs had always played their football over the border in England.
Cardiff City, Swansea City and Wrexham played in the Football League whilst Bangor City, Barry Town, Caernarfon Town, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, Newtown and Rhyl all payed in the English non-league pyramid.
As with anything involving the world of Welsh football, setting up a league became quite an complicated and almost thankless task.
The FAW allowed the three Football League clubs to remain in England but told the eight non-league clubs that they must return to Wales and the newly formed league.
The ‘Irate Eight’ as they were dubbed, appealed this decision, and whilst the FAW relented in the case of Merthyr Tydfil, who were playing in the Conference, the other seven were told to either return to Wales or play their ‘home’ games over the border in England.
On 15 August 1992, the League of Wales was finally launched.
Many people’s pre-season favourites, Bangor City, who had relented and joined the league from the Northern Premier League, started the season well with wins over the Abergavenny Thursdays, Aberystwyth and Afan Lido.
But they lost momentum and a 0-6 home defeat to Holywell Town showed the Farrar Road faithful that winning the Welsh title wasn’t going to be a formality.
Despite a good showing by Aberystwyth Town, the run for the title turned into a south Walian battle between Inter Cardiff and Cwmbran.
Going into April, Cwmbran were top with 72 points, but Inter were just two points behind with a game in hand.
However an Inter defeat at Porthmadog and a draw away at Afan Lido handed Cwmbran the advantage and the Crows wrapped up the title with a game to spare, beating Llanelli 1-0 at Stebonheath.
Hello to …
Apart from the league itself, it was hello to Bangor City and Newtown, part of the ‘Irate Eight’ who had originally objected to the FAW forcing them to join the league instead of being able to ply their trade in the English pyramid system.
Goodbye to …
Abergavenny Thursdays and Llanidloes Town were relegated at the end of the first season, never to return to the top level of Welsh football.
The exquisitely named Thursdays now play in the Third Division of the Gwent County League – the seventh level of the Welsh footballing pyramid – whilst Llanidloes Town play in the third tier of the pyramid in the First Division of the Mid Wales Football League.
Still here …
Six of the original 20 clubs remain in the Welsh Premier League as we enter the 2012/13 season; Aberystwyth Town, Afan Lido, Bangor City, Connah’s Quay Nomads, Llanelli and Newtown, although Aber, Bangor and Newtown are the only ever present clubs in the league’s history.
Tomi Morgan, Aberystwyth Town manager was player-manager of the Green and Blacks when the league kicked off for the first time.
In the intervening seasons, Tomi has has played and managed at Llansantffraid, Aberystwyth (again), Llansantffraid (again), Rhayader, Carmarthen, Welshpool, Porthmadog, Carmarthen (again) before returning to Aberystwyth.
Current Bangor City manager, Neville Powell, was a player with the Citizens in the inaugural season – his last as a player at Farrar Road before he left to join Connah’s Quay Nomads.
For the record
Mitch Patton scored the league’s first ever goal after six minutes of Afan Lido’s 2-1 win over Connah’s Quay Nomads on the opening Saturday of the season.
The 10-0 mauling handed out to Briton Ferry by Ebbw Vale stood as a record victory in the league for six years until the all conquering Barry Town smashed 12 goals past Cemaes Bay in 1998.
Ebbw Vale’s Steve Woods, who scored six goals in the victory over Briton Ferry, finished the season as the league’s top goalscorer netting 29 league goals.
Final League Table 1992/93:
|8||Connah’s Quay Nomads||38||17||4||17||−1||55|
|16||Flint Town United||38||11||6||21||−20||39|
|17||Briton Ferry Athletic||38||10||9||19||−26||39|
The history of football in England was transformed on 20 February 1992