WPL REVISITED:

 

For many supporters we now take the Welsh Premier League for granted, but of course things were very much different when the inaugural league was first launched back in the 1992/93 season, the same season as the English Premier League. The League of Wales as it was called then had a different feel about it with 20 clubs competing. We take a nostalgic look back at what has happened to the original 20 clubs and where they are now.

With no national league in place the then FAW Secretary General, Alun Evans  announced in October 1991 that the new league would start at the beginning of the next season. The league would be comprised of Welsh teams and also Welsh based clubs that were at the time competing in the English pyramid system.

The creation of the national league of course led to massive uproar at the time, the FAW decided to leave Cardiff City, Swansea City and Wrexham in the English pyramid system but gave an ultimatum to the Welsh non league clubs: Bangor City, Barry Town, Caernarfon Town, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, Newtown and Rhyl, to either join the national league or play their home matches on English Soil.

At the time only Bangor City, Newtown and Rhyl decided to join the new league with the remaining clubs defying the Welsh FA to continue playing in the English pyramid system at grounds across the border. Rhyl however played that season in the Cymru Alliance due to late submission to the FAW. The rest as they say is History Merthyr Tydfil as they were then played in the conference at the time and were enjoying crowds of several thousand strong and after a long battle with Chairman John Reddy holding firm, the Martyrs remained in the English Pyramid system. Newport AFC also did not return and for over a decade played their home matches in England and remained in the English pyramid system their case went to the high court as they battled to ensure a return to Welsh soil.

The Welsh FA pushed on with the league and it was launched for the 92/93 season,lets take a look at the clubs involved, where they finished and how they are doing now 24 years later.

POSITION 1 > Cwmbran Town.

Cwmbran Town finished as champions elect of the league and had a fantastic season playing their home games at the Cwmbran Stadium. The club had been formed in 1951 and in 1975 switched to playing their home games at the Athletics stadium. The Crows had a superb season beating Inter Cardiff by 5 points and in fact only conceding 22 goals all season and losing just three games. The club went on to some enjoy some superb European nights in the coming seasons but were relegated out of the top flight in the 2006/2007 season. After enduring some tough times in recent seasons the club are still going strong and are now playing in the First division of the Gwent county league with aspirations of returning to the Welsh leagues.

POSITION 2 > Inter Cardiff

Inter Cardiff had been founded due to a merger between AFC Cardiff and Sully in 1990 the club had a fantastic season in the Welsh League inaugural season and finished second that season trailing Cwmbran Town by 5pts finishing the season on 83 points.  The club would also go on to finish runners up in following seasons but in 1996 changed their name to Inter Cable-Tel. A role reversal in 1999 would see the name Inter Cardiff and then in 2000 they merged with UWIC to form UWIC Inter Cardiff. The modern day club is now called Cardiff Met FC who are in the Welsh Premier League playing their home games at the Cyncoed Campus in Cardiff. Inter Cardiff  enjoyed some european games and Im sure the management team will be hoping Cardiff Met can get the glory days back and return to Europe.

POSITION 3 > Aberystwyth Town FC

Aber enjoyed a good season in the inaugural league and finished the campaign in third place. The club of course are still going strong and are currently playing in the Welsh Premier League. Aber are one of only three teams who have played every season in the top flight league of Welsh football the others being Newtown and Bangor City. Arthur Hughes who founded the club in 1884 after placing an advert in the local newspaper would be thrilled at that fact. Back in the 92/93 season. Tomi Morgan was in charge during the season and would remain at the club until September 1994.

POSITION 4 > Ebbw Vale

Ebbw Vale FC originally formed in 1888 in the Gwent valleys finished in a superb fourth place in the inaugural season of the League of Wales. Ebbw Vale actually went on to create a record that season for scoring the most goals during a match as they routed Briton Ferry Athletic 10-0 during January 1993. The played their home games at the 8,000 rugby ground in the town and the club later went onto enjoy some famous european nights and compete in the Intertoto cup however the club went on to encounter financial difficulties and were dissolved by 1998.

POSITION 5 > Bangor City

Bangor City of course need no introduction a club with a  proud history and have enjoyed some famous european nights. Bangor City who came back into the fold were very competitive in the league’s first season and finished the campaign in 5th place. The club of course were based at their then spiritual home of Farrar Road and managed by Paul Rowlands. Bangor had rejoined from the Northern Premier League and were many peoples favourites for the league title but the citizens soon realised that this task would be no easy operation and at one stage went down to 0-6 home defeat to Holywell Town. Bangor of course in recent times have now enjoyed changes off the pitch and relocated to a new stadium and remain in the WPL.

POSITION 6 > Holywell Town

The North Walians ‘The Wellmen’ were founding members of both the Cymru Alliance and the League of Wales (now known as the Welsh Premier League) and enjoyed their best period in the top flight in the mid-1990s. The club finished 6th in the inaugural season and are still in operation playing in the Cymru Alliance. Much to the delight of their supporters they did the double over Bangor City in the 92/93  season and managed by Glyn Griffiths earned the respect of football clubs in the league. The club though dropped out of the league in the 96/97 season but were soon promoted back the following season before again dropping out of the league. Their supporters will be hoping a return to the WPL and top flight well be on the cards for the near future.

POSITION 7> Conwy United

Conwy finished in 7th position and went on to enjoy a period of consolidation in the top flight remaining in the league for several seasons until dropping out in the 99/2000 season. During this period  in 95/96 the club finished in 3rd place under the guidance of John Hulse, with Kenny McKenna setting a club scoring record of 49 goals in a season. The club went onto to play in Europe and in 1996 qualified for the Intertoto cup. However to sustain the level of football took its toll on the club and in 2000 were relegated out of the top flight. During the 2012/13 season the club changed its name to Conwy Borough FC and now play in the Huws Gray Alliance.

POSITION 8TH > Connah’s Quay Nomads

The Nomads finished in 8th place on 55 points. Early on in the season the Nomads were rooted at the bottom and had crashed 6-1 away to Cwmbran Town which prompted manager Ray Jones to read his team the riot act. Many people had them down as possible relegation candidates but the Nomads took points of many clubs and finished respectively in the table. The Nomads are still going strong as a club and currently play in the Welsh Premier League. For sponsorship reasons the club are now called Gap Connah’s Quay.

POSITION 9th CPD Porthmadog

A club with a good pedigree saw CPD Porthmadog finish in a credible 9th league position. The club that season saw manager Meilir Owen gave a young player named Marc Lloyd Williams his opportunity in the top flight. The rest as they say is history as Marc went onto become a goal machine. The club has gone onto to grace the top flight of Welsh football 13 times over two periods between 1992-98 and 2003-2010. The team are still going strong playing in the Huws Gray Alliance.

POSITION 10th > Haverfordwest County FC

Founder members of the league the Bluebirds went onto have a superb season finishing overall in 1oth position. However the clubs stay was to be short lived,having accepted an offer which involved the redevelopment of their Bridge Meadow ground, and unable to find a suitable alternative ground of League of Wales standard, they resigned from the League in 1994. The club did bounce back thought and returned to the league three years later they remained in the league until the 2010/11 season. On May 5th 2015 the club returned to the top flight but the club are now in the Welsh League Div1 and will be looking to bounce back to the WPL.

POSITION 11TH> Caersws FC

The Mid-Wales team enjoyed a decent season and went onto finish 11th in the leagues inaugural season. In later years the club won the League Cup in 2000-01 and 2001–02, and played in the Intertoto Cup, being defeated 3-1 on aggregate by PFC Marek Dupnitsa of Bulgaria. Mickey Evans was the manager at the time back in 1992 and was famous for his time at Wrexham as a player. Mickey joined Caersws back in 1983 as a player-manager and went on to serve 24 seasons at the club before resigning in June 2007. The club are still going strong and now play in the Huws Gray Alliance.

POSITION 12TH > Afan Lido

Originally founded in 1967 Lido would compete in the inaugural season and went onto finish in 12th position. Lido in following seasons would see them win the League Cup in 1992/93 and 1993/94 and play in Europe. The club bounced around the divisions but returned to the top flight of Welsh football many times in the seasons that followed. In 2005 the club left the Welsh Premier in controversial circumstances, after being deducted points for fielding an ineligible player in a league game. The points deducted sunk the Lido into the relegation zone below NEWI Cefn Druids, which sealed their fate. The fans will be hoping for a return to the top flight and the club currently play in the Welsh League Division 1.

POSITION 13TH > Mold Alexandra

Despite finishing in 13th place Mold were involved in some controversy which saw the club at one point be expelled from the league before being reinstated. Disaster struck Mold after just one match at home to Inter Cardiff which the visitors won by the only goal of the game. Mold were dramatically thrown out of the Konica for failing to meet the ground criteria established for the fledgling league. With the help of landlords Synthite a stand was built, floodlights were installed by the then Borough Council, Delyn and Mold were reinstated. In following seasons the club managed to carry out further ground improvements. The pressures of sustaining football at that level took its toll and the 94/95 season would be the clubs last at this level. Thanks to the dedication of staff and fans the club are still playing and are in the Huws Gray Alliance.

POSITION 14TH> Llanelli AFC

Llanelli finished in 14th position and entered the league after being in Limbo after being initially accepted in the English Southern League but were rejected by entering by the Welsh FA.  The Welsh FA then allowed them to become inaugural members of the League of Wales. The club were relegated in the 95/96 season but returned several years later.The club went on to  enjoy European games and moved around divisions but in recent times have had difficulties off the pitch and were wound up in April 2013 over an unpaid tax debt. The club reformed as Llanelli Town and continue to play at the superb Stebonheath Park stadium in the Welsh football league Division 2.

POSITION 15TH Maesteg Park

Sadly Maesteg Park were dissolved in 2010 however ‘The Park’ formed in 1947 were proud members of the initial league and will go down in the history books for that fact for eternity.  The club spell at the top flight was to be short lived and they were relegated during the 1994/95 season.The club legacy lives on and they reformed in 2010 and now play in the Bridgend leagues. A great record for the club saw them enjoying the distinction of being one of just fourteen Welsh Clubs accepted into the F.A. Cup and F.A. Trophy for each of the eleven seasons prior to the formation of The League of Wales in 1992.

POSITION 16TH Flint Town United

The Silkmen finished the season in 16th place and went onto retain their place in the top flight of Welsh football for 5 seasons afterwards. The club would also during this spell see them move to a new ground on the banks of the Dee Estuary. The club struggled for sponsorship and ground upkeep during their spell in the top flight and these factors contributed to them exiting the division along with a reduction of teams in the division. The team are still going strong and currently playing in the Huws Gray Alliance.

POSITION 17TH >Briton Ferry Athletic

After being members of the Welsh League since the 1930s, in 1992 the club was one of the founder members of the League of Wales. Led by manager Carl Harris Briton Ferry finish in 17th position in the league but their spell was short lived and the club was relegated during the 1994 season. The club managed to bounce back and enjoyed two more seasons in the top flight. In recent years the club eventually merged with Llansawel to form a new club Briton Ferry Llansawel AFC in 2009. The club currently play in the 3rd division of the Welsh League and will be looking in coming seasons to emulate the team of 1992.

POSITION 18TH > Newtown AFC

Newtown finished the season on 36 points and just managed to avoid relegation. The Robins were established in 1875 and are currently still in the top flight of Welsh football now playing the WPL. Latham Park has seen considerable redevelopment since 1992 with new stands and In 2014 Newtown became the 2nd Welsh Premier League club, after The New Saints, to change their grass turf for a 3G pitch and the club continue to go from strength to strength. The club has also enjoyed some famous European nights and will be looking for a good finish in the WPL this season. The club have remained in the top flight of Welsh football since 1992.

POSITION 19TH > Llanidloes Town

Finishing the season on 30 points and relegated it was to be a season to forget for Llanidloes Town. The Daffodils as their known failed to bloom and withered away to have a poor league campaign. The club have only enjoyed one spell at the top flight as they failed to return back to the League of Wales. The club has endured tough times since leaving the League of Wales, Llanidloes spent another five seasons in the Cymru Alliance, dropping down to the Mid Wales League in 1999, and then dropping again, to the Montgomeryshire League in 2008. The club are still going and now play in the Mid Wales football league.

POSITION 20TH Abergavenny Thursdays

An iconic club based in Gwent saw Abergavenny finish bottom of the inaugural season and relegated along with Llanidloes Town. The club had already entered choppy waters ahead of the campaign and were required to provide a bond to the Welsh FA as security to ensure that floodlights were installed in time for the 1992-93 season, which put a considerable strain on financial resources. The uncertainty as to whether the club would be competing in the new League of Wales led to a mass exodus of players, as well as the resignation of manager Ray Warren and coach John Lewis. Sadly the club went into freefall playing many seasons in the Gwent county being the club was finished in 2013. Thankfully the town now has a team on the rise playing at the same ground in the name of Abergavenny Town who now have entered the Welsh Leagues and play in Division Two.

Submitted: @therovingsheep

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2 thoughts on “WPL REVISITED:

  1. good piece, but sadly it failed to mention the name of Cwmbran Town manager, the late Tony Willcox, who was surely worth a mention. I covered the LoW for the South Wales Argus from that first season until Cwmbran’s relegation 15 years later and never met a nicer man than Tony Willcox in all that time

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have asked the team to see if they can amend the article. Fully agree Tony Wilcox was instrumental in proceedings and a credit not only to the club but to Welsh football. Best Regard appreciate your feedback

      Liked by 1 person

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