It’s one month today that we head into the cup final with The New Saints.
On 21 January 2017, Barry Town United take on perennial Welsh champions The New Saints in the MG Nathaniel Cup.
I’ve been a supporter of my home town club for well over 30 years. I’ve seen the Town play in a fair few finals over those 30 years, and I believe this is the most important cup final we’ve faced in well over 20 years.
Welsh Cup Final 1994
Like most Town fans of a certain vintage, I believe none of the finals are as memorable as the 1994 Welsh Cup Final which pitted Barry Town against Cardiff City at the National Stadium in Cardiff.
The Town went on to famously win 2-1, and the resulting hullabaloo launched the club into an ego-riddled money-led campaign to secure dominance in domestic Welsh football. That dominance was secured within just 2 seasons.
Wars with the FAW
That 1994 Welsh Cup final appearance came after a long and bruising dispute with the Football Association of Wales (FAW) over our continued exile in the English Southern League. The club had returned to English competition in the early 1990s and had made a decent fist of it. The FAW wanted us in the new League of Wales, but we couldn’t see the point of it.
FAW War I
The only way we could remain in English competition was to physically remove ourselves from Wales. To this end, we set up the ‘Barri’ club in Worcester and took on the nickname of the Dragons and played in the Southern League as exiles for the 1992-93 season. Meanwhile, Barry Town AFC, remained at Jenner Park in the local leagues.
When the club controversially reversed its decision to remain in exile – mostly against supporters wishes – the club was allowed to enter the Welsh pyramid in the Welsh League Division One. In modern parlance, that’s Step 2 in the Welsh pyramid.
The club went on to lift the 1993-94 Welsh League title, and a slew of trophies including the treasured Welsh Cup. It was our first Welsh Cup in almost 40 years, and only our second ever.
FAW War II
In our most recent dispute with the FAW, the club was pulled out of the Welsh League against our wishes, with the FAW seemingly powerless to prevent it.
The body that was running the football at Barry Town AFC quickly constituted itself as Barry Town United AFC in order to take up the inevitable position that would have been freed by Barry Town AFC.
The FAW had no time for us, our plight, or our argument. Not only were we not allowed to enter Division One, we weren’t allowed anywhere the near the Welsh League itself.
Town fans’ memories of the previous dispute were fresh. When it suited the FAW, a reconstituted Barry Town was able to saunter into the Welsh League Division One. Now the same rules apparently meant we couldn’t. It was all bonkers. Eventually, the courts also decided it was bonkers, and the FAW were obliged to let us into the Welsh League.
Being the underdogs
The appearance at the Welsh Cup Final in 1994 saw us as underdogs to our English League cousins from Ninian Park.
In 1994, we had a wealth of Football League experience within our ranks, from David D’Auria to Alan Curtis. The only trouble was, their league careers were behind them. ‘Dad’s Army’ they despairingly called us in the very sniffy Cardiff-centric media.
The team to beat
The cup finals played after the Cardiff City final saw us as the dominant force, and the team to be beaten. This duly happened, somewhat ironically, at the same venue of the National Stadium, against the same opponents we face in January.
A Barry Town that had swept all before them came up against ‘plucky’ Llansantffraid – one of the previous names for the current New Saints club. We lost on penalties. After that, we won some, we lost very few, but we were never again the underdogs.
Back to being underdogs
Our final against The New Saints this January is arguably a bigger gap than when we faced Cardiff City. With our club’s lack of experience of cup finals (none since 2003), and the fact that The New Saints are still breaking records in the Welsh Premier League, we’re up against it.
The average age of the team we’ll put out in January will be about half the age of some of the players we put out against City.
This is no Dad’s Army.
That’s not to say we’re inexperienced. The backbone of our team have hundreds of appearances for us alone on their CVs. The whole club is up for this.
Whatever happens in January, this is absolutely the most important cup final we’ve played in over 20 years. We’re the underdogs, but we’re also a better club than we were in any previous final.
With youth teams, ladies teams, an academy, disability section, a domestic licence, and a one-club ethos, we’re stronger and hungrier than we’ve ever been.
MG Nathaniel Cup Final details:
- The New Saints v. Barry Town United, 21 January 2017 at 5:15pm
- Cup final venue: Cyncoed Campus, Cardiff Met, CF23 6XD.
- Tickets are available from the Jenner Suite, Jenner Park
- Tickets are priced at £7 and £3 for concessions
- Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or @BarryTownUnited