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
Barry Villa AFC
Winners of the Cardiff & District League 4th Division, 1907-08
TOP ROW: J.Curtis, A.Miles, F.Mayled, F.Johnson (secretary), E.J.Felix and J.Burt
MIDDLE ROW: D.Jenkins, E.Evans, F.Chaplin, C.Kingdom, W.L.Hughes (vice-president), H.Mogg, E.English, and W.Stokes
BOTTOM ROW: W.Price, W.Abbott, B.Burbidge (vice-captain), J.Burt (captain), F.Tippett, and J.James.
The Football Express
Saturday 4 September 1926
That Ward, the recent acquisition from Aberaman, is regarded as an important capture to Barry was exemplified in both engagements. So impressed were both the directorate and spectators by this speedy, clean-limbed player’s brilliant performances that he is readily acclaimed as the best forward Barry has imported for several years.
The Football Express
Saturday 11 September 1926
One cannot praise too highly the performances of Ward, who has filled the pivotal position rendered vacant by the departure of Hopkins to Crystal Palace.
Not once in the engagement with Pembroke Dock did this enterprising young footballer allow a solitary wing-pass to escape him without making a real effort to turn it to good account.
So completely is he in possession of those material necessities which go to make a fine bustling forward that supporters fear that such a splendid exponent of the right class of football will not long escape the notice of those eagle-eyed and alert club managers who are ever anxious to ‘snap-up’ promising talent.
Ward is not one of those players whose ability is allowed to go a-begging for want of adequate support, for there was not a weak link in the home team
The Football Express
Saturday 2 October 1926
Serious concern has been occasioned amongst soccer enthusiasts at Barry at the knowledge that in consequence of a cut-head, sustained in colliding with a defender in the Mid Rhondda game, Ward, the popular Linnets’ forward, who has scored more goals in six weeks that any other player on the Barry books for many years past, was put right out of action.
It is hoped that his ‘knock’ will not incapacitate him for today’s game with Lovell’s Athletic at Barry, for without his aid the Linnets’ chances of qualifying for the 2nd Preliminary Round of the English Cup contest would be considerably minimised.
Barry 2 – 0 Lovell’s Athletic
Ed: Dai Ward would go on to score 66 goals in the 1926-27 season, including TEN hat-tricks, assuring the club of an excellent mid-table Southern League position, the Championship of the Welsh League (leaving the ‘seconds’ of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport in our wake), as well as becoming winners of the South Wales Senior Cup. Ward had several hugely successful seasons at Barry before finally moving on – but by then, by coincidence, Barry had hired Fred Whitlow which is another goal-scoring sensation story waiting in the wings. Dai Ward’s son, Dai Ward Junior, also played for Barry Town – in the 50s – and went on to represent Wales.
The Barry Association Club :
“A Host of Voluntary Workers”
South Wales Daily News
Saturday 30 August 1913
When the new Barry Association Football Club ground is opened a revelation will be made.
The playing pitch is level and the turf is in a healthy state. The amphitheatre-shape of the field and the erection of the dressing rooms and stands and other conveniences display the remarkable activity of the club officials, who have Mr. C B Griffiths at their head and Mr T H Hill as president of the Supporters’ Club.
A remarkable fact connected with the task is that artisans have been going their work free of cost, whilst the cost of the dressing rooms and a large proportion of the stands has been paid by means of two handsome donations. The Supporters’ Club have also provided the goal-posts, nets, and other necessary material.
It is no common occurrence to see masons, printers, carpenters, and dock labourers devoting their leisure hours to the service of the club, and this element augers well for the future.
I don’t do Facebook, but recently a photograph has been sent in to the excellent Old Barry in Pictures Facebook page that requests information on a photograph that has been submitted.
Here is the photo (used, hopefully, with permission)
I believe the photograph to be that of the Barry Schoolboys, who defeated the Cardiff Schoolboys at Ninian Park in May 1916 to win the Welsh Schools Shield.
The Final was originally held at Jenner Park, Barry, but with the game ending in a 1-1 stalemate, Ninian Park was the scene of the Replay.
J.Weston (Barry Island School) got the opening goal after 25 minutes, but when Pearce equalised for the Cardiff Schoolboys, the game again ended 1-1. The match went to Extra Time and the Barry Schoolboys were ultimately awarded a penalty which was scored by E.Griggs (County School), the captain, to give the Barry lads a 2-1 win. It was the fourth time Barry Schoolboys had won the Welsh Schools Shield.
The winning line-up was : W.Forbes (Holton School), Glyn Martin (County School), W.Perry (Hannah Street School), J.Johnstone (County School), E.Griggs (County School), I.Hayward (Holton Road School), J.Weston (Barry Island School), S.Cruise (Holton Road School), J.Phillips (Holton Road School), Trevor Evans (County School), and W.Davies (County School).
I’m afraid I don’t know if these names bear any correlation to the photograph, but it would be great to be able to put names to faces.
The Welsh Schools Shield competition had started several years before, in 1913, with Barry Schoolboys winning the first title, and again in 1914, losing out to Cardiff Schoolboys in 1915, before reclaiming it in 1916. Indeed, Barry Schoolboys would win the title five times in the first seven years of the competition existence.
There were four Barry lads selected to play for Welsh Schoolboys against England Schoolboys at Bolton in 1916, prior to the domestic final: Glyn Martin, E.Griggs, S.Cruise, and W.Davies. Barry schoolboys had a fine history in Welsh International Schoolboy football with Barry boys featuring in the side since the inception of games with England Schoolboys in 1907 at Walsall.
Keith Burkinshaw, the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, was sitting in his office at White Hart Lane a few days after the 1978 World Cup Final. He had less than two months to prepare for the start of the new season. Spurs were returning to the First Division after a year away.
Bill Nicholson, Burkinshaw’s most eminent predecessor, the man who’d overseen Spurs’s glory days of the early 1960s, had joined him for a chat. There was plenty to discuss.
While they were talking, the phone rang. Nicholson answered it.
“Hello Bill, it’s Harry Haslam.”
Haslam, a friend of Burkinshaw, was the manager of Sheffield United.
“Hello Harry, what can we do for you? “ asked Nicholson.
“Would Keith be interested in signing Osvaldo Ardiles?” said Haslam.
Nicholson turned around to Burkinshaw.
“Harry Haslam’s on the phone and he wants to know if you’re interested in signing Osvaldo Ardiles,” he said.
“Is he pulling your leg or what?” said Burkinshaw.
(Adapted from the Nick Harris book ‘The Foreign Revolution’ and sampled from Sporting Intelligence.com)
Haslam’s playing career, and the Barry Town years
“Happy” Harry Haslam was a hugely popular character at Jenner Park and had previously played for Rochdale as an amateur, before moving to Oldham Athletic in the 1946-47 season for whom he made a handful of League appearances.
After a short spell with Brighton & Hove Albion, Haslam moved to Leyton Orient for the 1948-49 season, with whom he made 7 League appearances, before joining Guildford City.
Haslam joined Barry Town in the summer of 1956 replacing previous Linnets’ manager, Maurice Lindley, who later became well known as Assistant Manager to one Don Revie during Leeds United’s glory years.
With Barry Town struggling for money, he worked closely with the Chairman John Cecil Bailey and will always be remembered for being a man who managed Barry’s international superstars such as Bengt ‘Fölet’ Berndtsson (who would play almost 600 appearances for IFK Goteborg) and Sven Lindberg of the 1950s.
Indeed, I’m struggling to find knowledge of any non-League manager who signed players who had featured just months before in a squad that went to a World Cup Final.
But Harry did, signing – amongst many others – Swedish internationals Bengt Berdntsson and goalkeeper Sven Lindberg. He was closely familiar with staff at Manchester United, having been an apprentice at the club and was deeply affected by the Munich Air Crash in 1958 where he lost several old friends. Other Scandinavian players that played for the club during this exciting, if unrewarding, period in Barry Town’s history were Karl Lindberg, Bjorn Andersonn, and the extremely popular Finnish international player Hannu Kankonnen.
However, despite the glamour of Haslam bringing in overseas international stars into the club, it did little to stem the slide in fortunes for the club. The successes of the early and mid 1950s were now firmly behind the club, and attendances had fallen off dramatically. From being disappointed at the club averaging at 3,000 for home attendances, by the 1959-60 season rarely did these attendances surpass the 1,000 mark.Ultimately, Harry’s team lost 4-1 in the Welsh Cup to Merthyr Tydfil on January 2nd, 1960, and he was unceremoniously sacked by one of the Barry Directors rather than being given the grim news by the club’s Chairman John Bailey, a fact that the press at the time found very distasteful. As the Barry Town circus rolled into Wisbech with Albert Gardner acting as manager, Haslam still had time to send them this note of good luck.
The truth was that Harry had become a victim of a number of colliding and conflicting interests. His tenure at the club was marked by a bitter and prolonged fight between the Supporters Club, the Board of Directors and its own supporters organisation (very much similar to the failed organisation once infamously proposed by Stuart Lovering and which caused similar discord between owner and supporters).
Money as ever was the root cause of the argument, notably the supporters money and the house the supporters owned and used to house the manager. That house is now the Beeches care home on Barry Road adjacent to Neal Street. And eventually, a cowed supporters club signed over the house to the Board for free, and in doing so weakened itself mortally.
Leaving the club with Haslam and Manning was his right hand man and manager of the club’s Barry League Eddie Ambury.
He managed Barry’s Southern League rivals Tonbridge after leaving Jenner Park, winning the Kent Senior Cup in 1964-65 and went on to manage the club on a record 552 occasions.Haslam then became manager of Luton Town in 1972 and he led them to promotion to the Football League First Division in 1975.
Joining Sheffield United in 1978, some 20 years after signing Swedish internationals following the 1958 World Cup, Haslam was at it again. Admittedely, Haslam had his eyes set on a young lad that would make more of a mark on the world stage than the overseas signings he’d brought to Barry two decades earlier, but there’s little doubt that memories of his time managing internationals at Barry Town must have filled him with confidence.
Haslam was now in Argentina following the World Cup that summer and on behalf of Sheffield United attempted to sign a 17 year old Diego Maradona for £200,000. This was a sizeable amount. Gordon McQueen had recently become the UK’s most expensive signing when Leeds United sold him to Manchester United for £500,000. £200,000 for an unheard of teenager from South America was too much risk for Sheffield United.
They denied Haslam the funds to purchase Maradona, but allowed him the £160,000 needed to buy the more established Alex Sabella. Sabella flopped at Sheffield United, but is currently Argentina’s international coach. It was while out in Argentina that Haslam contacted Tottenham Hotspur’s manager Keith Burkinshaw about Spurs possibly signing Ardiles. Burkinshaw flew out to Buenos Aires and the deal was done with Ardiles who also suggested to Burkinshaw that Spurs also sign Ricardo Villa.
Haslam remained with the Blades until 1980 after a pretty disappointing tenure for both the man and the club, but Haslam was not out of football yet. Haslam was to join Bobby Robson’s staff as Robson prepared England for – you guessed it – the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
Harry Haslam died in 1986.
From signing Swedish international Bengt Berndtsson and a host of others in the Scandinavian invasion of Barry Town in the 1950s, to bringing Sabella, Ardiles and Villa from Argentina to England in the 1970s, ‘Happy’ Harry Haslam was certainly a revolutionary when it came to looking outside the ‘four walls’ of the British Isles when it came to spotting talent. It’s a privilege to list him here as part of the development of football in Barry.
(Jason Pawlin and Jeff McInery)
Barry Town supporters celebrate their team’s win over Cardiff City at the National Stadium, Cardiff, in May 1994. The Dragons had returned to Wales after a brief exile in Worcester for the 1992-93 season, and completed the season as Champions of the Welsh League, winners of four cup competitions, qualified to represent Wales in Europe in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and found that the 1993-94 season’s choice of yellow as a kit colour for cup competitions may just well catch on…