Fifty years ago a very special football match took place at Bangor City’s iconic Farrar Road ground.
To celebrate the investiture of the Prince of Wales earlier in July, the Welsh national team took on the might of Manchester United at the now sadly demolished stadium.
Here is a match report from the day……
July 26, 1969
Manchester United 2 (Morgan 6, Kidd 34)
A crowd of 12,000 packed into Ffordd Farrar to witness the momentous clash between Dave Bowen’s Red Dragons and Wilf McGuinness’ Red Devils, who had become the first English club to lift the European Cup under the great Matt Busby the year before.
All tickets for the grand occasion had sold out weeks beforehand.
The match itself will mainly be remembered for the dynamism of the world-class United front-line, comprising greats George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, as well as more under-rated figures such as Brian Kidd and Willie Morgan, and the struggles of the Wales rearguard to stem the tide.
Indeed, only a magnificent display at the back from Nottingham Forest’s Terry Hennessey, the then 26-year-old from Llay, near Wrexham, saved the Welsh from a hammering.
Wales, for the most part, looked mediocre, often having eight players back defending their penalty box.
Left-midfielder John Mahoney, later to return to Farrar Road as Bangor City manager in the 1980s, and Ron Rees worked hard, but the team lacked cohesion, method and punch up front.
United took the lead in the sixth minute following a piece of soccer sorcery by the legendary Best, whose every touch of the ball was greeted with screams from teenage girls (and no doubt a few boys too).
The Northern Ireland star sent two Welsh players the wrong way with a cute back-heel flick which gave Francis Burns possession.
The full-back released Charlton, whose low driven cross was missed by Law, but Morgan followed up behind him to side-foot the ball over the line.
United could have been 6-0 up before Wales posed their first threat, the lofty Wyn Davies, from nearby Caernarfon, beating keeper Alex Stepney to a Rees corner and heading inches over the bar.
After fluffing a high ball, Stepney smothered from Davies before the Division One side went two-up in the 34th minute.
A low 25-yard Law strike looked to be well covered by Gary Sprake, but Kidd reached the ball before the keeper and steered in a simple goal.
Charlton found the net not long after, but Rhyl referee Ken Dodd (even back then the officials could be comedians) adjudged Law to be offside in the build up.
Luck deserted Wales in the 40th minute when Mahoney’s effort clattered the post with Stepney beaten.
The second half saw United bring on Shay Brennan for Burns and Don Givens for Kidd, and they also relaxed their grip on the game.
Still, however, the pressure continued on the Wales goal with Sparke doing well to deny Charlton and Morgan.
In the 71st minute, United were awarded a penalty when Mike England brought down Givens, but Law smashed his kick against the crossbar.
Rees brought a superb stop out of Stepney, but the winning team had the last word, Best’s majestic cross headed inches wide by Law.
Wales: Gary Sprake (Leeds United), Peter Rodrigues (Leicester City), Rod Thomas (Swindon Town), Terry Hennessey (Nottingham Forest), Mike England (Tottenham Hotspur), Ollie Burton (Newcastle United), Gil Reece (Sheffield United), Cliff Jones (Fulham), Wyn Davies (Newcastle United), John Mahoney (Stoke City), Ronnie Rees (Nottingham Forest).
Manchester United: Alex Stepney, Tony Dunne, Francis Burns (Shay Brennan), Paddy Crerand, Bill Foulkes, David Sadler, Willie Morgan, Brian Kidd (Don Givens), Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, George Best.
Referee: Ken Dodd (Rhyl)
FACTS OR FICTION?
Versions of history can change dramatically with the passage of time and it is no different with this game from 1969.
References to the match at Farrar Road from 50 years ago on line are quite rare, but some recollections have claimed the United scorers were Best and Sadler.
However, match reports from both local newspapers of the day, the North Wales Chronicle and Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald and North Wales Observer, clearly confirm Morgan and Kidd got the goals.
Others who attended the game have spoken across the decades of the rowdy behaviour of large groups of Manchester United fans before, during and after the encounter.
The North Wales Chronicle led its back page more on the angle of locals having their serenity shattered by thousands of soccer-mad fans rather than the game itself.
The report spoke of Bangor folk witnessing first-hand some of the type of hooliganism taking a hold in first-class football.
Reportedly, large groups of Red Devils supporters had left Manchester at 3am and an hour later the road between Manchester and Chester was full of hitch-hikers heading in the direction of Bangor.
By 5am the Manchester arrivals had announced themselves in rather rowdy fashion by starting a football match on Beach Road.
Sometime during the morning, some high-spirited fans had managed to get into the Farrar Road ground and stole touchline flags. Fortunately they were replaced just seconds before the game started.
The police had been invited to patrol the ground at 1.30pm but before they arrived the large metal gates at the High Street side had burst open and between 200 -300 spectators got in without paying.
Further reports were received of cafes in the High Street, prepared for a big bonanza, having to close because of the hooliganism. Police were also called to several public houses in the city due to disorder incidents.
While the Wales squad obliged large hoards of autograph hunters, the United players, probably due to heavy traffic after leaving their temporary base in Llandudno, arrived not long before kick-off and made their way to the dressing rooms without stopping for anyone.
After the match George Best was taken by car to Ffriddoedd Road, where a helicopter was waiting to fly him to the location of his latest TV commercial.
A day not without its difficulties, but the quality of the United side on show was an over-riding positive from what is a huge part of Farrar Road’s wonderful history.
Cuttings from the North Wales Chronicle, Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald and North Wales Observer by kind courtesy of Bangor University Library, College Road.