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New-look Bethesda Athletic in need of an overdue boost

Bethesda (green and black) take on Bangor 1876 last season. Picture: Dafydd Hughes

Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of Bethesda Athletic Football Club.

And it is fair to say they could do with some birthday cheer after several years in the doldrums.

The club hit a real peak when it won back-to-back Welsh Alliance League titles under Chris O’Neal in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

In 2009-10 they finished a very commendable ninth out of 17 in the tier-two Cymru Alliance, but the FAW decided to relegate 10 clubs from that league at the end of the season to make way for plans to reduce the Welsh Premier from 18 to 12.

The move knocked Bethesda for six – and a few other clubs to boot.

Times have been hard for Pesda ever since, but hope is on the horizon in the shape of new manager Mark Hughes and his backroom team of Geraint Jones, Paul Feaver and David Ball.

Hughes has built a reputation as a very capable manager over the years and is developing a largely young, exciting looking squad at Parc Meurig ahead of 2020-21 in the new tier 5 North Wales Coast West League Division One.

Formed in 1946, Bethesda Athletic joined the Welsh League (North) Division 1 in 1949-50, but throughout the 50’s and well into the 60’s did little else but survive, finishing bottom on a number of occasions.

The club’s fortunes finally started to turn in 1967-68 when they claimed third place in the table.

Another good season in 1968-69 saw Athletic finish fourth, but they made a bigger impact in the Welsh Cup, reaching the quarter-finals before losing 6-0 to eventual competition winners Cardiff City.

The 1970-71 season finally saw Bethesda confirm their potential as they lifted a first Welsh League (North) title.

Two runners-up spots followed before a second championship was secured in 1976-77.

Much of the 1970’s was a golden period for the Parc Meurig club as they also enjoyed some successes in the FA Cup and FA Trophy.

In 1969-70, Pesda won 6-0 at Pwllheli and District in the FA Cup first qualifying round before losing 3-1 at home to Rhyl at the next stage.

The 1974-75 season saw Athletic knock out South Liverpool 1-0, but they fell again to Rhyl in the next round after a second replay.

There was another memorable FA Cup result in 1976-77 as Bethesda pipped Oswestry Town 2-1 at home, prior to exiting 4-2 at Bangor City in the second qualifying round.

Meanwhile in the 1970-71 FA Trophy, Athletic took Tamworth to three games before eventually bowing out, and enjoyed some cracking ties against Northwich Victoria and Hyde United in the same competition in subsequent seasons.

In 1977-78, Pesda dropped into the lower level Caernarfon and District League, where they stayed for six seasons without pulling up any trees.

Athletic joined the newly-formed Gwynedd League in 1983-84 for just the one season, then became members of the Welsh Alliance League, which had replaced the Welsh League (North), in 1984-85, finishing runners-up in its inaugural campaign.

Bethesda came second in 1985-86 as well, but the following season were crowned champions.

The club stayed in the Welsh Alliance until the end of 1990-91 before descending into the Caernarfon and District again, staying there for seven seasons and lifting the title in 1997-98.

This brought a return to the Gwynedd League in 1998-99, where they finished runaway champions in 1999-2000 to seal a place back in the Welsh Alliance.

Chris O’Neal’s double championship-winning heroes

For the next seven seasons, the Ogwen side established themselves firmly in the third-tier league before in 2007-08 securing the championship by an 11-point margin.

The club was refused promotion to the Cymru Alliance by the Football Association of Wales, but 12 months later, Chris O’Neal’s side won the title by an even more emphatic 19 points and this time received the green light to go up.

Chris O’Neal (left) with defender Carl Thomas, also a former assistant-manager of Bethesda

Bethesda Athletic competed in tier two football for the first time in 2009-10, but despite doing very well to finish ninth out of 17 clubs, they went down after the FAW decided to relegate 10 teams from the Cymru Alliance so it could reduce the top-flight Welsh Premier League from 18 to 12 members.

Pesda returned to the Welsh Alliance for two seasons, but in August 2012 they were not able to complete fixtures and announced in September they were disbanding and resigned from the league.

After a season away, Athletic returned to the Welsh Alliance in 2013-14, but finished bottom of Division Two with just six points from 24 games. They left the league again after 2015-16.

In 2016-17, the club gave it another go in the Gwynedd League, but ended up at the basement without a win.

The following season they withdrew from the league again. In 2018 it was announced that the club would return to the league, but they resigned in August 2018 without playing any games.

Bethesda competed in the Gwynedd League again last season, but recorded another low finish.

It is fair to say recent years have not been good for the club, but for the 2020-21 campaign Pesda will be led by Mark Hughes, who offers hope that the Ogwen outfit can find an upward curve again.

BETHESDA ATHLETIC – LEAGUE HISTORY

1949-50 Welsh League (North) Division 1 11th
1950-51 Welsh League (North) Division 1 10th
1951-52 Welsh League (North) Division 1 17th
1952-53 Welsh League (North) Division 1 18th
1953-54 Welsh League (North) Division 1 18th
1954-55 Welsh League (North) Division 1 13th
1955-56 Welsh League (North) Division 1 16th
1956-57 Welsh League (North) Division 1 14th
1957-58 Welsh League (North) Division 1 15th
1958-59 Welsh League (North) Division 1 17th
1959-60 Welsh League (North) Division 1 4th
1960-61 Welsh League (North) Division 1 14th
1961-62 Welsh League (North) 10th
1962-63 Welsh League (North) 11th
1963-64 Welsh League (North) 10th
1964-65 Welsh League (North) 17th
1965-66 Welsh League (North) 13th
1966-67 Welsh League (North) 16th
1967-68 Welsh League (North) 3rd
1968-69 Welsh League (North) 4th
1969-70 Welsh League (North) 4th
1970-71 Welsh League (North) 1st
1971-72 Welsh League (North) 2nd
1972-73 Welsh League (North) 7th
1973-74 Welsh League (North) 2nd
1974-75 Welsh League (North) 6th
1975-76 Welsh League (North) 3rd
1976-77 Welsh League (North) 1st
1977-78 Caernarfon & District League 7th
1978-79 Caernarfon & District League 9th
1979-80 Caernarfon & District League 3rd
1980-81 Caernarfon & District League 10th
1981-82 Caernarfon & District League 10th
1982-83 Caernarfon & District League 12th
1983-84 Gwynedd League 3rd
1984-85 Welsh Alliance League 2nd
1985-96 Welsh Alliance League 2nd
1986-87 Welsh Alliance League 1st
1987-88 Welsh Alliance League 2nd
1988-89 Welsh Alliance League 8th
1989-90 Welsh Alliance League 5th
1990–91 Welsh Alliance League 3rd
1991–92 Caernarfon & District League 15th
1992–93 Caernarfon & District League 4th
1993–94 Caernarfon & District League 4th
1994–95 Caernarfon & District League 4th
1995–96 Caernarfon & District League 3rd
1996–97 Caernarfon & District League 2nd
1997–98 Caernarfon & District League 1st
1998–99 Gwynedd League 4th
1999–2000 Gwynedd League 1st
2000–01 Welsh Alliance League 4th
2001–02 Welsh Alliance League 7th
2002–03 Welsh Alliance League 4th
2003–04 Welsh Alliance League 6th
2004–05 Welsh Alliance League 3rd
2005–06 Welsh Alliance League 3rd
2006–07 Welsh Alliance League 6th
2007–08 Welsh Alliance League 1st
2008–09 Welsh Alliance League 1st
2009–10 Cymru Alliance 9th
2010–11 Welsh Alliance League 1 9th
2011–12 Welsh Alliance League 1 5th
2012–13 Welsh Alliance League 1 Resigned
2013–14 Welsh Alliance League 2 13th
2014–15 Welsh Alliance League 2 10th
2015–16 Welsh Alliance League 2 13th
2016–17 Gwynedd League 12th
2017–18 Gwynedd League Withdrew from the league
2018–19 Gwynedd League Withdrew from the league prior to season start
2019–20 Gwynedd League 14th

HONOURS

Welsh League (North) (2) – Champions: 1970–71; 1976–77
Welsh Alliance – Champions (3): 1986–87; 2007–08; 2008–09
Gwynedd League – Champions (1): 1999–2000
Caernarfon & District League – Champions (1): 1997–98
Cookson Cup winners 2008, 2009

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