The 25th anniversary of one of Denbigh Town FC’s greatest achievements will be celebrated in the coming season.
Back in 1995-96, Bill Dawson’s men were in just their second campaign at tier 3 Welsh Alliance League level, yet stunned North Wales football by being crowned champions.
After a tough season where they faced numerous top quality opponents, the Vale of Clwyd side claimed the summit by three points ahead of auld rivals Prestatyn Town.
Dawson had taken over as boss in 1991-92, coach Roy Cook-Hannah joining him to establish a formidable management team.
Town were in Clwyd League Division One at the time, but the feature of that first season was a remarkable 1-0 NWCFA Challenge Cup victory over HFS Loans Northern Premier League giants Caernarfon Town.
Denbigh rose to the Premier Division, finishing fourth in 1992-93, and the following season runners-up spot was sufficient to seal promotion to the Welsh Alliance, Clwyd Prem champions Flint Town United Reserves being ineligible to go up.
In their debut Welsh Alliance campaign, Denbigh ended up an impressive fourth, then in 1995-96 came the club’s finest season since the 1970s, when they dominated the Welsh National (Wrexham Area) League.
Town were in and around the top positions for most of the season and after beating Prestatyn 1-0 at Central Park on March 9 looked to be heading for certain title glory.
But then came a stutter as the red and blacks lost to Nefyn United, Glantraeth and Halkyn in quick succession.
Things were almost at crisis point when they visited bogey side Halkyn on April 6, but Town produced a priceless 2-0 victory and further away wins at Llangefni and Connah’s Quay Nomads Reserves clinched the championship.
Denbigh doubled up by also lifting the Cookson Cup.
Dawson’s squad comprised mainly 15 players, although 25 different names appeared over the season.
Nathan Pope (goalkeeper)
Conceded just 30 goals in 28 games, keeping 12 clean sheets.
Tremendous shot-stopper Pope had previously won trophies with Trefnant Village and Llandyrnog United, but 1995-96 was surely his finest season.
Gethin Lloyd (defender)
Made his first team debut at 17, and by the end of 1995-96 he had already clocked up almost 100 appearances.
Strong, commanding defender whose speciality was man-marking.
John Jones (defender)
Quiet man of the side whose great temperament made him the steadiest of defenders.
Fan favourite and an almost ever-present this season.
Mike James (utility)
One of Denbigh’s all-time greats won his first major trophy in 18 years with the club in this campaign.
Chief motivator, dead-ball specialist, could play in any position, a Town hero forever.
Danny Jellicoe (defender)
Surely the best product of Town’s five-year youth policy under Dawson and Cook-Hannah.
Turned 19 early in the season, yet played with a maturity way beyond his years, performing amazingly well against some top-class experienced strikers.
Rob Jones (defence/midfield)
Prolific footballer who sometimes played five games a week.
One of Dawson’s finest signings, a box-to-box player who got the season up and running for Town with a rocket header in a win over Llanberis.
Mark Lewis (defence/midfield)
After a two-month spell out Lewi returned for the closing weeks of the season and played a key role in Denbigh’s success.
Class act, strong yet skilful, he added a real steadiness to Town’s defence on his return.
Mike Payne (defender)
Finished the season on-fire, playing a vital part in Denbigh’s 2-0 win at Halkyn which put them on course to clinch the title.
Joined Town from Golden Lions and was in and out of the side this season until that storming finish where he made himself undroppable.
Shaun Kelly (midfield)
One of the club’s loyalest servants, Denbigh’s championship success meant everything to him.
A huge-hearted player whose powerful tackling and motivational presence made him a manager’s dream.
Graham Hunter (midfield)
He was almost 37 when Denbigh lifted the title, but his experience had been one of the key components in the team’s triumphs.
The ultimate midfield general, superb passer of the ball and scorer of some brilliant goals, he had formerly starred for St Asaph, Colwyn Bay, Bethesda, Holywell Town and Pilkingtons.
Tim Dyer (striker)
Netted 13 goals in 27 matches. Unlucky with injuries over the season, but still more than played his part.
Previously a Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) title winner with Penycae, he was destined in future years to win the Welsh Alliance again as Denbigh manager.
Lee Hogg (striker)
An ever-present, Lee was Town’s top scorer in 1995/96 with 16 goals in 34 matches.
Formed a razor-sharp partnership up front with Peter O’Brien, the pair ending up sharing another title – the team’s No 1 funny men.
Peter O’Brien (striker)
His return to the club during this season was perhaps the single, most-important factor in Denbigh’s title win.
Scored 11 goals in 17 appearances, bringing his career total for the club to 55.
A football genius, he could conjure goals from nothing.
Vinny Hayes (midfield)
Was aged 37 when the championship was secured, but like Hunter he provided essential experience to see Denbigh over the line.
Midfield ace who first joined Town briefly in 1991-92, but after returning in 1993-94 he went on to become a true great.
Adrian Nixon (winger)
Much-travelled player, hugely-talented, he scored some crucial goals this season, including a late decider in a 4-3 verdict at Llanfairpwll.
Throughout the campaign, Nixon displayed plenty of skill, but also showed much steel for the cause when needed.
Others who represented Denbigh’s first team in 1995-96
Karl Stevens, Ian Clayton, Gareth Williams, Craig Kelly, Phil Graham, Stewart Clarke, Roger Beech, Roy Cook-Hannah, Hefin Davies, Jez Williams.
Denbigh Town – Welsh Alliance League results 1995-96
Aug 19: Loco Llanberis (h) 2-1 (Rob Jones, Mike James pen)
Aug 23: Llandyrnog United (a) 1-0 (James pen)
Aug 26: Caernarfon Town Res (a) 3-0 (Karl Stevens 2, Phil Graham)
Sep 2: Bangor City Res (a) 0-3
Sep 23: Connah’s Quay Nomads Res (h) 5-0 (Lee Hogg 2, Adie Nixon, Gareth Williams 2)
Oct 7: Nantlle Vale (a) 3-0 (James, Tim Dyer, Nixon)
Oct 14: Porthmadog Res (h) 2-2 (Nixon, G Williams)
Oct 28: Loco Llanberis (a) 1-0 (Hogg)
Nov 4: Bangor City Reserves (h) 1-1 (Hogg)
Nov 11: Caernarfon Town Res (h) 2-1 (James pen, Vinny Hayes)
Nov 25: Llanfairpwll (h) 1-0 (Peter O’Brien)
Dec 2: Llangefni Town (h) 2-1 (Dyer 2)
Dec 9: Rhyl Reserves (a) 4-0 (Dyer pen, O’Brien 3)
Dec 16: Nantlle Vale (h) 3-1 (Dyer 2, O’Brien)
Dec 23: Prestatyn Town (a) 1-2 (O’Brien)
Jan 6: Nefyn United (h) 4-2 (Hogg 2, Mike Payne, O’Brien)
Jan 13: Porthmadog Res (a) 3-1 (John Jones, Hogg 2)
Jan 20: Rhyl Res (h) 2-0 (Hogg 2)
Feb 17: Glantraeth (a) 3-2 (R Jones, Hogg, O’Brien)
Mar 2: Llanfairpwll (a) 4-3 (Dyer 2, Nixon 2)
Mar 9: Prestatyn Town (h) 1-0 (Dyer)
Mar 16: Nefyn United (a) 2-3 (Graham Hunter, Hogg)
Mar 23: Glantraeth (h) 1-2 (O’Brien)
Mar 30: Halkyn United (h) 2-3 (James pen, Nixon)
Apr 6: Halkyn United (a) 2-0 (Hogg, Nixon)
Apr 13: Llangefni Town (a) 1-0 (O’Brien)
Apr 20: Connah’s Quay Nomads Res (a) 2-0 (Hogg, O’Brien)
May 4: Llandyrnog United (h) 2-2 (Payne, James)