Football historian, author and renowned memorabilia collector Mark Jones of Prestatyn is Grassroots North Wales’ very own Santa this Christmas.
Nostalgia enthusiast Mark is providing a series of articles on programmes for some of North Wales’ more interesting Welsh Cup ties over the years, all ones that will never ever happen again.
Season 1979/80 saw Nantlle Vale embark on their best ever Welsh Cup run when they made it all the way to the last eight.
The Penygroes men had an unremarkable league season, finishing seventh in a ten-team Welsh League North, but they certainly saved their best for the Principality’s premier knockout competition.
In the first round Blaenau Ffestiniog were dispatched 1-0 on their own turf and another away trip to Pwllheli was the reward, again Vale triumphed, this time by 3-0.
A home draw against Newtown followed and the Robins weren’t chirping at the end of the day having been well beaten by 3-0.
Brymbo met a similar fate in round four, losing 2-1 which set up a clash with second division Shrewsbury Town, the cup holders.
Vale came out of the hat first but switched the tie to Gay Meadow, a decision which ended in a 4-1 defeat for the Gwynedd side – had the game been played on the tight confines of Maes Dulyn with a partisan Welsh crowd in attendance maybe the outcome could have been very different.
The Shrews again made it through to the final but couldn’t retain the trophy, losing over two legs to Newport County.
THE HOSTS – SHREWSBURY TOWN
Under the leadership of player-manager Graham Turner, Shrewsbury were a mid-table Football League Division Two (now the Championship) side in 1979-80.
Their squad included Glaswegian Paul Maguire, who represented Stoke City in the First Division from 1980-84, and later spent three seasons at Cemaes Bay under the management of Colin Hawkins, Bob Brodie and Chris Lawler in the early 1990’s.
Maguire lifted the Welsh Cup twice with Shrewsbury and was part of their 1978-79 Football League Third Division championship-winning crew before joining Stoke City for £262,000 in 1980.
Striker John Dungworth may have had a slightly unfortunate surname (although he was in good company as Brazil had Dunga) but was a very capable forward who made 484 Football League appearances and notched 112 goals.
His best spell was with Aldershot, where he netted 58 times in 105 matches before joining Shrewsbury for £100,000 in October 1979.
Scotsmen Jack Keay and Jake King later left Gay Meadow to play for Wrexham, the latter scoring twice in the famous 1984-85 Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup 4-3 defeat in Porto – a result which saw the Welsh team progress on away goals.
Shrews goalkeeper Bob Wardle was another to develop a North Wales connection.
Former Bangor City, Cemaes Bay and Porthmadog manager Colin Hawkins recalls: “Bob went from Shrewsbury to Liverpool for £300k (in 1982). He never made a first team appearance for Liverpool and had spells on loan at Wrexham and Tranmere Rovers.
“He later lost an eye, but carried on playing in America with one eye. In the 90’s he joined me and Paul (Maguire) at Cemaes and played a few matches in the Welsh League, ironically making his Cemaes debut at Bangor City.”
THE VISITORS – NANTLLE VALE
Nantlle Vale in the quarter-finals of the Welsh Cup – what a story !
Although given home advantage in the draw, the Welsh League North side from Penygroes agreed to play the tie at Shrewsbury.
Notable names in the Vale squad included Dave Elliott, former midfielder at Sunderland, Newcastle United, Southend United and Newport County.
He had spells as player-manager at Bangor City, Newport and Caernarfon Town and was briefly player-boss at Nantlle Vale where the chairman at the time was Arfon Roberts. Both Elliott and Roberts ran sports shops in the area.
Another familiar figure in the Nantlle ranks was Mel Jones, most recently renowned for being the first manager of fan-owned club Bangor 1876.
Mel played for all Bangor City sides – from youth to first team – and later impressed in Bethesda Athletic and Nantlle Vale colours.
He was once a coach at Wrexham under Brian Flynn and Kevin Reeves and has first team managerial experience with Bangor City, Caernarfon Town and Porthmadog.
Mel has also had great success as a youth football coach, mainly with Bangor City teams.
One very interesting name in the Nantlle squad from 1979-80 is Gerald Harper.
Just a few years before, an identically-named actor was the star of ITV drama Hadleigh.
I wonder if Nantlle Vale’s Gerald Harper was nicknamed Hadleigh (like West Ham United legend Trevor Brooking was).
In fact, is the footballer Gerald Harper still out there? If you read this, please let us know what you are doing these days.