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.
Rhyl FC’s Welsh Cup pedigree doesn’t need writing about – winners, runners-up semi-finalists and quarter-finalists countless times with the great and good of Welsh football clubs falling on the Lilywhites’ sword many times over the decades.
But occasionally Goliath turns into David which is what happened to Rhyl in a third round tie at Belle Vue in November 1985.
Clwyd League outfit BSC (British Steel Corporation) Shotton were the visitors in November 1985 and Rhyl were expected to cruise home as they had done against Welsh National League Wrexham pub side Grapes, who were easily beaten 5-0 in the previous round.
Shotton had only made it into the third round by default as they lost 1-0 to Holywell at the previous stage, but the Wellmen were dismissed from the competition after a protest.
The Steelmen certainly made the most of their good fortune.
Managed by well-known Deeside football figure Norman Bennett, the underdogs had an experienced line up which included former Chester and Shrewsbury defender Alan Tarbuck who had over 300 league appearances to his credit, skipper Micky Warrington who had carved out a respected name for himself with Prestatyn Town, Connah’s Quay Nomads, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Bethesda Athletic and Roy Brooks who had been with Courtaulds Greenfield, Point of Ayr and Connah’s Quay Albion, winning silverware at each.
Rhyl fielded a full strength Northern Premier League team but had the mother of all off-days as Shotton deservedly won 2-1 much to the disgust of the home support, many of whom left before the final whistle (I remember as I was among them!).
In the fourth round the Steelmen were drawn away to Hereford United for the biggest game of their history but the League Division Four side were way too strong and shattered Shotton’s dreams of further glory with a 10-1 drubbing.
THE HOSTS – RHYL FC
In 1985-86, Rhyl finished 14th in the Northern Premier League, a place below Bangor City but three positions above Caernarfon Town.
They had won the Welsh Cup twice, in 1951-52 and 1952-53, but their run in the 1985-86 competition was brought to an abrupt end by rank outsiders BSC Shotton.
Rhyl’s star man of the time was probably Carl Dale, the electrician from Deganwy, who spent just the one campaign at Belle Vue before shining for two seasons in a Bangor City shirt, prompting a move to English Football League side Chester City in May 1988 for £12,000.
Dale enjoyed three successful years with the Blues – finishing club top-scorer with 24 and player of the season in 1988-89 – before joining Cardiff City for £82,000 in 1991.
He played more than 200 league games for Cardiff, netting 71 goals and was a firm fans’ favourite at Ninian Park. Dale rounded off a goal-packed career at Yeovil Town and Newport County.
THE VISITORS – BSC SHOTTON
Overwhelming second favourites entering their 1985-86 Welsh Cup tie at Belle Vue, Clwyd League outfit BSC Shotton caused one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s modern history.
Steelmen defender Alan Tarbuck was in the twilight years of his career at the age of 37, but brought plenty of experience to the table.
Hailing from Liverpool (just like another famous Tarbuck – any relation?), Alan, who could also operate on the wing, began his career at Everton and went on to make 374 Football League appearances, scoring 77 goals.
He represented Crewe Alexandra, Chester, Preston North End, Shrewsbury Town and Rochdale, before later wearing the colours of Bangor City.