Saturday, December 8, 2012

And bellow Denmark the strength of the remaining European countries is really difficult to evaluate, for they were the weakest. Wales did not have a national championship, the only country from the United Kingdom, but a national team and Cup tournament. The best – if such word is proper – clubs played in the English professional championship, and among them the best known is Cardiff City. In the already distant dim past Cardiff were quite a force, even winning the English Cup, but by the mid-1970s there were few alive to remember glory days. The club faded away long ago, playing mostly second division football, where finished 18th in 1976-77, escaping relegation on better goal-difference. The two other 'strong' Welsh clubs played even at lower level – Wrexham was 5th in Third Division and Swansea City - 5th in Forth Division. So, it looked like the Cup was the only possibility for winning a trophy and those three would have been the usual contenders. They were, to a point. To a point, because English clubs participated in the Welsh Cup, some of the small clubs plus some non-league clubs, and muddied the waters for the true Welsh clubs – quite often the English small fry was winning the trophy and such was the case in 1976-77, when Cardiff City met Shrewsbury Town at the final.

Shrewsbury was modest Third Division team at the time, good only for mid-table position – they finished 10th. For a club like that the Welsh Cup was quite a trophy and the they shrewdly played the final, losing the first leg 1-2, but winning the second 3-0. The Cup was theirs – for a third time already. Shrewsbury won, but... Wales participated in the Cup Winners Cup, the only European club tournament they were allowed to play in, having no championship of their own. And since Shrewsbury was not a Welsh club, they were qualified to play in Europe, as all previous English winners. The losing finalists were to play instead and one may wonder what would have happened, if two English clubs played the Welsh Cup final. But forget speculations: Cardiff City once again got a chance to distinguish itself in Europe.

Lucky losers... back row, from left: Sealey – trainer, Alan Campbell, Tony Evans, Richie Morgan, Ron Healey, Paul Went, Billy Irwin, Keith Pontin, Albert Larmour, John Buchanan, Whitefield (?).

Front row: Peter Sayer, Clive Charles, Steve Grapes, Doug Livermore, Jimmy Andrews – manager, Phil Dwyer, David Giles, Freddie Pethard, Brian Attley.

Cardiff City played regularly in the Cup Winners Cup and with the same regularity was eliminated at early stage. In the fall of 1976, as legitimate Cup holders, they played with Dinamo (Tbilisi) in the opening stage of the tournament and were immediately beaten. New opportunity to play two matches in Europe? Have a heart... lucky once, may be they would be lucky a second time in 1977. Or, may be they will win their 20th Welsh Cup in 1978? Nice kit anyway