Monday, June 2, 2014

Wales, an anomaly not only on the British isles – ancient clubs, one of the earliest official tournaments in the world – the Welsh Cup was played in 1877-78 for the first time – and no championship. The Cup itself was organized differently than anywhere else – English clubs were also allowed to participate and won it on five occasions, but we are not talking here of Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool, but of small clubs playing in lower divisions or outside the professional leagues. Thus, the authority of Cup was not very commanding. Welsh football was really based on 4 teams – the national team and the three professional clubs playing in the English leagues. Yet, Wales was represented in the Cup Winners Cup by their current winner – and, lacking a championship of its own, not represented in any other European club tournament. Given the peculiar circumstances, it was logical that the professional clubs would dominate the Cup and among them Cardiff City was the best known and the highest ranking – they were currently in Second Division, Wrexham – in Third, and Swansea City in Forth. Wisdom tells that Cardiff City were practically without competition, but 'wisdom' in football is dubious thing.
Cardiff City were historically the best Welsh club with some considerable success. Presently, they were down on their luck – they finished 19th in the English Second Division, barely escaping relegation by a point – but still were the highest placed Welsh club. Yes, they were in decline for some time and the other two professional clubs were rising – Wrexham won the Third Division this year and Swansea City was third in Forth, thus earning a promotion to Second – but Cardiff was the obvious choice. Alas, reality was different – they did not reach the final. Nor Swansea City which already started perhaps the best period of existence, leading them to First Division in few years.
Wrexham reached the final and the other finalist was Bangor City. Ancient club, founded in 1876, distinguished by two 'firsts': they won the inaugural season of the Welsh Cup and also in first edition of the UEFA Europa League (this, however, happened much later than the year presented here).
Bangor City also played in the very first Welsh championship in 1922 – yes, there was Welsh championship, but it was amateur or semi-professional, and not representing the Welsh Federation internationally, mat be because the top clubs played in the much better English leagues. And not only that: there had been various Welsh leagues – Bangor City was founding member of 7 such leagues before the 20th century ended. Which one was 'the league' was impossible to tell again pretty much to the end of the century. Anyhow, Bangor City, semi-professional at best, reached the final and had a good chance of winning the Cup for a forth time. The last time they won it was 1962 and the last time they played at the final was in 1973.
But it was not to be – Bangor City lost both legs of the final – 1-2 and 0-1 – not by much, almost equal to the rising professionals against them, but 'almost' brings no satisfaction. Wrexham won.
Wrexham won the Cup, as they did so many times during their long history. Their crest says 1873, but the club was founded even earlier – in 1854. One of the oldest clubs in the world and the oldest in Wales. Their Welsh names is Clwb Pêl-droed Wrecsam – it is much safer to stick to Bangor City, it seems. Long history, but the club is not famous – just one small professional club, normally playing in the lower English divisions. They excelled in the Welsh Cup, though and won it more than anybody else. The current victory was not easy, but still a victory.

A very good year for Wrexham – champions of the Englsih Second Division, earning promotion to higher league, winning the Welsh Cup.