The Founding Members of the League of Wales – Part Three

Introduction

The locations of the 20 founding member teams of the League of Wales.

To read the other parts about the founding members of the 1992-93 League of Wales, follow the links below:

As mentioned in previous parts of this series, this series of blogs will look at each one of the twenty founding members who competed in the inaugural League of Wales season to see how they performed during the debut season, and how they have progressed in their history since that groundbreaking 1992-93 campaign. This is to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the top national league in Welsh football, as the League of Wales has evolved from the previous Welsh Premier League and into the current Cymru Premier.

The 1992-93 League of Wales table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

In this third part of the series, the focus will be on the five teams that finished in the eleventh to fifteenth positions in the 1992-93 League of Wales table: Caersws, Afan Lido, Mold Alexandra, Llanelli AFC, and Maesteg Park.

11th: Caersws – 52 points

  • Ground: Recreation Ground, Caersws
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Fourth [2001-02]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 2021-22
  • 1991-92 League: Cymru Alliance – 1st
  • Current League: Ardal North East

Prior to the formation of the League of Wales, Caersws could have been considered as one of the initial favourites for the inaugural Welsh championship having gone into the new national league as the defending Cymru Alliance champions. They had also been CA runners-up the previous season, whilst being the most successful team in the Mid Wales League throughout the mid-to-late 1980s. However, the Bluebirds from Powys failed to rediscover their form from previous seasons as they finished in mid-table mediocracy in eleventh place, a point behind Porthmadog and Haverfordwest County. In keeping with their middle-of-the-road season, they achieved a mirrored season having won and lost the same amount of games (14 games apiece), drawing 10 games, as well as scoring 63 goals, and conceding 60 goals. They could have picked up some silverware during the season in the form of the Welsh League Cup but ended up on the wrong side of a penalty shootout after drawing 1-1 with Afan Lido in the final.

Despite their unremarkable start to their League of Wales stint, Caersws enjoyed a lengthy spell competing at Wales’ top table by spending eighteen consecutive years in the top division before eventually getting relegated at the end of the 2009-10 season. During their time as a top-level team, they did achieve great success in the Welsh League Cup having failed to lift the trophy in 1993. They won their first cup in 2001 when they defeated Barry Town 1-0, before successfully defending the trophy the following year via a 2-1 victory over Cwmbran Town. A third Welsh League Cup was added in 2007, this time being successful with penalties to defeat Rhyl after a 1-1 draw. It was also in 2002 when Caersws achieved their best league finish of fourth position, which allowed them to qualify for that summer’s Intertoto Cup. Despite an impressive 1-1 home draw against Bulgarian side Marek Dupnitsa, the mid-Wales side exited the contest in the first round with a 1-3 aggregate loss.

Unfortunately, Caersws have not returned to the top flight since their relegation in 2010. They spent eight consecutive seasons in the Cymru Alliance, where they often finished in the higher positions of the league, before suffering another relegation down to the third tier and the Mid Wales League in 2018. After reorganising the Welsh football pyramid put the club into the third-tier Ardal North East league, they were unfortunate not to return to the second tier last season. Firstly, they just missed out on automatic promotion and the league title by just three points and then lost the Ardal Northern Playoff 0-5 to Porthmadog. However, they should certainly be one of the strong favorites to earn a promotion from the Ardal NE for the 2022-23 season.

12th: Afan Lido – 52 points

  • Ground: Lido Ground, Aberavon
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Second [1994-95]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 2013-14
  • 1991-92 League: Welsh Football League – 8th
  • Current League: Cymru South

After having won the southern Welsh Football League title back-to-back in the late 1980s, Afan Lido was chosen as one of two Neath Port Talbot-based sides to become founding members of the League of Wales. At the end of their first top-flight season, Lido had an almost identical season to that of Caersws, albeit scoring one additional goal but conceding five more to produce an inferior goal difference of -1 in comparison with the Powys-based side’s goal difference of +3. They would possess two of the highest goalscorers in the league that season within their squad, with Tim O’Connor scoring 26 goals throughout the season (the second-best tally of the season), whilst Mitch Patton would contribute 18 goals throughout the campaign. Lido also inflicted one of the most significant away victories of the season when they defeated doomed Abergavenny Thursdays 6-0 in mid-January 1993. However, despite finishing in relative ambivalence of twelfth position in the league, Afan Lido had much greater success in the Welsh League Cup, winning the very first edition of the cup tournament when they defeated Caersws on penalties in the 1993 final. Lido successfully defended their trophy the following year when they overcame champions-elect Bangor City by a single goal at Aberystwyth, even though the club would finish in sixteenth position that season.

Since becoming a founding member of the League of Wales, Afan Lido has fluctuated between the first and second tiers of the Welsh football pyramid. They achieved a league-high finish of second place in the 1994-95 season, which qualified them for Europe for the first time. Alas, their journey in the UEFA Cup would be brief as they exited in the preliminary round, losing 1-2 on aggregate to Latvian side RAF Jelgava, despite achieving a goalless draw in the away second leg. After finishing second-from-top, they followed that up the next season with a second-from-bottom finish to see the club relegated for the first time – from feast to famine in a short time! After a two-season hiatus, the club returned to the top flight, where they competed for the next seven seasons, finishing as high as fifth place in the 2001-02 season before a second relegation at the end of the 2004-05 campaign.

It would be another six seasons before Afan Lido returned back to the Welsh Premier League, but their three-season stay would be a tough period for the club. They did manage to pick up a third Welsh League Cup during this period by beating Newtown on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the 2012 final. However, the club often found itself at the wrong end of the WPL table and finished at the bottom for two seasons in a row. They avoided relegation in the 2012-13 season due to Llanelli being liquidated due to debts, and no club achieving promotion from South Wales. However, they were unable to avoid the drop in the second season by finishing rock bottom of the league and conceding 100 goals. That was the last time Lido appeared in the WPL, and are currently maintaining their position within the second tier with the club heading into their ninth consecutive season at this level. Last season Afan Lido finished in tenth position in the Cymru South

13th: Mold Alexandra – 48 points*

  • Ground: Alyn Park, Mold
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Thirteenth [1992-93]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 1994-95
  • 1991-92 League: Cymru Alliance – 10th
  • Current League: Cymru North

After finishing as the 1989-90 Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division champions, Mold Alexandra was selected to become founding members of the Cymru Alliance, and considering its history, it probably wasn’t a surprise they were also selected as one of the founding members of the League of Wales despite finishing in tenth position in the 1991-92 Cymru Alliance table. However, their campaign in the new national league nearly floundered when the fledgling league initially threw the club out of the LoW for failing to meet the ground criteria that were established. Thankfully, through the help of a number of parties, a stand was built and floodlights erected to allow them to compete in the league. Despite all the initial hubbub, Mold finished as the third-best Flintshire-based side in the league for the 1992-93 League of Wales, although they ended up finishing in their highest ever league position of thirteenth and four points behind League Cup winners Afan Lido. The margin between the two clubs should have been just a single point but the Alex was deducted three points by the FAW for going into administration during the season.

Mold Alex competed in the League of Wales for its first three seasons, finishing in fourteenth position in the second season of the LoW, although financial problems and constraints continually dogged the club throughout its entire time in the top flight. Therefore, it came as no surprise when the club was eventually relegated at the end of the 1994-95 season in nineteenth place, just two points from safety but having a better goal difference than eighteenth placed-side Llanelli, who survived.

Since their last appearance at the top tier, Mold Alex has continually fluctuated between the second and third tiers, spending roughly three to four seasons periodically at one tier before moving up/down to the next tier. This period included two Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division titles to achieve promotion back to the Cymru Alliance. This season, the Alex has returned back to the Cymru North after becoming the inaugural Ardal North West league champions and earning promotion back to the second tier – their first appearance at this level since the 2016-17 season.

14th: Llanelli – 41 points

  • Ground: Stebonheath Park, Llanelli
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Champions [2007-08]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 2012-13
  • 1991-92 League: Welsh Football League – 10th
  • Current League: Cymru South (as Llanelli Town)

Llanelli AFC was one of the lowest finishing teams in the 1991-92 (South) Welsh Football League to be accepted as founding members of the League of Wales, although the club did possess a grand history within southern Welsh football having played in the English Southern League, and had the legendary Jock Stein play for them during his playing career. The Reds finished their first season as a top-tier club in fourteenth position, seven points adrift of Mold Alexandra, despite having the joint-third worst attack in the division by scoring just 48 goals in 38 games. Llanelli stayed in the League of Wales for the first four seasons of the league’s existence before continuous financial constraints finally condemned Llanelli to relegation when they finished bottom of the 1995-96 table.

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, the club would fluctuate between the two top leagues, with their best league placement coming in the 1999-2000 season when they finished as high as fifth place. It wouldn’t be until the summer of 2005 when the fortunes of Llanelli improved dramatically as they were taken over by the wealthy and ambitious Jesco consortium, and turned into a full-time club. Unsurprisingly, the fortunes of the Reds improved dramatically as they became one of Wales’ best sides during the late 2000s and early 2010s. Their finest moment as a club came in the 2007-08 season when the club achieved a domestic double by winning their first (and only) Welsh championship and winning the Welsh League Cup by defeating Rhyl 2-0 at Newtown. During this successful period, the club would also win their second Welsh Cup, and first in 97 years when they halted Bangor City’s run of consecutive Welsh Cup victories by beating the Citizens 4-1 at ‘home’ at the newly-built Parc y Scarlets. Llanelli would also finish as runners-up in the league on three occasions, as well as become regular qualifiers for European competitions. Some of their highlights included progressing to the second qualifying round in the 2006-07 UEFA Cup after beating Swedish club Gefle IF 2-1 on aggregate, whilst also achieving single-leg victories over Latvian side FK Ventspils in the UEFA Champions League, and Motherwell and Dinamo Tbilisi in the UEFA Europa League, although usually losing on aggregate to those teams.

Sadly, Llanelli suffered a great and rapid decline in 2012. Despite becoming Welsh champions just four years prior, financial problems and increasing debts forced the club to slash playing costs and they finished their 2012-13 season in a lowly eleventh position in the league before they were eventually dissolved by the High Court in London in April 2013 with debts of £21k. The club soon reformed as Llanelli Town in the summer of 2013, and this new side is considered by the FAW as the formal continuation of the dissolved Llanelli AFC side. The phoenix side managed a miraculous and incredible rise through the Welsh Football League pyramid before finally returning back to the Cymru Premier for the 2018-19 season. Sadly, the fairytale story would not continue as they were relegated after just a season back at the highest step of the pyramid. However, Llanelli Town has brought high-level football back to the sporting town, and the Reds continue to compete in the Cymru South, with the 2022-23 season being the fourth consecutive season at this level.

15th: Maesteg Park – 40 points

  • Ground: Tudor Park, Maesteg
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Fifteenth [1992-93]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 1994-95
  • 1991-92 League: Welsh Football League – 6th
  • Current League: South Wales Alliance Division One

Before becoming founding members of the League of Wales, Maesteg Park AFC had been regular competitors in the Welsh Football League as well as the early rounds of the English FA Cup throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, reaching the second qualifying round in the 1991-92 competition. In their first League of Wales season, the Park reached a record-high position of fifteenth place, having accumulated 40 points and placed a single point behind Llanelli. They also had the best defence of the bottom ten, conceding 59 goals, as well as being the draw specialists of the league with 13 draws – the highest in the division for that season.

Maesteg Park was lucky to maintain its position in the following season of the League of Wales, when the club only won three of their final twenty-five league games to conclude the season in nineteenth position and placed in the relegation zone. They avoided relegation due to Haverfordwest County resigning from the league instead, and staying off the bottom by having a three-goal superior goal difference to relegated side Briton Ferry Athletic. Sadly, Maesteg Park could not avoid relegation for another consecutive season when they finished bottom of the 1994-95 table, having won just two games all season, earning 12 points, scoring just 23 goals, and conceding a whopping 113 goals, to bring their three-season stay in the top flight to a disappointing conclusion.

Alas, Maesteg Park never returned to the top tier since their three-season stint in the early 1990s and continued to compete in the Welsh Football League throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Unfortunately, the club fell on hard financial times at the end of the 2009-10 season after suffering relegation to Division Two a couple of seasons previously and had to resign from the league. Subsequently, Maesteg Park had to start again from the bottom of the football pyramid in the Bridgend & District League at the ninth tier, although they have since climbed up a few levels of the football pyramid in recent times. For the 2022-23 season, the Park will compete in the fifth tier South Wales Alliance Division One again after finishing in eighth position in the league last season.

That concludes this third part of the series that looked at the eleventh to fifteen teams in the 1992-93 League of Wales. In the final part, we’ll look at the founding members who finished in the bottom five placements of sixteenth to twentieth place in the inaugural national league. If you have any comments, suggestions, or reactions about this blog series, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

Diolch!

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