The Founding Members of the League of Wales – Part Four

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 final part of the series, the focus will be on the five teams that finished in the bottom five positions in the 1992-93 League of Wales table: Flint Town United, Briton Ferry Athletic, Newtown AFC, Llanidloes Town, and Abergavenny Thursdays.

16th: Flint Town United – 39 points

  • 1992-93 Ground: Holywell Road, Flint
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Fourth [1993-94]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 2021-22
  • 1991-92 League: Cymru Alliance – 4th
  • Current League: Cymru Premier

Flint Town United was considered one of the strongest teams in Welsh football prior to the establishment of the League of Wales. The Silkmen had won the 1988-89 Welsh Alliance League and then won the very first Cymru Alliance championship during the 1990-91 season. In addition, they could have been considered as the first ‘Welsh national champions’ as Flint managed to beat that season’s south Welsh champions Abergavenny Thursdays in the only Welsh play-off final held between the northern and southern Welsh champions before the national league was finally formalised. Therefore, it was a bit of a surprise for Flint to finish the 1992-93 season in 16th position, a point behind Maesteg Park, and the lowest ranked of the four Flintshire-based teams. Flint’s most significant problem throughout the season was their ineffective attack which saw them with the second-worst goal tally in the division with 47 goals, although the club did also lose 21 games throughout their campaign, which was the third-worst amount in the league.

Following their move to their current ground of Cae-y-Castell for the 1993-94 season, the fortunes of Flint dramatically improved as they finished the second League of Wales season in fourth position – their highest league finish in the LoW era. This would be the start of a three-season purple patch for the club as they continuously finished in the top six of the league, however that great form would soon dissipate. With the club not being able to find a main sponsorship, and with continuous upkeep costs to their new ground to be paid, the club suffered financially, and unsurprisingly, the club lost its berth in the League of Wales when they finished in 18th position in the 1997-98 season and were relegated with three other clubs. Flint Town United then became a stalwart of the Cymru Alliance, competing in the second tier for 21 consecutive seasons, often being one of the strongest teams in the league but not managing to gain promotion back to the top flight.

Their fortunes finally changed in the first Cymru North season in 2019-20 when despite finishing as runners-up to league champions Prestatyn Town, they gained promotion instead of the Denbighshire-based club because the Seasiders had failed to obtain a tier 1 license whilst Flint managed to achieve one. In their first season back at Wales’ highest tier, Flint finished in 11th spot, a position that could have seen them relegated in normal seasons, but because of the COVID pandemic at the time, it forced no football to be played below the Cymru Premier and they avoided an instant relegation. The Silkmen drastically improved their performances last season when the club finished in an impressive and surprising 5th place, their highest league placement since 1994. They subsequently made it to the end-of-season playoffs final but lost to Caernarfon Town 1-2 after extra time, with the Canaries qualifying for the following season’s Scottish Challenge Cup.

17th: Briton Ferry Athletic – 39 points

  • Ground: Old Road Stadium, Briton Ferry
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Seventeenth [1992-93 & 1995-96]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 1996-97
  • 1991-92 League: Welsh Football League – 2nd
  • Current League: Cymru South (as Briton Ferry Llansawel)

Briton Ferry Athletic was selected as one of the founding members of the League of Wales due to being one of the strongest teams within South Wales, with the Ferry finishing the previous season as runners-up in the southern Welsh Football League. Alas, their time in the League of Wales would not be as fruitful with the club ending their debut season in 17th position with 39 points accumulated from their 38-game schedule. Briton Ferry had one of the league’s best goalscorers for the season with Francis Ford scoring 22 goals throughout the season to ensure the club maintained their LoW position by nine points. However, their defence was certainly not as strong, having the joint second-worst record in the league by conceding 87 goals and resulting in missing out on 16th position by having an inferior goal difference to Flint Town United. Sadly, ten of those conceded goals came in the league’s biggest margin of victory when Briton Ferry lost 0-10 to Ebbw Vale at the start of 1993.

Briton Ferry Athletic’s stay in the League of Wales would conclude the following season when the Achilles heel of their defence contributed to their demise. Suffering the league’s second-worst defence, they were relegated to the second tier on goal difference after having an inferior goal difference in comparison with Maesteg Park (-31 to -28), who stayed in the division due to Haverfordwest County’s decision to resign from the league, despite both teams ending the season on 33 points. However, after a season’s long hiatus, the club returned back to the LoW for another two-season stint which strangely mirrored their first stint in the top tier. A 17th place finish in the first season was met with relegation in the second season as Briton Ferry finished bottom of the table yet again for the 1996-97 season, conceding a whopping 129 goals in 40 league games!!

Alas, the 1996-97 season would be the final season that Briton Ferry Athletic would experience top-flight football, with the club competing in the second tier for the majority of the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s. Unfortunately by 2006, the financial situation at the club became drastically worse as they suffered two relegations in three seasons to end up in the Third Division of the Welsh Football League. This quick demise led to the club merging with local side Llansawel to create Briton Ferry Llansawel in 2009, with the new club continuing to play at Briton Ferry’s ground. Since the merger, the new club has slowly but surely risen up the divisions once again to become one of the stronger teams within the Cymru South league. Last season, they initially looked like to challenge for promotion but faded away towards the end of the season to finish in 3rd place. This coming season, BFL look set to become one of the strong favourites to challenge for the Cymru South title, and potentially bring top-flight football back to Briton Ferry after 25 years.

18th: Newtown – 36 points

  • Ground: Latham Park, Newtown
  • Best Finish: Second [1995-96 & 1997-98]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 2021-22
  • 1991-92 League: English Northern Premier League Division One – 14th
  • Current League: Cymru Premier

Two-time Welsh Cup winners, Newtown AFC, were one of the teams who were part of the ‘Irate Eight’ that was upset about being forced to move from the English football system to the Welsh one. Nonetheless, the Robins eventually relented and reluctantly became one of the founding members of the League of Wales. However, their stay in the Welsh top flight proved to be much tougher than they expected and it almost ended after the first season when the Powys club seriously flirted with relegation. The club finished in 18th position, three points behind Briton Ferry Athletic and six points ahead of the relegation zone, but possessed the joint second-worst defence in the league having conceded 87 goals.

After the baptism of fire of their inaugural season, Newtown soon found their feet in Welsh football and became one of the strongest teams within the league throughout the 1990s by finishing as runners-up on two occasions and finishing no lower than 6th position. The Robins would also qualify for the UEFA Cup twice, although not managing to progress beyond their first tie in the competition. The highlight of those games was a goalless draw with Polish side Wisła Kraków, but eventually losing 0-7 on aggregate. Throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, Newtown continued to play in the league albeit finishing in the lower half of the league with the team eventually finishing bottom of the 2011-12 table. However, they were spared relegation when Neath was relegated after failing to obtain a tier 1 licence and no club from the southern second tier obtained a Tier 1 licence.

Since their lucky evasion of relegation, the performances of Newtown have improved in the top flight with the club often finishing mid-table, varying between the Championship and Playoff groups each season. However, last season saw Newtown achieve their best league placement since their second-place finish in 1998 when they concluded their campaign in third position to qualify for Europe once again. Newtown is one of few Welsh sides to have won ties in European competition when they beat Maltese side Valetta FC 4-2 on aggregate in the first qualification round of the 2015-16 UEFA Europa League, and this summer they overcome HB Tórshavn from the Faroe Islands on penalties after drawing 2-2 in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League. Newtown will be competing in their 31st consecutive season in Wales’ top tier and are proudly still one of just two teams to have played in every season of the League of Wales / Welsh Premier League / Cymru Premier.

19th: Llanidloes Town – 30 points

  • Ground: Victoria Avenue, Llanidloes
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Nineteenth [1992-93]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 1992-93
  • 1991-92 League: Cymru Alliance – 12th
  • Current League: Cymru North

Of the founding members of the League of Wales to have originated from the Cymru Alliance, Llanidloes Town were the lowest ranked of the teams that were invited into the national league having ended their 1991-92 season in 12th position in the northern and central Welsh league. Sadly for the Daffodils, the club would only spend one season in Wales’ top flight as they finished in 19th position and became the first team to be relegated back to the Cymru Alliance, despite some previous assurances from the FAW that relegation would not occur for the first season of the national league. The Powys-based club had the second-worst attack in the league, scoring 48 goals, but had the league’s worst defence by conceding a monumental 93 goals during their 38-game campaign. Llanidloes would also suffer one of the heaviest home defeats of the season when they lost 0-6 to Aberystwyth Town in late April 1993.

Unfortunately for the Daffs, they have been unable to return back to the top flight since the inaugural season, and Llanidloes has spent the majority of its history since 1993 competing in the third-tier Mid Wales League. Following relegation from the League of Wales, Llanidloes spent five seasons in the Cymru Alliance where they finished no higher than 14th position before dropping down to the MWL in 1998. Alas, Llanidloes would drop further down the football pyramid when the club slumped into the fourth-tier and amateur Montgomeryshire League in 2008 to play at their lowest ever level in the pyramid.

After a two-season period of consolidation in the Montgomeryshire League, the club started the fightback up the levels of the Welsh football pyramid. Firstly, they managed to win the 2009-10 Montgomeryshire League title undefeated to return back into the MWL in 2010, before eventually returning back to the Cymru Alliance in 2013 by earning promotion as the 2012-13 MWL champions, which saw the club score 132 league goals during the season. Llanidloes returned back to MWL in 2015 after two seasons in the Cymru Alliance where they finished in 13th position in both seasons, but the Daffs eventually won their second MWL championship in eight seasons to rebound back to the second tier again when they became the 2019-20 champions – the last season the Mid Wales League was at tier three of the pyramid before the reorganisation of the football pyramid. Last season, Llanidloes Town finished their season in 12th position in the Cymru North, achieving their best league placement since they became founding members of the League of Wales in the 1992-93 season.

20th: Abergavenny Thursdays – 28 points

  • Ground: Pen-y-Pound, Abergavenny
  • Best Top Flight Finish: Twentieth [1992-93]
  • Last Top Flight Season: 1992-93
  • 1991-92 League: Welsh Football League – 1st
  • Current League: Cymru South (as Abergavenny Town)

Prior to the League of Wales commencing, Abergavenny Thursdays was initially considered one of the strongest challengers for the first Welsh championship as they had won the last two editions of the Welsh Football League before the national league was founded. However, prior to the historical season commencing, the club needed to provide a bond to the FAW to ensure that floodlights would be installed by the start of the season. Although the Pennies obliged, it put a huge financial strain on the club and led to the uncertainty that the club would actually compete in the first LoW season. Resultantly, it led to a mass exodus of players and management staff, and so when the club did actually start the 1992-93 season, it was a collection of players who had been brought together quickly. Unsurprisingly, the chaos of the pre-season contributed to Abergavenny finishing bottom of the table, accumulating 28 points and finishing eight points from safety. As well as experiencing one of the most significant home defeats of the season when they lost 0-6 to Afan Lido in mid-January 1993, they were also the lowest goalscorers in the division scoring just 36 goals from their 38-game season.

Sadly, Abergavenny Thursday was never able to return back to the League of Wales, and things progressively got worse for them as they competed in the second-tier Welsh Football League Division One. The supposed nadir of their time in the second tier was the disastrous 1997-98 season when they failed to win any of their 36 league games and conceded 210 goals, which naturally led to relegation to Division Two. Unfortunately, that was only the start of Abergavenny’s slide down the football pyramid as they experienced five consecutive relegations between 1999-2000 and 2002-03 to find themselves languishing in the seventh-tier Third Division of the Gwent County League – a sad demise for a club who was one of the strongest Welsh clubs eleven years previously. The Butchers continued to play in the Gwent League Third Division for the next eleven seasons before eventually withdrawing from the league in August 2013 due to a lack of players.

However, having hit rock bottom, the tale of football in Abergavenny would finally improve for the better. Despite withdrawing from the league, Abergavenny Thursdays agreed to merge with local side Govilon FC (who were then playing in the Gwent League Division One) to form a new club, Abergavenny Town, in June 2014, with the club playing at Thursday’s Pen-y-Pound Stadium. The new Abergavenny club would start to rectify the wrongs of the previous club by quickly progressing through the leagues, eventually gaining promotion to the third tier, where they stayed for the next six seasons. After the reorganisation of the Welsh football pyramid in 2020, Abergavenny Town was placed in the Ardal South East league, and in the first full season of the league being played, the Pennies managed to win the league and earn promotion to the Ardal South East by finishing just two points clear of their nearest rivals. The 2022-23 season will be the first time since 1998 that second-tier football will be played in Abergavenny, with the club scheduled to compete in the Cymru South.

That concludes this final part of the series that looked at the sixteenth to twentieth placed teams in the 1992-93 League of Wales. If you have any comments, suggestions, or reactions about this blog or the blog series as a whole, 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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