Welsh Football had success and glory on the pitch but struggles and hardship off.
Champions of British Football, 1920
1924 Champions Medal
In 1920 Wales won the Home International Championship for the second time heralding a decade of success. Talented players like Bert Gray in goal, Moses Russell at full back, Herbie Evans at wing half and Ted Vizard up front helped win the Triple Crown in 1924. While Fred Keenor led Wales to victory again in 1928. Could Wales continue this winning streak?
Ted Vizard - Outside Left for Wales
The Welsh Football Internationals en route to Canada
A programme from Wales 1929 Tour to Canada
Soames's owned the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham
In 1925 Keenor led Cardiff City to Wembley for their first FA Cup Final. Nerves got to the Bluebirds on the day. They lost 1-0 to Sheffield United. Keenor after the match said:
"Just because we lost in our very first Cup Final, I don't think there is any cause to get down in the mouth. I can say here and now that one day soon our followers can be sure that Cardiff City will bring that cup to Wales."
He was right and two years later Cardiff City beat Arsenal 1-0 to win the FA Cup. George Lerry, the Wrexham Football commentator, was just one of the many Welshmen who travelled to Wembley for an historic match:
"The English Cup comes to Wales
How Cardiff City Made Football History
The Arsenal looked the stronger side at first and there seemed to be a question as to whether the Cardiff defence could hold out. After the interval, the Cardiff forwards were more persistent and hopes began to rise of a Welsh victory. The all-important goal came in the seventy-third minute. Ferguson, receiving a through pass, shot to the right of Lewis the Arsenal goalkeeper. Lewis fell and smothered the ball, turning towards his goal as he saw Len Davies racing in. Lewis appeared at first to have complete possession of the ball, but as he turned it slipped from his grasp and rolled over the line.
Thousands cheered, thousands were too dumbfounded to express any feelings at all. But there it was - the Arsenal defence had failed at a critical moment and Cardiff had won a Cup Final that will be talked about for years."
1925 FA Cup Final Programme: Cardiff City v Sheffield United
1927 FA Cup Final Programme: Cardiff City v Arsenal
Memorial Card - Front
Memorial Card - Back
It reads "With deepest sympathy to all English people from the Welsh"
Ticket to 1927 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium
English comment on Welsh experience
In 1930 the English League decided no club could release players for international duty if it clashed with a League game. Unable to pick the usual players, the Welsh team sent up to Scotland were dubbed 'the Unknowns.' Keenor was captain and roused his men to create the following headlines:
Fred Keenor (left), Wales Captain
Western Mail & Echo
Wales Astound Critics
'Scratch' Team Forces Draw
The team went to Scotland doubtless with the well-wishes of its countrymen, but hardly one person really believed that they would be able to evade defeat. One critic went so far as to state that the only Welsh hope was that the Scots would be merciful. But to say the least, the team came through with flying colours.
They returned to Wales 'the Great Unknowns.' They kicked off a decade where Wales dominated British football winning the championship outright in 1933, 1934 and 1937 and sharing it in 1939. Unfortunately, Wales did not enter the three World Cups during this period or there could have been yet more glory!
Wales v Ireland match programme, 1939
Ted Robbins - Wales's Mr Football 1910-46
The Great Depression hit Welsh football and its supporters hard. Unemployment was high in Wales's football heartlands. Clubs had to cut ticket prices. The Football Authorities disapproved. Merthyr Tydfil even had to leave the Football League because of their cheap ticket policy.
Tommy Bamford - Wales, Wrexham, Manchester Utd. & Swansea Town
On the pitch, Cardiff City fell from glory to the bottom of the Third Division. While in 1933, Wrexham was on a high aided by their great goal scorer, Tommy Bamford. In 1939 Newport County under legendary manager, Billy McCandless, gained promotion to Division 2.
King George VI meets the Welsh team during wartime charity match, 1943