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The Story of Welsh Football: 1945-1985

1945 Football Hunger

Six years of war had built up a huge appetite for international football in Wales. On 19 th October 1946 30,000 people watched Wales play Scotland at The Racecourse. Football was back!

Wales sowed the seeds for a strong future - launching the Youth Cup in 1946-47 and Wales Youth played their first international in 1948.

Tommy 'TG' Jones exchanging pennants with Portugal's captain, Francisco Ferreira, 1949

1949 saw the FAW organise Wales's first European Tour. Even with the likes of Ron Burgess, Trefor Ford, Roy Paul, Alf Sherwood and TG Jones, victories against Portugal, Belgium and Switzerland proved elusive. Standards were high but Wales rose to the challenge.

The Dragon Overheats

Trefor Ford in action

In October at Ninian Park Wales ended England's four year victory run in the home internationals with a 2-1 win. In fact it was Wales's first win over England since 1936.

A month later in "the Battle of Wrexham" Wales held the World No.3 Austria to a 2-1 defeat. The Austrians did not like Fiery Ford's style of play. The referee, unable to speak English or German, let alone Welsh, lost control of the game. Eight players were injured when the dispute turned nasty.

Action from the 'Battle of Wrexham'

Mervyn Griffiths - the only Welshman to appear in the final of the World Cup

1957-58 Days of Glory

Link to a large version of the 1957 Team List

The legendary manager Jimmy Murphy and his players transformed Wales' footballing reputation in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Wales had hit a rich seam of football talent: Swansea alone produced John & Mel Charles, Ivor & Len Allchurch, Jack Kelsey and Ray Daniel. Wales struggled in the qualifiers, but politics gave the team a lucky break.

Dave Bowen, Wales captain, exchanges pennants with Israeli captain, 1958

Israel's group wouldn't play ball with Israel. As one of the runners up, Wales won the draw to play Israel to see who would go to Sweden. Wales won both legs 2-0. Wales were through to the World Cup Finals for the first time ever.

The team that won through to the 1958 World Cup Finals

Jimmy Murphy gets the OK from Juventus.

Swansea had a strong team containing players like Mel Charles, Ivor Allchurch and Cliff Jones

There was talk that the Welsh team were not up to World Cup standard. The players soon proved their critics wrong. The matches were tough but neither Mexico, Sweden nor Hungary could beat Wales on the pitch.

The play off between Hungary and Wales for the second place in the quarter-finals was a vicious game. Wales won 2-1 but lost Ron Hewitt to hospital and John Charles limped off and out of the competition. He would be sorely missed in the quarter-final against Brazil.

Wales put on a gutsy performance against the Brazilians. After so much luck, fate turned on Wales - a miscue from Pele hit a defender's foot and deflected into the goal. Brazil had thought they would walk it. Instead they only scraped a win 1-0. Wales had made its mark in international football.

Ivor Allchurch - one of the all time greats of Welsh Football
Trinity Mirror Newspapers

1961 Welsh Cup Revival

The new European Cup Winners Cup attracted new interest in the Welsh Cup. As Swansea, winners in 1961, were the first to discover: the Welsh Cup was now a ticket to Europe.

1975 Wales in Europe

Arfon Griffiths in goal scoring action

Wales got its first full-time manager in Mike Smith and he soon made a difference. Talent was not Wales's problem; rather it was moulding eleven players into an effective team. Mike Smith did just that. By November 1975 Wales were through to the European Championship Finals. No lucky draws were needed. It was by skill alone and Arfon Griffiths, Terry Yorath, John Mahoney and John Toshack sealed their names in Welsh football history.

Wales v Yugoslavia match programme, Zagreb, 1976

1976 Passions Run High

Wales was drawn against Yugoslavia. It was détente in politics but not in football. Wales went down 2-0 in Zagreb and could only manage 1-1 in the return game at Ninian Park. No one would remember the score. The crowd did not think much of the referee's decisions and invaded the pitch on several occasions. The referee later needed a police escort to leave ground. It was a sad end to Wales's European campaign.

Passions rose again in the 1978 World Cup qualifiers. Wales were in a promising situation in their group before the game against Scotland at Anfield. 'The Hand of Jordan' intervened and Wales went down 2-0 and out of the World Cup.

Mike Smith's Wales

1984 England Calls Time

England announced they were too busy to take part in the Home International Championship. No one in Wales really believed the excuses coming out of London. The world's oldest international competition, which started in 1883-4 and fed on the rivalry of the home nations, ended in 1984.