Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Barry Town's first silverware

When Barry (Town) AFC was formed in 1912, the club opted to join the increasingly popular Southern League for 1913-14 (after all, with Cardiff doing well - why shouldn't Barry?  We'd been better at the game than them for a decade. Cardiff who?).

The club did okay in its first season; won its first ever game (vs. Mid Rhondda United at a brand spanking new Jenner Park), and finished a creditable mid-table against some pretty well established sides.  

After years - decades, even - of trying to make a success of the Barry District side, there appeared to be, finally, a genuine impetus and excitement surrounding the new club and the prospects of the town having League Football within a short space of time. 

Of course, as we've all become accustomed to by now - nothing would ever be that simple.  

The District AFC hadn't matured into anything, and with the lack of a decent ground putting paid to any further ambitions, The Linnets came along to improve the town's prospects.

And then came the Great War almost overnight.  The club was instantly moth-balled, players were called up to the war effort, and we even lost our first club captain, Jim Wightman, at the Front. 

Jenner Park had been waste ground on the lower slopes of Barry and Gladstone Roads, owned by the Jenner family of the Wenvoe Estate.  Local sporting enthusiasts (including, no doubt, all those who had bought shares in the club in November 1912!) had levelled it off, and put down a pitch with a drainage solution that would be the envy of far bigger clubs.

Sponsorship came in the form of changing rooms and a stand by brewers Brains and Hancock's.  The club had received, well, begrudging support from some elements of the council, and wild enthusiasm from others - most notably of course, our own Founding Father, Councillor C. B. Griffiths.

So, with Jenner Park getting the nod of approval from the official Southern League inspector, it must have been a bitter pill for the ground to become an army camp and a barrage balloon site for the next five years.  Mind you, it would get worse - at one point rugby was allowed to be played on it.  But, whatever.


If the club had one thing to look back on with some pride was the fact that the 'A' side had brought home the inaugural piece of silverware to the club.  It's a little known fact that besides Barry's famous Southern League side, they also fielded a side in the Cardiff and District League (where the biggest competition, ironically, came from Barry clubs).  This 'A' side also entered into Barry's local cup competitions.  Now, this was before the creation of the Barry Cup and the Dockers' Cups of course, but there was a cup on offer - the ASRS Cup.  

No doubt the cup was created to commemorate Barry having the honour of hosting the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants Annual General Meeting several years before (I guess it must have been like hosting Eurovision but with less songs), the annual charity competition had actually been going on in Barry since at least the 1890s.  

Now, however, this annual Easter 'play-off' for charity between two prominent local sides (be it in football or rugby), had been organised into a proper knock-out tournament with a cup for the winners.  It was actually a big deal back then, with a huge crowd watching the first ever final at Romilly Park.

As it was, Barry 'A's First Round match was a tough one - Barry West End, one of the premier sides in Barry.  In fact, the season before, the West End had actually travelled north to take on Bolton Wanderers in a friendly.  

So, late December 1913 saw the Barry 'A' take on Barry West End at Jenner Park in front of a 'goodly number of spectators', and the football on offer was of a high quality.  Barry 'A' had taken a 2-0 lead through Farmer, but were pegged back to 2-2 by half time.  There were no further goals, so the two teams would have to fight it out another time.  

Meanwhile, in the draw for the next round, the winners would be pitted against Wenvoe, and the local newspapers revelled in the fact that the Cardiff clubs had already been defeated.

The replay between the 'A' and the West Enders took place on 31/01/1914 at Romilly Park in front of some 'tremendous local interest'.  Charlie Probert, a future Barry Town pro, put the West End ahead, and Bunford made it 2-0 after some incredible pressure on the Barry A goal.  So, at 2-0 at half time, it was all going the West End way.  

However, the 2nd half saw the Jenner Park outfit play their best football of the season with Thomas scoring two goals in quick succession to level the tie at 2-2.  Farmer, the scorer of the two goals in the previous round, popped up to score the winning third goal for the Barry 'A' in extra time.

A week later the Barry West End, at Trought's Restaurant, decided to make a presentation for Billy Jennings who had signed for Bolton Wanderers the season before from the West End and had just received the call-up to the Wales squad.

Barry 'A' met Wenvoe in the next round and the 3-0 victory over (with goals from Crockett and Billy Saunders) was straight forward enough, as was the 4-1 win over Barry Roxburgh, and this set them on course to a mouth-watering ASRS Cup Final clash with the mighty Cadoxton Old Boys.

The Cadoxton Old Boys had defeated the Barry Lindens easily enough as well, by 7-1, with five goals from future Barry War-Time player 'Tich' Evans.

The ASRS Cup Final was played at Jenner Park (the first of many), and was actually the first ever final played at the ground.  Apparently, the pitch was in a terrible state (something the current manager of Barry Town still mentions - frequently!), but it was Barry 'A' who played the better football and thoroughly deserved the 2-1 win and the first silverware for the new football club. Alf Green scored from the penalty spot, and Farmer scored yet again to bring the cup to the 'A'.

There would be some joy for Cadoxton residents though, as Cadoxton Victoria defeated Roath Park United in the Final of the Bevan Shield at Jenner Park a week later.

The season was finished off on April 30, 1914 with a Jenner Park friendly between Barry's Southern League team and 'The Pick of the District' (which included West End, Cadoxton, Barry Island, and Barry A players) in aid of the Barry Horticultural Society.

The ASRS Cup is still played for by today's local leaguers, and the last time a Barry Town side entered the competition was in 2007-08.   It would be nice to have a big enough set-up to once again have a side playing in the local league and play for the local cups.  Wonder if Cossie is up to the task (again?!). 

No comments:

Post a Comment