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The 1960's at Connah's Quay

THE 1960'S AT CONNAH'S QUAY

After playing 236 games in the Welsh League (North) from the 1952/53 season until the spring of 1959, officials of the Connah's Quay Nomads club felt they had no alternative but to drop down into a lower league. Despite having lost almost twice as many games as they had won in 1958/59, the team had conceded only 16 goals more than they had scored themselves.

As previously mentioned, Geoff Thelwell had returned to the Nomads as player/secretary following brief spells as a player with both Colwyn Bay and Holywell Town. He found the Nomads £600 in debt and paying four professional players each of whom was on a weekly contract. Schemes to raise money had failed as interest faltered and committee members slowly disappeared one by one. The professionals were 'sacked' despite their pleas to Mr. Herbert Powell the secretary of the FA of Wales.

Thereafter a new spirit pervaded the club. New players were brought in and paid £1 a match on a 'take it or leave it' basis, the ground was spruced up and the dressing rooms painted. Some of the players Geoff introduced to the club towards the end of the 1950s proved to be fine acquisitions. A local goalkeeper, Mick Moore, came from Garden City while Flint's centre forward Sam Roberts joined the Nomads and became a centre-half of some distinction. A teenage wing-half, Colin Williams, developed into a fine player and signed as a professional with Crewe Alexandra. Yet in 1959 most of club's good lads moved on when the Nomads chose to leave the Welsh League (North) in favour of local, and cheaper, football.

So began a run of seven seasons in the Halkyn League in which the team enjoyed success. Strangely, in Geoff's anecdotes he quoted that The Nomads never won the Halkyn League title yet Welsh football historian Ian Garland claims the side won the championship in both 1963/64 and again two seasons thereafter. Unfortunately a search of local newspaper files has failed to turn up the final league tables for three of the seven seasons that Connah’s Quay Nomads competed. There is much work to be done at Hawarden Library and perhaps further afield if the full story of those campaigns is ever to be told.

During those troubled times at the end of the 1950s a young goalkeeper came on the scene and was quickly given his chance in Nomads' first team. His name was Tony Millington and within a few months he was on his way to West Bromwich Albion and international recognition. Nomads, it is reputed, received a meagre £50 from the Football League club despite Geoff's pleas for considerably more.

Tony Millington made his First Division debut in September 1961 against Manchester City and twelve months later won the first of 21 full international caps as Wales lost 3-2 against Scotland in the Home International championship at Cardiff City’s ground. He went on to make 352 Football League appearances in a career spanning 15 years with West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, Peterborough United and Swansea City. Sadly, after moving to Ireland he was badly injured in a car accident and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He died at Wrexham in August in 2015.

By 1966 the outlook was considerably brighter at the Halfway Ground. Success at local level had encouraged some very good players to join the Nomads and it was felt time that the club moved back into a higher league. Thus, at the start of the 1966/67 season, Nomads were back in the Welsh League (North) and starting what turned out to be a run of eight consecutive seasons at that level during which the club became runners-up twice.

It took three years for the side to really become acclimatised to its new environment, however, occupying a position in mid table at the end of each season. Mind you it was difficult for any club to take the title off Porthmadog in those days. They had a splendid team and won the league in each of Nomads' first three years back in the competition. Porthmadog lost just six league matches in total during those three campaigns!

Matters began to improve considerably at the start of the 1970s as Nomads made a strong challenge for the title. In 1969/70 the team finished in second place to Holyhead Town winning 25 of their 32 league games and scoring 98 goals. The Harbourmen won one game more and pipped us for the top spot. The same thing happened twelve months later but this time our nemesis was Bethesda Athletic. Both clubs lost only four games each but Nomads drew two more than Bethesda and that counted against us although it must be said that their goal average was vastly better too.

For the next three seasons starting in 1971/72 Blaenau Ffestiniog became top dogs winning the Welsh League (North) for three successive years each time with Nomads in the top half it must be said.

Yet after finishing 7th in 1973/74, Nomads left the league for a second time to field the senior side in the newly-formed Clwyd League. By now Connah’s Quay Nomads F.C. was a full member of the F.A. of Wales and thus eligible to enter a team in the English F.A. Trophy – the major competition for non-league clubs that had been established as recently as 1969.

Saturday 22nd January 1972 was an important date in the history of the Nomads when the club opposed Stockton F.C. from the Wearside League in the first round proper of the F.A. Trophy. The visitor's goalkeeper was Chris Harker who had made almost 300 Football League appearances for Newcastle United, Bury, Grimsby Town and Rochdale and was expected to prove a considerable obstacle to our progress in the competition. Nomads had already defeated Blaenau Ffestiniog 1-0 (after a 3-3 draw) and Stalybridge Celtic 3-2 in the qualifying rounds in order to reach the competition proper while Stockton had seen off Gateshead, New Brighton and Retford Town. On the big day it was Nomads who triumphed 2-0 and enthusiasm in the town reached fever pitch when we were drawn at home to Grantham Town (Midland League champions) in the next round. Grantham were to prove too strong and gained a 2-1 victory at the Halfway Ground before their cup run was ended by Yeovil Town in the quarter-finals. At the end of the season it was Stafford Rangers who lifted the trophy at Wembley Stadium.

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