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The 1970's at 80's

THE 1970'S AT 80'S

Buoyed by the successful venture into the English F.A. Trophy in the 1971/72 season, the Nomads were looking forward to the following campaign. Excitement turned to dismay, however, when the team lost 4-0 away to Skelmersdale United in the First Qualifying Round. Twelve months later a 2-0 victory at Ellesmere Port Town at the same stage earned Nomads another away tie this time against fellow Welsh League (North) side Porthmadog. Although 'Port's' glory days of the early 1970s had begun to fade in the memory they could still boast a decent side, one that finished four places above Connah's Quay at the end of the 1973/74 season. On the day they were to prove too strong for the Deeside outfit as Porthmadog ran amok winning 8-1.

Not only did that match signal the end of Nomads' brief incursion into the F.A. Trophy but in the spring of 1974 club officials chose to withdraw from the Welsh League (North) for a second time. Runners-up twice in the eight seasons from 1966/67 and in the top ten of the league for all but one of those campaigns proved the club was very capable of operating at that level. It was the formation of the Clwyd League that convinced those running the Nomads that the fledgling competition would better suit their needs. Less travelling was a major factor in taking this decision as was the lower costs of playing in a more local league.

The Clwyd League oversaw the amalgamation of local competitions in Flintshire, plus the Dyserth and Halkyn Leagues although only ten teams competed in the 1974/75 season. For the record the other nine teams were Prestatyn Town (champions in the first season), Point of Ayr (runners-up), Flint Town United, Rhyl Wanderers, Saltney Social, Denbigh Town, Courtaulds Greenfield, Courtaulds Flint and Summers Sports. Despite losing only three games Nomads could do no better than to finish in fourth place at the end of that first year.

Geoff Thelwell was constantly on the lookout for new players he could bring to the Nomads to improve playing standards. Slowly the team began to find its feet in the Clwyd League and the first four seasons brought moderate success with top half finishes and a team playing entertaining football. The 1978/79 campaign saw the Nomads start to challenge the top positions in the league. For a twelfth consecutive season the team scored more goals than it conceded and by finishing in third place that year proved a threat to clubs such as Flint Town United and Courtaulds Greenfield that had each proved almost unbeatable in the recent past.

If the Nomads' players, officials and supporters felt that something good was just around the corner they were to be proved overwhelmingly correct! The three seasons starting with 1979/80 brought the Clwyd League title to the Halfway Ground at the end of each one. Not only that, but the team was almost invincible. During those seasons a total of 72 league games played brought 61 wins, eight draws and a meagre three defeats. Goals scored totalled 253 with only 62 being conceded at the other end and in 1980/81 the team were unbeaten in the league.

The successful team was built around three players who had come through the junior ranks. Alan Beavan, Sam Marland and Ray Crofts had all been signed as teenagers and were to serve the club for many years. Gary Poole came in from Sunday League football while goalkeeper Mick McCallan had been playing in the Cheshire County League with New Brighton. Steve Arnold, a former professional with Liverpool, worked with Nomads' assistant manager Les Jones which is how a player of Arnold's ability came to be playing at the Halfway. The captain of the 'great' 1980 side was Sam Marland who Geoff regarded as one of the best centre-halves in North Wales while also in defence at left-back was John Breen, later to become the club’s manager briefly.

A regular substitute, in the days when teams were allowed only one, was Ian Rowlands latterly a regular supporter of the Nomads during the club's early Welsh Premier League days. In midfield was Steve Stockton from Chester and another Cestrian was defender David Smith who missed the Welsh Intermediate Cup final in 1981 through injury. A large proportion of those 253 league goals netted between 1979 and 1981 would have been scored by the 'dynamic duo' of Maurice Randles and Darryl Ward. Randles was a towering front runner who was good in the air and had the ability to lay off chances for the nimble Ward. Former Nomads player Bill Speed was the manager of the team during those halcyon days.

Success in the league was matched in cup competitions during 1980/81 when Nomads won the Clwyd League Premier Division Challenge Cup, the North Wales Coast F.A. Intermediate Cup (beating Mold Alexandra in the final) and the aforementioned Welsh Intermediate Cup when overcoming Newport YMCA by the only goal of the final played at Park Avenue, Aberystwyth. Welsh Cup glory eluded us during that season despite the cup run taking the club to the quarter-final stage. There we were drawn away to Wrexham and gave the Football League side a real fright before going down 2-1.

After gaining the third successive league title in 1981/82 courtesy of 22 victories from 24 games played, silverware was to become scarce. The Clwyd League could now boast a total of four divisions with 49 clubs participating. Nomads slipped to third place in 1983 before finishing as runners-up to Prestatyn Town twelve months later.

What happened over the next two seasons remains something of a mystery. It is known that a Clwyd League 'clubs revolt' ensued although the precise details behind such a happening are unclear. It is thought that a number of clubs in the league’s membership were unhappy with the league's officials and threatened a breakaway competition. In the event it all came to nothing but could explain why the final league tables for 1984/85 and 1985/86 are 'missing'.

Connah's Quay managed a third place finish in 1986/87, losing only four of their two dozen league games, before moving on once again, this time into the Welsh Alliance, ready for the 1987/88 season. Founded as recently as 1984 this new league was another step towards the reformation of Welsh non-league football and from its inception Connah's Quay Nomads began issuing match programmes. We stayed in the Welsh Alliance for three years before another new competition, the Cymru Alliance, swept the 'cream' of North and Mid Wales football clubs under its wing in preparation for the proposed national league. Things were changing rapidly and it was important for Connah's Quay Nomads to be recognised as a club ready to further its aims across the Principality as a whole.

Access to those match programmes in addition to local newspaper archives will help tell the story of those three years in the Welsh Alliance.

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