Bangor City/1876 Wales XI
Joe Shooman picks a Bangor City / 1876 XI comprising Welsh players that either started at the club, or spent the autumn of their career on the banks of the Menai, or should have won more international honours. In so doing he provides an insight into the recent fan-led revival of football in the town via Bangor 1876 and its underlying values.
I started watching Bangor City in the early Eighties and never stopped doing so either in person, on telly, or dodgy Internet feeds when I lived abroad. I’ve also been a programme writer and assistant editor, a newspaper columnist about the club who got let go for hiding a lovely friendly message about Cofis in the text, and a sports reporter whose job was writing entirely biased reports of Bangor games for local papers.
Mostly, though, I’ve been on the terraces of Farrar Road, Nantporth and now Treborth with my team. The recent nonsense has, I’m happy to say, resulted in the creation of Bangor 1876, a continuation of the spirit, history and soul of Bangor.
What is a club? If football is all about winning, and the winners tend to be the richest, then it’s a contest about finances. By that token, you can distil the whole thing down to “who has the biggest bank account” – so two men (and it is usually men) come out at 3pm, each clutching a bank statement. Biggest one wins. Note that they don’t have to have any actual link with the area, with the club they supposedly represent, with anything. Ludicrous, isn’t it? I blogged about last season – where the club was finally killed – and how I had an existential crisis as a football fan.
And then…redemption. Hope. Rebirth.
Bangor 1876 exists to put the community back at the heart of the club. It’s about togetherness, access to sport for all, camaraderie, striving together for achievable goals, development of players of all genders and abilities. That’s the soul of the game. That’s what keeps us coming back. And it’s on that basis that I’ve chosen my XI: players that have contributed to that soul of Bangor, on or off the pitch. Those are the players that understand what it means to be part of something bigger than a couple of businessmen swinging their dicks around.
GK – Dai Davies
Dai the Drop rushed to the rescue in Bangor City’s 1985-6 season when, on the eve of the new season, the long-forgotten ‘keeper Stuart Parker found his head turned by league football and signed for Stockport County. Full time footy won out over a European campaign, which was kind of fair enough. That he’d given manager John Mahoney his word was irrelevant – and as it turned out the hapless Parker ended up in the reserves there. Daft twat. It was a great team at Farrar Rd that season, notable for one Mark Palios as midfield general. Wonder what happened to him? Dai was pretty good for us in the 20-odd games he played and saw us through an edgy-as-hell 0-0 at home to Fredrikstad in the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Because we’d drawn 1-1 in the away leg, that put us through to the second round against the might of Atletico Madrid. Farrar Road was transformed by a horde of volunteers: crush barriers were installed, the pitch was fenced in (well, it was the 1980s…) and City were able to play the first leg at home. We lost, 2-0, Davies spilling one shot from his otherwise reliable grasp for the first. To be fair, and as he said himself, he’d not had a shot at him that hard from anyone in years. And certainly not in the NPL. As a farewell to the club he excelled in our 1-0 loss in the away leg – not least saving a penalty. Legendary, as 52 caps for Wales attests. Some years later, City signed his nephew, Bryan Davies. Suffice to say that the ‘keeping gene had not passed down the generations.
RB – Clayton Blackmore
There were self-inflicted wounds and plenty of bizarre times on regular occasions at Bangor City FC and the early 2000s were no exception. Having sacked Nigel Adkins after back-to-back title wins, Bangor spent several seasons arsing about with a series of managers including Graeme Sharp, Kevin Langley, and the terrifying hard-man Johnny King. By 2000, Aberystwyth-based Meirion Appleton was the latest in the hotseat. What he did very well was to bring a Welsh spine back to the side. It was always rare to hear Welsh spoken on the pitch in the League Of Wales, but City had several first-language locals in the side at the time which often served us well. Nonetheless, it was a surprise when a familiar, sausage-legged perma-tanned figure strode out in blue midway through the season. He’d played for Middlesborough in the League Cup Final two years before – and hardly since. But when he got his fitness back properly, he was immense. There was plenty in the tank, be it midfield or, as in my XI, down the right flank spraying passes about. Pure class, and the 39-times-capped Welsh international played nearly 200 games for Bangor – just a few fewer than he had for Manchester United back in the day. Left under a bit of a cloud after taking over as player-manager when his ex-teammate Peter Davenport vacated the big chair. Clayts played another couple of seasons in the Welsh Premier after that, turning out for his hometown Neath at nearly 45. Probably could still do a job, to be honest. As for Appi? Well, he was sacked before a Welsh Cup semi-final – which we won, with his place being taken on the bench by a couple of senior players and the head of the supporters’ club – then Appi was reinstated, and promptly ‘moved upstairs’ at the end of the following season.
LB – Phil Lunn
Captain. Leader. Chip shop owner. Former taxi magnate. Started playing for Bangor City in 1971 and – one season at Chester aside – was still in the left-back spot in the first seasons of the League of Wales (Welsh Prem) around 1992-3. God knows how many times he played for City, but an estimate of 800 probably isn’t far off the mark. The ball might get past him. Maybe the man might. But never both. A proper, whack man-and-ball-into-row-J, mud-and-blood fullback. Capped a couple of times by Wales Under 21s in the early stage of his career in order to qualify for this XI.
CB – Michael Johnston, captain
Johno is still playing – and captained Bangor 1876 in our first ever game at F.C. United of Manchester. We were narrowly edged out in that one during a 13-goal thriller, but now in his early thirties Johno still oozes class. He came to us from the well-trodden path between Tranmere and Bangor as a 21-year-old and was a mainstay of the defence for all of the glorious Neville Powell years, with three Welsh Cup wins on the bounce and that unforgettable league title triumph against all the odds. You might detect a hint of a Scouse accent in Liverpool-born Johnston’s voice, but he was eligible for Wales and won under 17 and 19 caps alongside the likes of Wayne Hennessey, Joe Ledley, David Cotterill and David Edwards. With experience of three Bangor grounds – Farrar Road, Nantporth and now Treborth – there are few more qualified to lead this team. Simply put, he gets it. He understands what football means to Bangor City/1876 fanbase. Some players turn up and play. Some players turn up and give everything, knowing that every single fan would give everything to swap places with them just for ten minutes in the blue shirt. Johno knows, and now he’s inspiring a new generation of young ‘uns in their first adventures in the Gwynedd League. Still, if he was 6’2″ rather than a generous 5’9″ on a good day, he’d have played for Wales. Top man, top player – and once even seen in the opposition’s penalty box. Must have been an accident, that.
CB – Mark Rutter
The Nigel Adkins era could have been even better for Bangor, had UEFA not brought in an idiotic ‘three foreigners only’ rule. What that meant in practice was teams like City, who’d historically drawn players from the Liverpool and Manchester area, were – in technical terms – ‘fucked’ when it came to Europe. Some swift digging into genealogy was needed, and much like Jack Charlton-era Ireland, there were suddenly several more ‘Welsh’men available. Ruts was one. An absolute class player who’d dribble past strikers several times a game, was strong in the air and pure class. That was until his leg bent in about eight places by the halfway line in a nothing challenge in a nothing league match. It was right underneath the S4C camera position and the cameraman duly zoomed in. There is nothing like the crack of a broken bone echoing around a stadium to suddenly bring a queasy silence to eight hundred people, not to mention two very shocked teams of players, the officials and passing seagulls. Remarkably, Ruts returned a year later and carried on playing for several more years at lower levels. He’s now not the President of the Netherlands, although that would have been ace. Had the three foreigners rule been rescinded earlier than 1995, City would have beaten UEFA Cup opponents Akranes of Iceland quite comfortably. Thank God for the European Union executive commission, who deemed such restrictions on employment illegal. Too late, like, but hey ho.
RW – Paul Whelan
The Bangor lad that scored at Wembley. Regularly linked with Football League clubs throughout the 1980s, Whelan was a stalwart at Bangor and went on to play into his forties for various local sides at a decent level. Had a few good years as a manager after that. Athletic, committed and with some subtlety in his game, Wheelo was a man ahead of his time, playing on mudheaps against properly agricultural hoofers. I was fortunate to be there for that 1984 FA Trophy Final goal; when one of your first ten games as a supporter is an occasion like that you’ve got no chance have you? You think it’s kind of always going to be like that. Well, we all know it ain’t, but the bad times and the downright mediocre times are all worth it for a moment like that. There have been seasons where I’ve woken up on a Saturday dreading it because a) we had a shit team, b) it was going to be crap and c) I knew that I’d be compelled to attend anyway. Now, that sense of hollowness and duty is objectively weird. But since when was being a footy fan anything to do with objectivity? And – I saw Wheelo score at Wembley. Come on! How many people get to say that? Also, Andy Puddle who was in the squad but not on the bench used to live near us in Upper Bangor, and he waved from pitchside before the game. Just amazing. In about 1990 an FA Cup Final was shown in the clubhouse: starstruck, I bought Wheelo a pint for the goal. Then after the game we all piled onto the pitch for a pissed-up game of about 40-a-side. And Christ, Farrar Road looked massive from the hallowed turf itself.
CM – Ricky Evans
Along with his mighty centre-back brother Steve, Welsh semi-pro cap Ricky really ought to have played for Wales. Instead, Ricky was by far the best midfielder in the Welsh Prem for various clubs, signing for City where he played alongside former Welsh international and one-time Manchester United starlet, Simon Davies. A massive bloke, absolutely unbeatable in a tackle, with a great range of passing and a thunderous shot. You hated him when he played against you, and so you wanted him in your team. At Oldham as a youngster: another example of how fortune or luck can play a part in who becomes full-time footballers, and who goes down another path. One of the best ever centre mids I can remember at Farrar Road… and who better player to dovetail with the next choice in my team?
CM – Owain Tudur Jones
Owain was pretty much the best player in City’s first team at 16. Peter Davenport developed him brilliantly, and Lofty was signed by Swansea in fairly short order for a pitiful reported £5,000 (at the time he was out of contract, so it was a sort of courtesy fee). Was called a ‘mini Gerrard’ by one of his managers – not too far off the mark, that. Called up by Wales under 21s about a week after signing for Swansea, Brian Flynn said something like ‘Oh I thought he was older’, which is an excuse that never works in any context. Peter Davenport had been trying to get Flynn to come and watch him play for three years. OTJ had a couple of injuries that affected his career but managed to snag seven full Welsh caps, after three u21 caps, making his debut in the 2-0 friendly win in Luxembourg in 2008 and deserved more. Retired relatively young as a player and resisted all attempts to get him to sign back at WPL level cause he didn’t want to be kicked all over the park. Sensible, really. But a hell of a player, and a Bangor lad too.
LW – Les Davies
First seen destroying City in a Welsh Cup game for Glantraeth. Rampaging down the left wing, smacking crosses in, would-be tacklers bouncing off him like a north Wales Jonah Lomu. But skilful as you like – and probably if born in another era, a full international player in no time. As it was, Les was constantly linked with trials with and/or moves to full-time clubs. Both Peter Davenport and Clayton Blackmore bigged up his suitability for a call up to Wales under-21s, but as usual the places were all taken by kids in youth teams at full-time clubs. Eventually he won an u21 cap in 2004 and went on to play 17 times in Europe, win three Welsh Cups, and one famous league title. Neville Powell called him ‘unplayable’ and had him as a No. 9 in the Andy Carrol mode, except better. Most famously, the brilliant journalist Dave Jones managed to get Les on the list of UEFA’s top 25 players worldwide. As Jones said, Les was as important to his club as Messi or Ronaldo were to theirs, and it meant just as much to the player too. Absolutely spot on; that’s why we’re all involved isn’t it? The world is as close as you want it to be and isn’t there something intrinsically awesome about a lad born and bred in Bangor running through walls for Bangor City? Les went on to win semi-pro caps, scoring twice against Gibraltar in 2008, and quite beautifully extricated himself from a Welsh Premiership offer to join Bangor 1876 instead. It means everything to Les, and like Johno, he totally understands. At our level there never should be a barrier between fans, board, players, management: we’re all striving for the same things, and they’re not boring wins predicated on financial doping. It’s community, passion, belief, and all those things. And, yes, winning helps. But it’s not what a club is about, and the fact this has been forgotten or squashed under Super Sundays and Transfer Deadline Specials is an outrageous attack on the sport. Viva Les Davies!
CF – Frank Mottram
The number nine in this side edges out some brilliant, brilliant players – Carl Dale, Mark Carter, Dele Adebola (eligible for this XI on the home nations passport ruling) – because on his own he was good, and in tandem with Mark Lloyd-Williams they were bloody awesome. Born yards beyond the right side of the border in Chirk, but raised yards on the wrong side in Weston Rhyn, Frank quickly got the nickname ‘Magic’ for his feats; so swift in the box, shooting early and unerringly, and the odd overhead kick too. Once out-Pelé-d Pele: he dummied the keeper whilst the ball went past them both, and instead of missing like the Brazilian had done, Magic got to the ball and slid it home. It was the second league triumph of the Nigel Adkins years, and the team was unstoppable; at one stage 21 points ahead. Incredible. Frank was signed by Macclesfield, then of the Conference, but was incredibly unfortunate to be in a bad car crash which stymied his career. He was incredibly fortunate to be able to walk again – and even played football again. Returned to Bangor a few years later, duly scoring the ten or so goals he needed to reach 100 for the club. Still revered by Bangor fans and will never have to buy his own pint at games.
CF – Marc Lloyd-Williams
‘Jiws’ scored the most goals in any European league in 2001-02, but UEFA’s weighting of the supposed quality of each system meant he didn’t receive the Golden Boot, which was a bit shit of them. Had three or four spells at City, between which he was at Stockport (where for some reason he was playing left wing-back), York City and about eight other clubs. Still managed to be the Welsh Prem’s all-time top scorer. A Llanberis lad, tough and spectacular, sometimes a bit lazy but knew he had it all and could score at any time. Jiws played for Wales B and the semi-pro team and with a bit of luck could have gone on to do more. Now involved with Welsh Colleges teams.
Lee Williams (GK)
Not sure if Big Lee got any U21 caps, but he was a bruiser and a beast. Top scorer for us one year with 7 or so. Get in the way of his pens and you’d be knocked out. Hardest shot I’ve ever seen, and he’d shoot from any freekick from about 60 yards or so. Dangerous man, absolutely desperate to win, and woe betide anyone that got in his way. Many a striker has pulled out of a one on one with Lee over the years. Probably sensibly.
Great striker in the mid-Eighties in a partnership with Mark Ferguson, Stevie Crompton banging incredible crosses in. Quickly was signed by Chester, then Cardiff, and would have played for Wales proper had he not had a terrible injury at the worst possible time. Was called up but not called upon by Wales in 1989.
Great midfielder, great manager, top bloke. Won Wales Under-21s caps at Tranmere before spending a decade at City as a player and subsequently that nine-year stint as manager.
I caught the tail-end of Brucey’s career at City, but why he didn’t play higher-standard footy was beyond me. I guess talent is not always enough. And if his header against Tranmere in the 1984 FA Cup had gone in instead of freakishly bouncing on the line then over the bar a third-round tie with Manchester City awaited. Margins innit: we lost the replay at their place seven nil.
We only had him for half a season on loan, but bloody hell the lad is destined for great things. Andy Legg said Davies reminded him of Gareth Bale. You really do have to credit SVJ for his eye for a player. That was never in doubt. It’s just everything about everything else that was and is fucked up. Under 19 cap Davies left Wrexham for Brighton in 2017 where he is playing at u23 level regularly this season and has been training with the under 21s.
Manager John Mahoney, assistant Osian Roberts
John Mahoney was the genius that got us through in Europe against Fredrikstad, and had the budget been a bit better would have got City promoted too. As ever, though, the club was living on the edge of its means and boardroom shenanigans soon took hold. Returned briefly for a less-successful second spell. As a player, he snagged 51 full caps for Wales. His father Joe went north to sign for Oldham RLFC when John was less than year old. Despite his Manchester raising, Mahoney is a staunch Welsh nationalist and learned Welsh as a second language. He’s also John Toshack’s cousin.
Osian Roberts didn’t make a massive impression as a player at Farrar Road. But I do remember one sumptuous, yes, sumptuous, chipped throughball that bisected the whole defence. I always liked midfielders who could do that kind of thing. Course, these days Osh is at a way higher level as a coach than he ever was as a player.
Joe Shooman is a music, entertainments, travel, sports, and news journalist and broadcaster whose work has appeared in national and international publications and on BBC radio. His eight published books to date have been released in several countries in various languages. You can buy his books here.