Rest Of South Wales Born Best Ever XI
After doing the best ever XI’s for cities in South Wales. I now look at the players born in South Wales but not in the big cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport. Please bear in mind that this is my opinion and if you have anybody you feel that should be included, please let me know. There were some tough decisions in the making of this XI, due to a number of quality players there are and because of this, I have added a bench of 11 players. I do agree that some great players have missed out and I apologise for this now.
GK – Dai Davies – born in Glanaman in 1948, Davies began his career with Swansea City, in the first of three spells at the club. His form for their youth team attracted the attention of Everton and he signed for them in 1970. He would remain at the club for 7 years and would make 94 appearances in his time there, he would not win any honours during his time there. Davies would move to Wrexham and have arguably the most successful period of his career as he would win the Football League Division Three in his first season along with the Welsh Cup in 1978 and would make 144 appearances for the club in four seasons there. He won 28 of his 52 caps for his country whilst playing for Wrexham, which makes him the club’s most capped players. He would return to Swansea for a few seasons and win the Welsh Cup again in 1982 and would later play for Tranmere Rovers and Bangor City in their 1985 European Cup Winners Cup matches. He would finish his career with Wrexham by winning the Welsh Cup in 1986. Davies can be seen as a football commentator on S4C and runs a natural healing centre in Llangollen.
CB – Roy Paul – Was one of 12 children born in Ton Pentre in 1920, Paul would leave school and become a miner in the area before Swansea Town noticed his talents and offered him a contract. As Paul was due to break into the first team, the Second World War interrupted his career and he returned to the mines but only for a short while. When the war was over, Paul would win a place in the Swans starting XI and go on to make 159 appearances for the club in a four-year period. Paul who was unhappy at the wage cap that was in place in British football at the time, was offered the chance to make a fortune playing for Millionarios in Colombia, who offered him a signing on fee of £3000 and a monthly wage of £150, considerably more than the £12 a week British clubs could pay their players. Paul only lasted 10 days in Colombia as the trip turned out to a disaster as he was unhappy with the conditions there, likening it to a concentration camp or the monkey-house in a zoo. Unhappy at this show of disloyalty, Swansea sold Paul to Manchester City for £18,000 in 1950. At City, he would become one of their greatest ever captains, leading them to two FA Cup Finals in 1955 and 1956, winning the trophy in the 1956 final against Birmingham City. This was the final in which City’s goalkeeper Bert Trautmann famously played on despite suffering from a broken neck. Paul would stay at City until 1957 and wound down his career back in South Wales. He died in 2002 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Jimmy Murphy described him as one of the greatest captains of all time and is considered one of the best players Wales has ever produced. He would win 33 caps for his country. He is the uncle of Swansea legend Alan Curtis.
CB – Danny Gabbidon – Born in Cwmbran in 1979. Gabbidon began his playing career with Cwmbran Town’s under-18 team and began his professional career with West Bromwich Albion after impressing on trial. What was even more impressive was that Gabbidon was told that the squad was already full when he arrived and that he would need to play exceptionally well to just even be considered. Gabbidon struggled to get regular playing time at West Brom and was signed by Cardiff in 2000. Gabbidon had a successful time with the Bluebirds helping them gain promotion to the First Division in 2003. Gabbidon would remain at the club until 2005 where he would make over 200 appearances for the Bluebirds, he would move to West Ham United along with teammate James Collins. He would remain at the Hammers for the next six seasons, but did struggle with injury only making over 100 appearances in his time at the club, but did get to play in an FA Cup final in 2006 in a loss to Liverpool. Gabbidon would move on to Queens Park Rangers for a season before signing for Crystal Palace for two seasons. Gabbidon made 49 appearances for his country and was a personal favourite of mine for his defending ability and assured performances and I had no qualms putting him in this lineup.
RB – Alf Sherwood – Born in Aberaman in 1923, Sherwood’s career too would be disrupted by the Second World War as during this time he would become of the Bevin Boys to work in the mines. During the war, he continued to play for his hometown club Aberaman Athletic, before being spotted by Cardiff City and joined them in 1942. He would stay at the club until 1956, making over 350 appearances for the club. During his time there, he was made club captain as the Bluebirds rose through the divisions. Such was his good play that the legendary Stanley Matthews described him as “the most difficult opponent he ever played against”, his play would also earn him the title “The King of the Sliding Tacklers”. At the age of 33 when he left Cardiff, he joined Newport County and would go on to make 200 appearances for the Ironsides. He would win the last two of his 41 Welsh caps whilst at the club and was disappointed to miss out on selection for the 1958 World Cup squad. He died of a heart attack in 1990 and would be inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
LB- Ben Davies – Born in Neath in 1993. Davies has become an established starter for club and country. He signed for Tottenham Hotspur from Swansea City in 2014 and has gone to make 100 appearances for the club, having previously made 85 for the Swans in his two seasons there. He came through the Swansea youth system apart from a spell with Viborg in Denmark when his father moved the family there because of work commitments. Davies made his debut for Swansea in 2012 after regular left-back Neil Taylor suffered a serious injury. His performances earned him a move to Spurs in the deal that took him and Michel Vorm to the club in exchange for Gylfi Sigurdsson. Davies has been an ever-present in the national team, winning 35 caps and expected to win considerably more.
MF – Ron Burgess –Born in Cwm, Blaenau Gwent in 1917. Burgess played for his local Cwm Villa, whilst also working down in the mines, this is where his performances attracted the attention of Tottenham Hotspur. He signed as an amateur and played as a forward, but after failing to impress the Spurs staff, he was given his rail fare back to Wales. As he was leaving, he decided to watch the A-team play and as luck would have it, they were a man short and asked if Ron could play, but at halfback. Such was his performance, they kept him on at the club and he signed as a professional in 1938 and made his debut a year later. The Second World War interrupted his progress and he became a physical training instructor for the RAF. When football resumed, Burgess kept his place on the team and was made captain when the club won the Division Two Championship in 1950 and the First Division Championship in 1951. He would go on to make 324 appearances for Spurs and would move to Swansea in 1954, he would manage the club from 1955 until 1958. Burgess would play 32 times for his country and was captain on many occasions. Such was his impact at Spurs, their legendary manager Bill Nicholson stated that Burgess was one of the greatest players Spurs ever had. He sadly passed away in 2005 at the age of 87.
MF – Aaron Ramsey – Born in Caerphilly in 1990, came through the academy at Cardiff City and made his debut for the club in 2007, becoming the youngest player to ever play for the club, beating the record previously held by John Toshack. He would go to make 22 appearances for the Bluebirds before his performances were attracting the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton. He would decide to join Arsenal in 2008 for a fee of £4.8 million. Since joining the club, Ramsey has gone to make over 300 appearances for the Gunners, which is more than club legends such as Ian Wright and Robert Pires. His career took a backward step when his leg was broken in a match with Stoke City in February 2010 by a challenge from Ryan Shawcross. It would take him some time to regain his fitness and form and went on loan to Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City in the 2010/11 season. Ramsey has won three FA Cups at his time with Arsenal, winning in 2014, 2015 and 2017, with Ramsey scoring the winner in 2014 against Hull in extra time and in 2017 against Chelsea. He has made over 50 appearances for his country, scoring 13 goals. He has been chosen captain on numerous occasions, becoming Wales’ youngest ever captain in 2011. His performances at the European Championships in 2016 earned him a place in the Team of the Tournament whilst he also provided the most assists. Ramsey is another that is expected to earn many more caps for his country and could become a Welsh centurion.
MF – Brian Flynn – Born in Port Talbot in 1955, would begin his career with Burnley. After signing for them as a 15-year-old and leaving school early as a result. He made his debut for the club as a 19-year-old and went on to make 120 appearances for the club in his first spell there. Such were his performances that he was sold to Leeds in 1977 for £175,000. He would remain at Elland Road until 1982 and made 177 appearances for Leeds, unfortunately, success would elude him as he did not win any honours in his time at the club and was sold back to Burnley for £60,000. He would play there for a few more seasons before playing for clubs such as Cardiff City, Doncaster Rovers (twice) Bury and Wrexham. He retired in 1993 after making 100 appearances for the Dragons. He was their manager from 1989 until 2001 and orchestrated Wrexham’s famous giant-killing against league champions Arsenal in 1992, he would also win three Welsh Cups during his tenure. He would go on to manage Swansea for a couple of seasons before being replaced by Kenny Jackett. He took on the role of Wales under-21 coach in 2004 and is credited with developing Welsh internationals such as Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen along with many others. He left this role in 2012 and would go on to manage Doncaster Rovers. He is currently a scout for Swansea City. Flynn can easily be considered a legend of Welsh football not only for his performances on the field as he made 66 appearances for his country but for his impact off the field in developing and managing players for the future.
FW – Robert Earnshaw – Born in Zambia in 1981 but brought up in Bedwas from the age of 4. Earnshaw began his footballing career with Cardiff City and became one of the Bluebirds greatest ever goalscorers, scoring 109 goals in more than 200 appearances for the club in two spells. He would move to West Bromwich Albion in 2004 but did not have the best of times as he was used as an impact player from the bench instead of starting games. He would move to Norwich City in 2006 but would move to Derby County after a season. He is quoted as saying that his season at Derby was one of his worst in football. In 2008 he joined their Midland rivals Nottingham Forest and would remain at the club for three years before a move back to Cardiff City. After staying until 2013, Earnshaw would play for Toronto, Blackpool, Chicago Fire and the Vancouver Whitecaps and retired with them in 2016. He holds the record of being the only player to have scored a hat-trick in the Premier League, Division 1, 2 and 3, the FA and League Cup and in an international match. He played 59 times for his country, scoring 16 goals.
FW – Alan Curtis – Born in Pentre in the Rhondda Valley in 1954, Curtis will forever be associated with Swansea City and has been at times been nicknamed “Mr Swansea”. As a 14-year-old, he would have trials with Manchester United but was overawed and homesick and was a few years later before he signed for Swansea City, making his debut in 1972. He would spend the next seven seasons with the Swans, making over 250 appearances and scoring over 80 goals in the first of three spells at the club. His form earned him a move to Leeds United for a fee of £370,000 in 1979, but his stay in Yorkshire only last until the following year when he moved back to Swansea for £170,000. He would stay at the Swans for four seasons, adding another 100 appearances to his previous tally and 23 goals. He moved again in 1983 to Southampton and played for the Saints for three seasons before a move to Swans rivals Cardiff City in 1986. He would play for the Bluebirds for four seasons, making over 150 appearances for the club before moving back to Swansea to play one more season for the Swans. During his career, Curtis won 35 caps for his country. He finished his playing career with Barry Town, winning the Welsh Cup in 1994. Curtis after he retired, moved into coaching and was a part of the Wales under-21 coaching set up with Brian Flynn, he also served the Swans in many different roles such as community officer, youth coach, first team coach, caretaker manager on several occasions, match day host, head of youth development and his current role of Loan Player Manager. It is fair to say that Curtis’ association with Swansea will not be forgotten anytime soon.
FW -Thomas Bamford – Born in Port Talbot in 1905, Bamford began his footballing career with amateur teams Cardiff Docks and Bridgend Town, when Wrexham signed him on amateur terms in 1929. This proved to be one of the best signings the club ever made as he would go on to become Wrexham’s greatest ever goalscorer with174 league goals, what is more incredible is that he only spent from 1928 up until 1934 at the club. This is when Manchester United came calling and he would find more success there, helping the club to win the Division Two title in 1935/36 and would score 57 goals in 109 appearances. He would later move to Swansea Town in 1938 but the Second World War ensured that he soon retired. After the war, Bamford moved back to Wrexham and settled in the area, working in the local steelworks. He died in 1967 at the age of 62. He would win 5 caps for his country.
As with any team, I need a substitutes bench and here are the players I have chosen which would make an impact if called upon.
FW – Derek Tapscott – Born in Barry in 1932. He was one of 16 children who took on many roles in his youth but was a bricklayer when Arsenal signed him from Barry Town in 1953. He played for the Gunners until 1958 and by this point had played in 132 games and scored 68 goals and was unfortunate not to be selected for the Wales team that went to the World Cup in 1958. Tapscott believes that he wasn’t picked because before the World Cup, he was approached by a Welsh team selector who asked him to leave Arsenal for Cardiff with the promise that he would be selected for the squad to go to Sweden, he refused and wasn’t selected. Ironically, after the World Cup, Tapscott signed for Cardiff after his father became ill. He played for Cardiff up until 1965 and continued his goalscoring exploits, scoring 79 goals in 194 appearances and helping the Bluebirds get promoted to the First Division in 1960. He would win 14 caps for his country, but only 2 after the World Cup in 1958. Tapscott died in 2008, at the age of 75.
MF – Joe Allen – Born in Carmarthen in 1990. Allen came through the Swansea youth ranks to make his debut for the club in 2007 and would go on to make 150 appearances for the Swans in a 5-year spell. Such was his form, Liverpool made a bid of £15 million for his services in 2012. Allen’s time at Anfield was mixed as he struggled to nail down a place in the starting line-up. He would go to make over 130 appearances before earning a move to Stoke City 2016 for a fee of £13 million as he wanted a club that could offer him consistent playing time, he had made 50 appearances for the Potters so far. Allen has made over 40 appearances for his country and such was his performances in the 2016 European Championships, that he was named to the Team of the Tournament.
DF – Bob John – Born in Barry in 1899. John began his career playing for Caerphilly and Barry AFC and was soon noticed by scouts for Arsenal, whom he signed for in 1922 for a fee of £750 and would go on to make 470 appearances which place him 11th on the all-time appearances for the club. He would become an important member of the team during one of the club’s most successful era’s, winning 3 league titles in 1930/31, 1932/33 and 1933/34, John did not play enough matches to earn a medal when the club won the league again in 1934/35. He would also win an FA Cup medal in 1929/30 and two FA Cup runners-up medals in 1932 and 1927, when his close friend goalkeeper Dan Lewis’ mistake cost them to lose the match against Cardiff City (John would console his teammate after the final whistle, assuring him he would get another opportunity to win a medal, but Lewis never got the opportunity). John would leave the club in 1938 and go on a relatively unsuccessful coaching career, which would take him to Torquay United, West Ham United and Cardiff City. John would move back to Barry, where he passed away in 1982 at the age of 83.
DF – Mel Hopkins – Born in Ystrad Rhondda in 1934, the son of a miner. He would spurn interest from Manchester United and their legendary manager Sir Matt Busby and join Tottenham Hotspur in 1951 having previously played for the Ystrad Boys Club. Hopkins would stay at Spurs until 1964 where he would make over 200 appearances. He would be unlucky in that he would miss the club’s success during this period because of injuries, such as the League and FA Cup Double in 1961, when he was recovering from a serious facial injury as a result of a clash of heads with Ian St John of Liverpool. He would struggle to regain his place in the side and moved to Brighton where he would win the first honour of his career, winning the Fourth Division title in 1965. Hopkins was a part of the Wales squad that travelled to Sweden for World Cup in 1958 and would play in all of the matches. He would ultimately win 32 caps for his country. At his peak, he was considered one of the best full-backs in the country. Hopkins died in October 2010 at the age of 75.
MF – David Bowen – Born in Maesteg in 1928. He had originally trained as a surveyor at the South Wales Colliery but moved with his family to Northampton and joined the football club there in 1947. He had only played 12 games for the club before catching the eye of the son of the Arsenal manager Pat Whittaker. Arsenal paid £1000 to Northampton for Bowen in 1950. He was signed as a backup to start Joe Mercer and therefore struggled to make it into the team until Mercer retired in 1954, Bowen would miss out on a medal when Arsenal won the First Division in 1952/53 as he had only made 2 appearances that season. Once Mercer retired, Bowen became a regular in the team and would go on to make over 150 appearances for the Gunners, captaining the side in his final two seasons. Bowen was also captain of the Wales squad that participated in the 1958 World Cup, where his performances were met with acclaim. He would go on to make 19 appearances for his country and would also be their manager from 1964 to 1974 but this was met with little success as he took on this role on a part-time basis whilst managing Northampton Town. Such was the impact that Bowen had on Northampton Town that the North stand of their stadium was renamed in his honour. Bowen died in 1967, at the age of 67.
FW – Dai Astley – Born in Dowlais in 1909, began his career with his local team Merthyr Town. His performances attracted the attention of Charlton Athletic who paid £100 for his services in 1928. This proved a successful move as he would go on to score 27 goals in 96 games for the club, which prompted Aston Villa to sign him in 1931. He would remain at the club until 1937 but became one of the club’s best ever goal scorers, scoring 100 goals in 173 games. He was signed by Derby County in 1936 and would continue his impressive goal scoring, netting 49 goals in 98 games. What was most impressive about Astley was his goal scoring record for his country as he would score 12 goals in only 13 games. The outbreak of the Second World War did not mean the end of Astley’s career as he moved to France and played for FC Metz for a season before retiring. Astley’s European football adventure did not end there as he took on the managerial role of Inter Milan in 1948 but struggled to topple the great Torino side of that era. He would move on to manage Genoa, but would again struggle to make an impact. This prompted him to move to Sweden where he would manage Djurgardens IF from 1950 until 1954 and Sandvikens IF from 1955 to 1957. Astley died in 1989 at the age of 80.
Picture Credit: http://www.ebay.comDF – Leighton Phillips – Born in Neath in 1949, who had 58 caps for Wales in a career in which he made over 450 appearances in the Football League for Cardiff City, Aston, Villa, Swansea City, Charlton and Exeter City from 1967 to 1983. During this time, he would win the Welsh Cup three times with Cardiff in 1971, 1973 and 1974 and was in the team which defeated the mighty Real Madrid in 1971. He also won the League Cup with Aston Villa in 1977, a final which took three games to decide the winner. He would later become club captain before moving to Swansea City as their record signing in 1978.
MF -Simon Davies – Born in Haverfordwest in 1979. Davies began his career with Peterborough United where his form drew the attention of Manchester United, who invited him up to train with the club, but Sir Alex Ferguson did not feel ready to sign him. Whilst at Peterborough, he would be included in the 1998/99 Division Three Team of the Year. His form prompted Tottenham Hotspur to sign him and his teammate Matthew Etherington for £750,000 in 2000. He would stay at Spurs for five seasons, making over 150 appearances, but this would have been more if he did not struggle with injuries. He moved to Everton in 2005 but his injury problems followed him to Merseyside as up until 2007 he only made 50 appearances for the club. This was one of the reasons he was sold to Fulham in 2007. Davies would recapture some of his best form as he would make over 150 appearances for the club. Davies’ name will always be etched in Welsh football folklore as it was he who famously scored one of the goals in the win against Italy in 2002. He would go on to make 58 appearances for his country.
MF -Ted Vizard – Born in Cogan near Penarth in 1889. Vizard began his career with Barry, where his performances attracted the attention of Bolton Wanderers and he signed for the club in 1910 and helped the club gain promotion to the First Division that season. He would not lose his place in the side for the next 18 seasons and would make 512 appearances for the club, which puts him 7th on the all-time appearances list for the club, he made more appearances than club and England legend Nat Lofthouse. His time at the club was a successful one as he won three FA Cups in 1923, 1926 and 1929. He retired in 1931 having also made 22 appearances for his country. He would later go into management with Swindon Town, Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers. He died in 1973 at the age of 84.
MF – Alan Durban – Born in Bridgend in 1941. He began his career with Cardiff City, where he would make over 50 appearances in a four-season spell and was a part of the squad that gained promotion to the First Division in 1959/60. He would leave Cardiff and make a name for himself with Derby County where he would be for the next 10 seasons, making over 400 appearances and scoring over 100 goals (which puts him 7th on their goal scorers list and was named in their All-Time XI to celebrate the club’s 125 anniversary. He would win the Second Division title in 1968/69 and was an important member of Brian Clough’s side that won the First Division title in 1971/72. Durban would leave the Baseball Ground in 1973 for Shrewsbury Town and would stay there for the next five seasons, making over 150 appearances for the club, whilst also being their manager for 1974. He would also go on to manage Stoke City, Sunderland and Cardiff City. He would win 27 caps for his country.
DF – Wally Barnes – Born in Brecon in 1920, as his father who was a soldier was stationed there. Barnes began his career with Southampton but this was interrupted because of the Second World War and would play for the club in Wartime games. Such was his form in these matches that Arsenal signed him in 1943 but his career was almost finished when he suffered a knee injury in 1944 so serious that he was not expected to recover from it. This did not deter Barnes as he made his debut for the Gunners in 1946 and was a regular in the side that won the First Division Title in 1947/48, he would find more success in 1950 when Arsenal won the FA Cup against Liverpool. Injury would strike Barnes again in the 1952 FA Cup Final where he suffered another knee injury, which contributed to his team loss as there were no substitutes at this time. This injury took him almost 16 months to recover from. He retired from the club in 1956, having made close to 300 appearances for the club. Barnes also made 22 appearances for his country and was Wales captain on several occasions, he would be the manager of Wales from 1954 up until his retirement. He would later find employment with the BBC and was a commentator on the very first edition of Match of the Day in 1964. He was also co-commentator with Kenneth Wolstenholme for England’s World Cup Final win in 1966. Barnes died in September 1975, aged 55 years.
Feature Picture Credit: http://www.davolada.blogspot.com