The eyes of the world will be focussed on the Welfare Hall, Tylorstown on Wednesday evening as Wales manager, Robert Page, announces his squad of 26 players for the 2022 World Cup.

Whilst the USA, who are in Wales’ group in Qatar, have invited the press to the Empire State Building for their squad announcement, the Football Association of Wales have chosen to rent a hall which is usually the home of Pendyrus Male Voice Choir and Bingo nights.

Why Tylorstown? Well this is the vilage where Page grew up, the village where he first kicked a football and from where he startyed his footballing journey which has taken hiom from Pendyrus Boys Club to Watford, Sheffield United and 41 caps for his country.

But the roots of Welsh football run deeper in the Rhondda than the birthplace of the current manager. Three miles over the valley from Tylorstown in Rhondda Fach, lies the village of Pentre in Rhondda Fawr, birthplace of Jimmy Murphy, the man who took Wales to the World Cup in 1958.

It’s fair to say that the Rhondda has chnged quite considerably in the 64 years since our last visit to a World Cup. Gone are the coalfields which stretched from Trehafod to Blaen Rhonddau and from Porth to the Maerdy where tens of thousands of men earned their living below ground.

But it’s not the disappearance of south Wales’ heavy industries that has changed in the intervening 64 years. Football and the insatiable demand for information means that Page’s squad announcement will be very different to that of his Rhondda compatriot, Murphy.

Tens of television crews and miles of cables will ensure Page’s announcement reaches every smart phone, computer and television set in Wales within seconds, however Murphy wasn’t even allowed to select his own squyad!

Having beaten Israel to secure qualification for Sweden, 11 FAW Councillors came together in a hotel in Shrewsbury on 18 April 1958 in order to select the 22 players who would represent Wales at the 1958 World Cup.

Murphy had always insisted, since taking the role of Welsh team manager in March 1957, that he would pick the team, however the 11 selectors would continue to select the wider squad.

Despite Murphy’s protestations, Trevor Ford was not selected following the publication of his autobiography where he admitted to receiving illegal payments.

Now that is a story in itself!


And unlike the 2022 squad which will be available on eveey smafrt phone, laptop and television set in Wales within seconds, the only people aware of the selectors’ decision in 1958 were the selctors themselves until the lucky players were notified of their selction by telegram!

The telegram was bittersweet for four mewmbers of the 1958 squad as they received the wonderful news that they had been selected … whilst at the same time were told that they would remain on stand-by back home.

The selectors had made the decision to save money by traveling to the World Cup with just 18 of the 22 players, this despite all 11 selectors as well as three of their wives, making the plane to Sweden!

Graham Vearncombe (Cardiff City), John Elsworthy (Ipswich Town) Len Allchurch (Swansea Town) and George Baker (Plymouth Argylle) were the unlucky quartet.

To rub salt into his wounds, Elsworthy, despite being a World Cup squad member, never won a cap for his country and Baker had to be satisfied with his solitary cap in 1948.

Murphy managed to shock the footballing world in Sweden, leading Wales out of their group before losing by a solitary goal against Brazil in the quarter finals, but news of their achievements hadn’t really made it back home to Wales.

On arriving back in London the players had to make their own way home and on getting off the train in Swansea Station, Mel Chales was asked by the ticket collector if he had been away on holiday!

One thing is for sure, with all the matches live on S4C news of Wales’ exploits will be far greater as they attempt to emulate the achievements of Jimmy Murphy and the bous of 1958.

Article by Gary Pritchard


Author Sgorio

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