The first Welsh club to get past the first round of a European tie weren’t Cardiff City. They also weren’t Swansea, or Wrexham, Newport County, Bangor City or Merthyr Tydfil. They were the little known club from North Wales, Borough United.
Despite being a Cardiff City supporter for about fifteen years, and spending much of my time reading about Welsh football and some of the odder aspects of the European game until this week I had never even heard of Borough United.
Borough United were formed by a merger of Llandudno Junction and Conwy Borough in 1954. Only fifteen years later (1969) they folded and were no more. Yet, in those fifteen years Borough United packed in a Welsh Cup win and a European Cup Winners Cup run. When you consider how few teams have played in European competition it is incredible that a Welsh club such as Borough United managed it, yet so few years later ceased to exist.
The 1962/63 season saw Borough United’s finest cup triumph when they beat Newport County in a two-legged Welsh Cup final (after beating the likes of English club Hereford United, Rhyl and cup holders Bangor City). A 2-1 victory at home and a battling 0-0 draw at Somerton Park was enough to bring the cup up north. A summer of fundraising ensued in order to fund the club’s European adventure.
The 1963/64 European Cup Winners Cup contained the likes of Manchester United, Atalanta, Barcelona and Celtic but the Welsh minnows were drawn against the Maltese Cup winners Sleima Wanderers. The first leg, played in Malta ended in a creditable 0-0 draw at the Maltese National Stadium. This meant all Borough United needed to do was beat the Maltese side in order to get through to the second round, and that’s exactly what they did. In front of 17,000 Welshmen Borough United beat Sleima by 2 goals to 0. An incredible result for the European first timers.
The second round in those days was the last 16, Borough United were pitted against Slovan Bratislava (now Slovakia then from Czechoslovakia). The challenge was one step too far however and the Welsh side lost out 4-0 on aggregate. Far from the disgrace many would have expected. Especially when you consider that Sporting Lisbon beat Apoel Nicosia 18-1 (on aggregate) in the same round.
The full second round draw is here:
|Borough United||v||Slovan Bratislava|
|Celtic||v||NK Dinamo Zagreb|
|FC Barcelona||v||Hamburger SV|
|Motor Zwickau||v||MTK Budapest|
|Olympique Lyonnais||v||Olympiakos Pireus|
|Sporting CP Lisbon||v||Apoel Nicosia|
We salute you Borough United. Most may have forgotten you, but you will go down in history as the first Welsh club to get past the first round of a European tournament. Let’s hope Rhyl and TNS can take inspiration from this and perform their own European miracle.