Monday, 27 December 2010

Candac Suite Exhibition Open

The refurbishment of the Candac Suite at Penydarren Park has been completed. This is a completion of the first stage of the return to our historical home. The design of the Candac Suite has included many of the prints from the successful community arts day from last season, iconic shots of former players Chris Holvey and John Charles are supplemented by an impressive Warhol-esque print of four international players with links to our town.

(Top left) - Bryn Jones, born in Penyard on 2nd February 1912, who won 17 caps for Wales scoring 6 goals too.

For a player who was to become the most expensive footballer in Britain, Bryn Jones had a remarkably circuitious entry into league soccer. From local football in Merthyr he was given a trial by Southend, where his brother Emlyn played, and by Swansea. Bryn was unsuccessful and joined Glenavon in the Irish League before returning to South Wales to play for Aberaman. He was seen by a Wolves scout and moved to the Molineux club for a fee of £1,500. In a matter of weeks he had made his league debut and his brilliant displays earned him headline notices in the sporting press.

Bryn was a splendid ball player, lithe and elusive and with the ability to turn defences inside out. He excelled at creating openings seemingly out of nothing and could open up a defence with his long penetrating passes. in 1938, he became the sporting sensation of the year when he joined Arsenal for the then record fee of £14,000. He had played 163 times for Wolves scoring 52 goals in the process, however the fact that Bryn was one of the few people to stand up to Wolves manager Major Buckley may have been a contributory factor in the club's decision to sell. Nonetheless, the size of the fee staggered the sporting world. The attendant publicity proved a heavy burden for Bryn and affected his play. Arsenal manager George Allison thought a spell in the second string might help Bryn but there was non respite from the publicity and 33,000 turned up to see his debut for the reserves! It was not until Arsenal's scandinavian tour of 1939 that he began to recover his form.

During the War, Jones served in the 34th Light AA Regiment in North Africa and Italy but continued to play football regularly. In fact he supplemented his 17 official appearances for Wales with 8 war-time appearances for his country. In 1949 he joined Norwich City as a player coach but a chest condition resulted in him retiring on medical grounds eighteen months later. Bryn ended his connection with the game and took a newsagent and confectionery business in Stoke Newington, North London.

Bryn died in Wood Green, London on 18th October 1985.

(Top Right) - Dai Astley, born in Dowlais on 11th October 1909, who won 13 caps for Wales scoring 12 goals.

Dai Astley was a coalminer who joined Merthyr Town from Dowlais Welfare. Albert Lindon, player-manager of Charlton Athletic and a man who knew the South Wales soccer scene well, took him to the Valley in 1927 as although Dai had only made 5 appearances for the Red & Greens he had scored 3 goals in that period. A slenderly built, skilful player, he had superb positional sense and could shoot with either foot. Although naturally right-footed, Astley was aid to have a "mustard left peg" - perfected by hours of practising with a tennis ball. He preferred to keep the ball on the ground and was a master at deceiving defenders with his body swerve. Astley proved to be one of the most astute signings made by Aston Villa, as his prolific goal scoring record of 92 goals in 165 matches indicates. He once scored four goals for the Villa in a FA Cup match against Swansea Town - not a bad record for a player considered by some to be lazy.

In 1936, Astley preferred to move to Derby County rather than return to Charlton and he maintained his goal scoring reputation at the Baseball Ground in an all-international forward line, 45 goals in 93 appearances. He was reluctant to leave Derby but with no first team football in prospect he joined Blackpool. Astley found the net regularly for Wales and his 12 goals in 13 international matches demonstrated his uncanny knack for goals. He retired during the Second World War and went on to coach at Inter Milan, in France and Sweden up to 1956. Astley was subsequently landlord of the White Horse in Ramsgate, Kent.

Dai died in Birchington, Kent on 7th November 1989.

(Bottom left) - Gordon Davies, born in Merthyr Tydfil on 3rd August 1955, made 16 appearances for Wales scoring 2 goals.

Gordon Davies was a relative latecomer to league football at the age of 22 years, having previously played for Merthyr Tydfil FC in the Southern League and worked as a physical education teacher. As a youth he had joined Manchester City as an apprentice but was released and embarked on training as a geography teacher. A determined player with an eye for a half chance, he was a consistent goalscorer at Fulham who he joined for a fee reported to be in excess of £5,000 but also made chances for others, he in fact made 247 appearances for the London club with an impressive haul of 113 goals in that time.

In 1983 his goalscoring feats attracted the top clubs at a time when he had been recalled to the Wales side after a two year absence. Davies moved in quick succession to Chelsea and, ironically, Manchester City. He returned to Fulham in November 1986 and maintained his gift for goalscoring. In 1988 he overtook Johnny Haynes's club record tally of 157 league & cup goals.

In 1991 Gordon joined Wrexham where he finished his professional career.

Gordon now lives in Leicestershire and is a regular visitor to Craven Cottage on match-day where he acts as a club ambassador.

(Bottom right) - Moses Russell, born in Tredegar on 20th May 1888, who made 23 appearances for Wales scoring 1 goal.

Moses Russell left school to work down the pits but spent his leisure time playing football and rugby. He also boxed and swam - once rescuing a drowning child from a river. In 1912 he left South Wales to join Southport but when the club hit financial problems he accepted a free transfer rather take the cut in wages. A bout of rheumatic fever had left Moses "thinly thatched" and his bald head made him appear years older than his age.

He settled at Merthyr Town in the Southern League and it was during this period that he became the first player from the club to represent Wales with appearances against Scotland and Ireland in 1912. It was shortly after playing for Wales against England in 1914 that he was transferred to Plymouth Argyle for a then club record fee of £400. After service with the Royal Army Corps, Moses resumed his career with Plymouth.

His gritty determination at full-back throughout the 1920s was an inspiration to his colleagues for both club and country.

In those days only the Third Division champions were promoted. Plymouth finished as runners-up in six successive seasons and Moses was dubbed the "unluckiest captain in soccer". The club finally made it to the Second Division in 1930 but Moses only played in 7 senior matches during the season and never realized his ambition to play in the top flight.

Moses played many fine games for his country and in 1924 converted the penalty in Belfast that gave Wales a 1-0 win over Ireland and the "Triple Crown". He toured Canada in 1929 with the Welsh party and was involved in a disturbing incident at Hamilton, Ontario. The match against the local XI got a little rough and the crowd invaded the pitch to surround Moses. The unflappable Moses remained calm until one of the crowd drew a pistol. Fortunately the Mounties got their man before he culd get to Moses. During his playing career he kept a public house in Plymouth but subsequenly returned to South Wales. At the outbreak of war, he joined the territorial army and it was while working at the Royal Propellant Factory in Chepstow that he died on 18th December 1946.