Borough United, Welsh League winners 1958/9: Skipper Eric Williams, others include Peter Maddock, Tommy Roberts, Jackie Walters, Joe McLoughlin, Bob McAdam, Chris Murphy, Johnny Roberts, Derek Owen, Don Ludlam, Harry Hodges, Keith Pritchard []

BOROUGH United was only in existence for 15 years, but the name will always hold a special place in Welsh football history.

In particular, the club's European adventures in 1963 became a cause celebre in British football.

With both clubs struggling financially, facing increasing costs at their respective Morfa Conwy and Nant-y-Coed grounds, Llandudno Junction and Conwy Borough held merger talks.

The two neighbouring clubs had finished as champions and runners-up only five years earlier but by the time of the talks, they were both in the bottom three.

The merger was approved at a public meeting in the Llandudno Junction Memorial Institute and it was decided the new club would play at Nant-y-Coed and wear the Junction's maroon and white shirts.

The new club soon began to establish itself as one of the Welsh League North's better sides and brought the championship back to Nant-y-Coed in 1958-59, exactly 10 years after the Junction's previous title. Some 146 goals represented an average in excess of four per game – and no doubt the fact that Llandudno FC were beaten into runners-up spot added to the sweet taste of success. 

The next few seasons brought near misses (second, third and sixth), but in the 1962-3 season, one ravaged and prolonged by the worst winter in the second half of the century, everything really came good for United.

With another avalanche of goals (led by prolific brothers Keith and Mike Pritchard and former Oldham striker Gerry Duffy), they swept to another Welsh League North title ahead of Holyhead Town and Colwyn Bay, picking up a trio of cups along the way.

International fame

In addition to the local Cookson Cup, they won the North Wales Coast Challenge Cup (defeating Porthmadog 2-1 in the final) but it was the Welsh Cup run that propelled the club to international fame. Victories over coast rivals Rhyl (4-1), Denbigh (4-2) and cup-holders Bangor City (4-1) were followed by a 1-0 win over Hereford United in the semi-final, thanks to a Mike Pritchard goal. 

The two-legged final pitted United against Football League opposition in the shape of Newport County and, in front of 3,500 fans, Borough came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 (a Billy Russell penalty and a Joe Bebb header).

Three days later at Somerton Park it was keeper Dave Walker who was the Borough hero in a 0-0 draw which clinched their chance of European glory in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.

The club’s four trophies were paraded through Conwy and Llandudno Junction and Borough enjoyed a civic reception, but the summer was spent fund-raising for the European adventure - despite the 1962-3 season’s successes, Borough had made a £73 loss. 

A lottery was held – first prize a bungalow being built by Borough supporter Cifford Ogle. The First Round pairing with fellow minnows Sliema Wanderers of Malta was a kind one, but the logistics of the journey were less straightforward 40 years ago than they would be today. The United part took 31 hours to reach the Med – their plane diverting to Marseilles because of engine trouble – and they took to the pitch just four hours after arriving, a request for postponement having been refused. 

The match took place at the National Stadium in Gzira before 15,000 spectators and, in the circumstances, Borough did well to hold out for a 0-0 draw on an unfamiliar sandy surface.

Back home, the second leg was played at Wrexham on 3rd October 1963, with 17,613 fans in attendance. The Maltese visitors found playing on grass as alien as sand had been to the Borough party and a goal in each half, from Gerry Duffy and 19-year-old Mike Pritchard, sent United through.

Slovan Bratislava

The Second Round didn’t take place until December, with Borough drawn against Czech cup-winners Slovan Bratislava, who had reached the previous season’s quarter-final and fielded five internationals. Strangely, only 10,196 turned out on 11 December 1963 for the first leg at Wrexham, but they saw a close and fiercely contested game, Molnar’s goal early in the second half giving the visitors a 1-0 lead to take into the return, played only four days later. 

This time the Borough part-timers had to contend with an icy, snow-covered pitch and despite a brave attempt to contain the home side, Borough conceded three goals to Molnar (2) and Moravcik and went out 4-0 on aggregate.

Though the Cup-Winners’ Cup adventure was the highlight of Borough United’s short history, the good times didn’t end immediately. The first four months of the 1963-4 season were dominated by the European ties, but United enjoyed another good season in the league, finally finishing third behind Holyhead and Colwyn Bay, but top scoring with 134 goals from 32 matches. 

They relinquished the Welsh Cup in a 5-1 Fifth Round defeat at Chester but retained the North Wales Challenge Cup, beating Holywell 2-0 in the final, Gerry Duffy and Reg Hunter the scorers. 

Emboldened by the previous season’s cup successes, they also entered the English FA Cup, going out to New Brighton in Qualifying Round 2.

The following season of 1964/5 brought runners-up spot in the league, behind Colwyn Bay, but Welsh Cup glory eluded United again as they lost to Chester in a twice-replayed quarter-final, and the FA Cup dream ended again, with a 4-0 defeat by Ellesmere Port in Qualifying Round 3. 

Season 1965/6 was fairly successful but brought no trophies, only fifth position in the league, another quarter-final exit in the Welsh Cup (5-1 v Bangor City), another Qualifying Round 3 exit from the FA Cup (to Colwyn Bay) and a 4-1 defeat to Caernarfon Town in the North Wales Challenge Cup final. 

1966-7 was even less outstanding - fourth place finish in the league, a 5-2 home defeat by Chester in the Welsh Cup and an early home FA Cup defeat by Oswestry.


But 1967 was to be a momentous year for Borough United for other reasons. Nant-y-Coed’s owners, an Irish Catholic order, evicted the club, leaving them without a ground of Welsh League standard. Relocating to Conwy Morfa was ruled out as unfeasible, mergers with Llandudno or Colwyn Bay mooted but ultimately scuppered by the FAW’s refusal to sanction an application to the Cheshire League. 

In July 1967 the club resigned from the Welsh League (North) and though they soldiered on for two seasons in the Vale of Conwy League, they folded in 1969.

Borough United’s sudden demise is made all the more poignant by the fact that Nant-y-Coed remained, intact but decaying, for over a quarter of a century. 

However, their name will not be forgotten for in their short history they placed it indelibly in the annals of Welsh and European football history.