WELSH PREMIER FOOTBALL

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TONY Wilcox was widely regarded throughout the League of Wales/Welsh Premier as 'Mr Cwmbran'.

He managed the south Wales club for 11 years from their first day in the league, steering them to the championship in that first season. A great servant of football in Wales and one of the most important figures in the league, he enjoyed a playing career with Barry Town as a young central defender, winning the Jenner Park club's player of the year trophy in 1976/7.

Tony Wilcox
The late Tony Wilcox, a legend at Cwmbran.

After leaving Barry in 1978, Tony moved to Ton Pentre and played with the Rhondda Bulldogs for several seasons until a cruciate ligament injury forced him into premature retirement.

Moving into coaching and management, he found himself in the Jenner Park hotseat in the 1989/90 season when the club returned to the Southern League after dominating the Welsh League throughout the 1980s.

In a successful first season in the English system, Tony led Barry to fifth place in the Midland Division and a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Wrexham in the Welsh Cup semi-final. Tony's second season in charge at Jenner saw the club again make a top six finish and another Welsh Cup semi-final appearance, this time going out 3-2 to Swansea City.

After leaving Barry in the summer of 1991, Tony joined Cwmbran Town, the club with which he became synonymous. Despite losing players through an early season budget cut in the league's first season, the Crows chased Inter Cardiff throughout the campaign, with a 3-0 win in front of the fledgling league's first ever 1,000+ crowd one of the major highlights of a season which ended when Wayne Goodridge's 88th minute goal at Llanelli gave Cwmbran the title.

Their reward was a European Cup tie against Cork City of Ireland, played in front of a 3,000 crowd at Cwmbran Stadium. Two goals from Francis Ford and a Simon King penalty gave the Torfaen club an unbelievable 3-0 half-time lead.

Sadly, they couldn't maintain that pace and, despite taking an early lead in the return, they were beaten on the away goals rule, drawing 4-4 on aggregate.
Cwmbran's efforts and achievements in the decade since that day cannot be underestimated and manager Wilcox is the man who was most responsible for their success.

Tony had an ingenious ability to attract good players to the Cwmbran Stadium. In a world where money often counts for everything, Tony’s personality and the knowledge that they would have a fair crack of the whip under his leadership was often a magnet in their decision to join the Crows. He also excelled in public relations, would always return a phone call, never refuse a press interview irrespective of the circumstances, and never made derogatory remarks about his opponents or any other aspect of Welsh football.

Under his stewardship, the Crows never finished outside the top half of the table and in 2000/1 maintained a title challenge until the final week of the season, eventually ending second. They reached the Welsh Cup final in 1996/7 and again in 1999/0 and 2002/3. Cwmbran became only the second club in Europe, after Juventus, to play in all four European competitions, with a Cup Winners Cup appearance against National Bucharest of Romania in 1997/8 and an unforgettable UEFA Cup tie against Celtic in 1999/0.

The club have since played in the Intertoto Cup against Nistru Otaci of Moldova in 2000/1 and were in Europe again a year later against Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia in the UEFA Cup. Early in season 2002/3, 46-year old Tony first showed signs of illness, but some weeks after suffering a heart attack, he sadly passed away on 11 April 2003.

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23 July 2017

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