Welsh Cup moments – When Toshack edged past Charles
29 November 2017

Welsh Cup moments – When Toshack edged past Charles

In the first of a new special series of features reflecting on memorable Welsh Cup moments in history, we roll the clock back 50 years to the 1967/68 season, and a Welsh Cup final that brought together two famous Welsh football names at very different stages of their respective and illustrious careers.

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Bala Town start their defence of the trophy on Saturday as the 12 clubs from the JD Welsh Premier League join the remaining clubs from the Welsh football pyramid. It will be the 131st time that the famous old trophy will be competed for in what is one of the oldest cup competitions in the world. A number of famous names have competed for the Welsh Cup since the very first final was held back in 1878, and the iconic trophy has been a key part of the domestic game in Wales ever since. 

Two of the most famous names to have played their part in Welsh Cup history are John Toshack and John Charles, and these two towering figures in Welsh football history went head-to-head in the 81st final of the competition back in 1968. Contested between Cardiff City and Hereford United over two legs in May, the club from the capital eased to a 6-1 aggregate victory to retain the trophy in front of just over 6,000 fans at Ninian Park.

Ten days earlier, a teenage John Toshack had taken to the field at Edgar Street to take on a Hereford United side that included 36-year old player-manager John Charles. A Welsh football hero, Charles had represented his country with distinction until bringing his international career to an end in 1965, and had been appointed player-manager the year before having initially joined the Southern League club to end his playing career in the lower divisions of the English football pyramid.

Legend is an overused term in the modern game, but studying the career of John Charles will assist any student of the game to understand when it should be applied correctly. Regarded as world class as both a central defender and a striker, Il Gigante Buono (the Gentle Giant) is considered by many to be Britain's finest footballing export even to this day. Swansea-born Charles was a revered figure at Leeds United and the Italian giants, and would become a hero for the national team too. 

John Charles
John Charles

A talismanic influence, Charles was Wales' star man at the 1958 FIFA World Cup, but injury denied him a place in the quarter-final when eventual winners Brazil eliminated Wales through a goal from an emerging teenager called Pele. But Charles was more than a world class footballer, he was considered a gentleman by those that were fortunate enough to know him, and it is fitting that even the stars of the modern game today are compared against the standards that he set back in a very different era.

Of course, Charles was past his best when he turned out for Hereford United in the 1968 Welsh Cup final, but his aura remained, and there is no doubt that competing against such a Welsh football legend would have been a huge moment for the teenage John Toshack. Wearing the colours of his hometown club Cardiff City, Toshack would score 74 goals before moving to Liverpool in 1970. At Anfield he would enjoy domestic and European success, but it was with Swansea City that he forge his successful managerial future.

John Toshack
John Toshack

Famously taking the club through the divisions to the top-flight, Toshack became a wanted man, and he headed to Portugal in 1984 to take charge of Sporting Lisbon. Although it didn't prove to be a successful appointment for either party, it would spark a managerial career that would take Toshack across Europe and beyond over the course of the next 30-plus years. His most prominent appointments would be in Spain where he managed Real Madrid twice and Real Sociedad three times, bringing the La Liga title to the Santiago Bernabeu in 1990.

Despite playing both legs, Toshack failed to find the net for Cardiff City in the 1968 Welsh Cup final as his side added to their 2-0 goal advantage gained at Edgar Street to win 4-1 at Ninian Park in the return match. However, there would be a moment for Hereford United to celebrate, as Charles himself scored the consolation goal on his return to Ninian Park after representing Cardiff City for three years before making the switch to non-league football.

1968 Welsh Cup Final Programme
1968 Welsh Cup Final Programme


1st leg: 6 May 1968 at Edgar St, Hereford

Hereford United 0-2 Cardiff City (Jones, King)                     

Hereford United: Isaac, Page, Timms, Jones, Lambden, J Charles, McIntosh, Summerhayes, Hunter, Derrick, Frazer

Cardiff City: Davies, Carver, Ferguson, Dean, Murray, Harris, Jones, M Clarke, B Clark, Toshack, Lea

Referee: I P Jones (Trelewis)

Attendance: 5422


2nd leg: 16 May 1968 at Ninian Park, Cardiff

Cardiff City (Bean, Clarke, o.g., Lea) 4-1 Hereford United (Charles)

Cardiff City: Davies, Carver, Ferguson, Clarke, Murray, Harris, Jones, Dean, King, Toshack, Lea

Hereford United: Isaac, Page, Timms, Jones, Lambden, J Charles, McIntosh, Summerhayes, Hunter, Derrick, Frazer

Referee: I P Jones (Trelewis)

Attendance: 6036


Match stats courtesy of the Welsh Football Data Archive – www.welshsoccerarchive.co.uk