1935 - But football in the area dates back to 1896.
The (Rhondda) Bulldogs
Ton Pentre Football Club has been in combat on the football field since almost immemorial. Although most modern day reference books give the present day Ton Pentre formation date as 1935, it can be assured that there has been two other football sides bearing the name. Records are incomplete but it is widely accepted that the first competitive matches were underway in 1896. And they have represented the soccer loving fans of the Rhondda ever since.
In the 1903-04 season Ton Pentre were invited to participate in Division Two of the South Wales League. This League offered no automatic promotion and there was also the absence of relegation. However, some clubs were elected to participate straight into Division One. But after three successful seasons in Division Two, during which time Ton Pentre became champions in the 1905-06 season, there was a change of heart by the League administrators who introduced a larger composition of Division One clubs. Ton Pentre were promoted to this top echelon for the 1907-08 season. In this division Ton Pentre became a renowned force taking the South Wales Senior Cup on three successful seasons thereafter.
At this time, however, there was a vast difference in standard between the top clubs and the rest, consequently some of these clubs sought stronger opposition by leaving the South Wales League and joining the Southern League, the Welsh League and Western League. Ton Pentre were amongst those clubs whom embarked upon the ambitious step, joining all three leagues for the 1909-10 season.
Ton Pentre were members of the Southern League from 1909 to 1915 and again after the First World War. The team found themselves playing against opposition such as Luton Town, Southend United, Cardiff City, Aberdare, Stoke, Brentford, Coventry City, Portsmouth and Swansea Town to name just a few.
<1>Football boomed in the Valley's between 1910 and 1925 and probably the biggest crowd to have ever gathered in the Rhondda was for a football match between Mid-Rhondda and Ton Pentre in a 1919 preliminary round of an F.A. Cup encounter in Tonypandy. With over 20,000 people watching the game Ton Pentre eventually won the Rhondda derby match.
Ton Pentre reached the Welsh Cup Final on 4 May 1922. The game was played in Pontypridd against Cardiff City. Unfortunately Ton Pentre lost the match 2-0 to goals from Len Davies and Jimmy Gill.
In 1923 the post-war coal boom collapsed and the valley teams such as Mid Rhondda, Pontypridd, Porth and Aberaman, disappeared under financial stress. Ton Pentre were able to continue but only at the expense of leaving the Southern League for more localised Welsh League football.
The present day set-up dates from 1935, which is the year given that Ton Pentre Football Club was reborn. After the Second World War football was once again played in a more competitive spirit. The Welsh National League (South) was re-introduced and besides having Division One a new Division Two was regionalised into East and West sections, with the two respective champions being promoted to replace the bottom two clubs of Division One. Ton Pentre were placed in the Division Two (West) competition and became the first champions. As a result they were promoted into the elite, where they were to remain a potent force through all the reorganisation of the Welsh National League, and the onset of the League of Wales in the 1992-93 season. Ton Pentre, though invited to participate in the inaugural season of the League of Wales, declined preferring to justify their inclusion by gaining promotion as a right in the 1993-94 season.
Ton Pentre's stay in the League of Wales saw the club finish a credible third place in each of their first two seasons, and in 1995 they became the first Welsh participants in the UEFA Inter-Toto Cup competition playing mid-summer matches. Their opponents included Naestved (Denmark), Bekescabai Elore (Hungary), Uniao Leira (Portugal) and Heerenveen (Holland), who in the 2000-01 season played in the UEFA Champions League. Even though Ton Pentre lost all their games, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 and 7-0 respectively. Ton Pentre had the opportunity to compete against players such as John Dahl Tomasson, a Danish international and former Newcastle United player, Ruud Van Nistlerooy of Real Madrid and Holland, and Tahar who was impressive for Morocco in the 1998 World Cup Finals in France.
Unfortunately, the European experience proved to be an expensive one. Ton Pentre's "European hangover" resulted in a drain on resources. The club was nearly dragged to the brink of insolvency and in February 1997 Ton Pentre announced their shock decision to resign from the League of Wales and return to the Welsh League.
Since the clubs withdrawal they have won the Welsh League five times in consecutive seasons between 1997-98 and 2001-02, which has equalled the League record that was held by Barry Town. The team has also achieved two doubles adding the Welsh League Challenge Cup to their honours. Through the Welsh Cup, they have proved time and time again that they can compete at the highest level with wins in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons against Welsh Premier opposition. Both seasons, the Rhondda side reached the Semi-Finals first losing out to Barry Town 2-0 after extra-time and then Cwmbran Town 2-1 having lead the match eight minutes from time. Had Ton Pentre held out for the win they would have qualified for the UEFA Cup as Barry Town had secured European qualification through the league.
Following two fruitless seasons without silverware Ton Pentre were again crowned Welsh League Champions in the 2004-05 season for an incredible sixth time in eight seasons. Ton Pentre do hope to once again grace the top echelon of Welsh football by returning to the Welsh Premier sometime in the future. However, in order to do so the club must secure sound financial backing along with significant improvements to the facilities at Ynys Park.
Compiled by Rob Dowling
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