High up in the Rhondda valley in South Wales is the small town of Aberdare. It was here in the 1920’s that Aberdare Athletic added to the strength of professional football in South Wales, along with their local rivals Merthyr Town. Their Football League life wasn’t spectacular, nor did it leave any lasting legacy, but it demonstrates the thoughts of the administrators of the game at the time to try and build following for the game in the region.
After enjoying success in the Welsh Cup a few years after they were formed in 1893, they joined the newly created Southern League, Welsh Division in 1920. With so many clubs in the region vying for a spot in the Football League, the new division was viewed as a feeder league to the national set up. In their first season they finished runners-up to Barry in the league of eleven teams and applied for election to the Football League at the end of the season. A total of eight teams applied for election and Aberdare, along with Charlton Athletic were accepted for the start of the 1921/22 season.
Aberdare was a boom town post World War One. The local landscape was dotted with mines, both in terms of coal and iron ore and employment was high. The football club played at the Aberdare Athletic Ground (also known as the Ynys Stadium) which had a capacity in its prime of around 23,000. However, with Rugby Union (and League) very strong in the area, the football club always had a challenge to attract the crowds, apart from the local derbies against Merthyr Town and Swansea Town. In their first season they finished in 8th place, which was the highest league position they ever reached. The following season they finished second from bottom and faced re-election, but survived although it was only a stay of execution.
After a few more seasons floating around in mid-table, they finished the 1926/27 season in bottom place, with just nine wins from their 42 games. They applied for re-election, and like all of those teams before them, assumed that they would be simply voted back in. But it was not to be. They became the first team from the Football League to not gain re-election and were replaced by Torquay United.
Despite the club trying to carry on as Aberdare & Aberaman Athletic in the Southern League but a year later they were no more. Aberaman Athletic continued to play in the local leagues, and can today be found in the Welsh Football League Division One. But for a short period in time the club were part of a potential revolution in South Wales, and will always have their place in footballing history as the first team to fail to be re-elected.
Coming soon – Glossup North End.