Football: Cwmbran ready for the elite of Europe: Trevor Haylett watches the winners of the first Konica League of Wales title secure their place alongside Manchester United in next season's Champions' Cup

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The Independent Online
AS 'We Are The Champions' boomed out over the Tannoy, they sang along as they received their league trophy amid chaotic scenes on the pitch, celebrated long into the night and then dreamed their dreams of the European Cup.

That was yesterday's prerogative and pride for mighty Manchester United - and also for little Cwmbran Town, the inaugural winners of the Konica League of Wales and the most excited of all the hopefuls who, next season, set out in Europe's premier club competition.

At 4.37pm on a green rectangle in Llanelli, traditionally the nation's rugby stronghold, Wayne Goodridge struck the only goal of the game, a thumping header from a corner, that made them champions. 'Just give me one of the big boys, Milan or Barcelona,' Goodridge, a mechanical fitter, said.

A year ago, Cwmbran were one of 20 senior clubs who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Football Association of Wales when it decided that the Principality must have its own national league structure.

How fitting that the first crown should now go to the newest babe of all. United may have been waiting 26 years to win the title, but in 1967 Cwmbran had only been around for 12 years, a new club from a new town six miles north of Newport in a new league breaking new ground.

'Magnificent, the best day of my life,' said their chairman, George Thorneycroft, who could never have expected to witness yesterday's scenes - but for reasons apart from the obvious ones. A tumble down ice-coated steps at the club's stadium in January resulted in a broken leg, a heart-attack two days later and then lung complications which left him on a life-support machine for three weeks.

'My blood pressure was down in my boots,' he said. 'It was a miracle that I pulled through, and all the doctors told me I was lucky to survive.'

The runners-up, Inter Cardiff, have the consolation of a Uefa Cup place, but Cwmbran have the big one and with their council-owned stadium (12,000 capacity, 3,000 seats - average gate 340) they are confident of being able to play their home games on home soil.

'We won't treat it as a holiday, we'll be going all out to give a good account of ourselves,' said their jubilant manager, Tony Wilcox, whose pounds 35-a-week part-timers compare unfavourably with United's pounds 5,000-a-week men.

In fact, earlier this season, Cwmbran offloaded two players because at pounds 80 a week they could no longer afford to keep them. One, Wayne Matthews, did make it to the big time, though, at Ninian Park, Cardiff - as a hamburger seller on match days.

Llanelli: Watson; A Evans, Singh, Thomas, Stevenson, Davidson, Bennett, Dickeson, Pennock, Lloyd, P Evans, Substitutes not used: Wilson, S Evans.

Cwmbran Town: Hagan; Sturch, King, Dicks, Blackie, Copeman, Parselle, Goodridge, Ford, Wharton, Clissold (Powell, 66). Substitute not used: Payne.

Referee: W Jones (Montgomery).

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