Football: Inter in search of European dream: Trevor Haylett visits the happy home of the proud leaders of the new League of Wales

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SATURDAY NIGHT is quiz-night in the clubhouse behind the ground that gave birth to one of the season's largely unheralded success stories. With the players proving as skilful as they were earlier in answering the threat from Porthcawl Town, you find yourself composing the question their successors might face in years to come.

Q: Which two teams sharing the same name met in European competition in the 1993-94 season? It's the stuff of fantasy and romance but, scoff you not, it could come true if the Welsh translation of one of the game's most recognisable names emerge triumphant in the fledgling Konica League of Wales. Inter Cardiff versus Inter Milan? Very inter-esting, especially for Lyn Jones, the Cardiff manager who is mastering their assault on the new competition.

Should their early standards be maintained and a position in Europe earned, he would not be out of place abroad. It was Jones who led Merthyr Tydfil into the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1987 when they faced Italian representatives, Atalanta, and beat them 2-1 in the home leg.

The formation of the new League, and particularly Uefa's unexpected sanction of qualification for the champions (into the European Cup) and runners-up (Uefa Cup) broadened horizons for Inter; hence the call in the summer for Jones, the most respected non-League manager in Wales.

Since then it has been a question of keeping up with the Jones boy for the other 19 teams as Inter Cardiff (named after the Italian giants when the club was born two years ago after Sully FC took over AFC Cardiff) have overcome early difficulties that saw them play their first six matches away from home to become, for the moment at least, the kings of the Konica.

'It's early days, obviously, but our supporters are already talking about the possibility of playing in Europe,' Chris Asprou, the chairman, said.

The third route into Europe is via the Allbright Welsh Cup, in which on Saturday at the splendid Cardiff Athletic Stadium (their old Cwrt-yr-Ala ground was deemed inadequate for the Konica) they reached the third round with a 5-1 win, despite sprightly opposition from Porthcawl of the South Wales Amateur League, who included Lyn's youngest son, Lee, in their ranks.

There was much for the crowd to enjoy, as an uncertain start gave way to a spree of five goals in 33 minutes. There is power, pace and craft in Jones's revamped team, and experience is provided by goalkeeper George Wood (once of Scotland, Arsenal and Everton) and David Giles (Wales, Cardiff City and Swansea). Yet while they enjoy their new eminence, other Welsh clubs are less than happy with their lot.

Newport, Caernarfon, Colwyn Bay and Barry Town (now Barri) all decided to remain within the English pyramid and, concerned that Uefa would look disapprovingly on that development, the Football Association of Wales has banned them from playing in the principality. So Barri now play at Worcester and Caernarfon in Manchester, and bad feeling and grudges have festered.

The view among the 'loyal' 20 is that the 'exiles' are missing out. 'We anticipated it would be a slow gestation period and have been greatly surprised and delighted at the impact the new league has had,' Alun Evans, the secretary of the FAW, said.

'Some teams have shown increases in attendance of 1,000 per cent and standards have risen both on and off the pitch. Attracting a sponsor was important as was the Uefa recognition. We've achieved things people thought were impossible and although a residue of bitterness remains, I'm certain our decision will be vindicated at the end of the season.'

Goals: Williams (29) 1-0; Walker (37) 2-0, Summers (39) 3-0; Walker (42) 4-0; McCann pen (45) 4-1; Gummer (62) 5-1.

Inter Cardiff: Speake; Griffiths, Wigley (Giles, 89), Ware, Evans, Hill, Gummer, Morgan, Summers, Williams, Fisher (Walker, 11).

Porthcawl Town: Barnett; Joseph, Crofts (Rogers, 65), Alden, Gillingham, Willis (Kilpatrick, 71), McCann, Jones, Burnell, Bowden, Lyons.

Referee: S Type (Merthyr Tydfil).