The History of Our Club
Neyland Association Football Club is one of the oldest clubs in the county, and a member of the first official Pembrokeshire Football League. It shares its inaugural year with the likes of Cardiff City and Barcelona …… 1899!
Clearly one cannot fairly or succinctly review or reflect a history of some 120 years in the context of this site; but it is possible to ‘signpost’ some of the poignant eras, starting right at the beginning.
The first competitive game in which the newly formed Neyland F.C. played was at home to Pembroke Dock reserves. The local press reported on this fixture, which was played at the ground in Honeyborough, and reflected on the result of 3 – 2 to the home side. Sadly there was no mention of the teams nor the scorers, but that would change in the forthcoming fixtures. Regular coverage of these ‘friendly’ games gave an insight to the gradual growth of the sport in the county and recorded the names of those who played for the club(s). In 1906 there is evidence of the Neyland club in the first Pembrokeshire League along with: The Wiltshire Regiment, Pembroke Dock Athletic Club, Milford, Royal Dockyard Apprentices, Llanreath and the Royal Garrison Artillery. Both the Pembroke Dock and Milford teams were the reserves to their Welsh League teams.
Neyland remained in the league until 1914 when it’s neighbouring parish took over the mantle of a league team …. Llanstadwell F.C. Some of the Neyland players switched allegiance and continued to play league football, but the greater number remained and played for Neyland Baptists. Llanstadwell was the first true village club in the league and had a life span of some 24 years until it disbanded in 1938. However it was clearly a successful club, attracting players from neighbouring towns to reinforce the strength of its local ‘Hazel Boys’. In 1924 it won the league and reached the Cottrill Cup Final played at Pill Lane. A significant role was played by the ‘Bowen Brothers’, in particular Wilfred Bowen who was captain and then Secretary.
The Post War Years
After the war, activity returned to Neyland and within 12 months of the cessation of hostilities, ‘Neyland United’ was back in the Pembrokeshire League. Whether or not the ‘United’ reflected a joining of the two clubs, one will never know. The senior team grew from strength to strength, boasting ‘international’ players with a Polish centre forward and a Dutch flying winger! In addition to the post-war League, there was a special league competition named the “Victory League” which was sponsored to celebrate the end of the war. Neyland United won this league in the 1946/47 season.
Wiltshire Cup Success
But it was the quality and strength of its youth side which attracted much attention from elsewhere around the county. These young players grew up together, played sport together and developed a fellowship which made them a very closely knit unit. They won the Wiltshire Cup in consecutive seasons – 1946/47 & 47/48. In 1948/49 they won the newly-formed youth league. It is believed that they were unbeaten during this three year period. Sadly, as all these young men approached their eighteenth birthdays, they received their ‘calling up papers’ to undertake National Service for two years. The entire team left the town. When they returned there was no team in the town – the senior players becoming too old to play. Although this was a particularly sad time in the history of soccer in the town, these young men joined other clubs and shared great successes in Pembrokeshire and Welsh League Football.
The birth of "The Nomads"
Another significant era was that of the mid-60’s, when a group of young friends decided that it was time for youth football again in the town. The majority were still in school – in the sixth forms of Milford and Haverfordwest. They planned and prepared for the return of competitive football, formed a committee, raised funds, acquired kit etc. and eventually applied to join the League. At the A.G.M. of the League, it was noted that Neyland wished to enter a team in the Third Division of the League. The League Chairman asked the Neyland representative if they fulfilled all the requirements for entry and the response was positive …….. except for one thing! Neyland no longer had a ground. Luckily the representative from the Johnston Club was present and offered the opportunity of sharing their ground at a cost of 10 shillings per game. This was duly gratefully accepted and Neyland was soon to be represented in the League once again. However, the centre forward, Peter Wright, clearly realised that the club would never ‘play at home’; every game would be an ‘away game’. So he suggested they call themselves “Neyland Nomads” – and that is the name under which they entered the league. Although this particular team only existed for one season – because so many went away to college and university – there exists so many stories which accompany the individual players from the ‘Nomads’.
Toward the end of the same decade the Neyland Youth team was challenging for honours with the Fishguard Sports A.F.C. youth team. At the end of the season the latter team was top of the league with Neyland in the runners-up spot. The youth teams continued for some more seasons until senior football returned in 1973/74. The following season they won the Third Division and the following season were promoted again. At this point the club was living up to it’s now ‘assumed nickname’ – the “Nomads” – as it moved from the pitch in Belle Vue to Honeyborough roundabout, then to Honeyborough Road where it meets Kensington Road, and finally (post 1982) to the Athletic Club where it still currently plays.
Moving on up!
With two senior teams and a variety of junior/youth teams, the club sustained gradual growth and success, predominantly as a Second Division side but courting the First Division on several occasions. From 2004 to the present day, Neyland A.F.C. has maintained its First Division status. It still facilitates a 2nd X1 and virtually all mini and junior age teams from under 7’s up. There are currently three girls’ teams and during the era of the Texaco Pembrokeshire Women’s League, Neyland was ever-present after the inaugural season.
Nomads since 1899
Clearly there have been thousands of players over the 120 years. There have been committee members who have worked hard to sustain the activity and provide the sport for those who wish to play. If you would like a complete history of the club which includes mention of highs and lows, personnel, 200+ photographs – together with some wonderful stories – please note that the publication “Proud to be a Nomad – The History of Football in Neyland & Llanstadwell 1899-2018” is available via club management members priced £15.