THE 'Stanley Matthews Final'

is one of the most celebrated events in the history of football's FA Cup - and a Gwent man was right in the thick of the action.

Now Blaina-born Mervyn Griffiths, the first Welshman to referee an FA Cup final, has been commemorated through the unveiling of a blue plaque at Ty Ebbw Fach in Six Bells.

Mr Griffiths, born in 1909, was in charge at Wembley on that famous day in 1953 when Blackpool, inspired by Matthews and aided by the first and only FA Cup final hat-trick from Stan Mortensen, fought back from being 1-3 down with 20 minutes to go against Bolton Wanderers to win 4-3.

One of the leading referees of his time, in demand for both league and international matches, Mr Griffiths - who moved to Six Bells with his family aged four - took up refereeing schools matches in 1934 and made the Football League's list of referees on the eve of World War Two, in 1939.

Bv 1948, he was included on a select list of referees and in 1949, he took charge of his first international match, at Wembley, in which Scotland beat England 3-1.

In 1950 he went to Brazil to officiate in the first of three World Cup finals tournaments.

At the second of these, in 1954 in Switzerland, he refereed one of the semi-finals, in which hot favourites Hungary beat World Cup holders Uruguay 4-2.

Mr Griffiths was then one of the linesmen - assistant referee in today's football jargon - in the final in Berne, between West Germany and Hungary, won by the unfancied Germans.

The plaque in memory of Mr Griffiths, who died in 1974, was unveiled by Clive Thomas, who a generation later followed his predecessor to Wembley, refereeing the 1976 FA Cup final, in which second division Southampton caused one of the final's biggest upsets, by beating Manchester United 1-0.

Mr Thomas, like Mr Griffiths, was a world class referee, officiating in the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals tournaments, and countless league, European and international matches.

"1 held Mervyn in immense respect because he was a very strict referee and knowing that he, a fellow Welshman had got to the very top, fuelled my ambition," said Mr Thomas.

The plaque was the idea of Blaenau Gwent council leader Hedley McCarthy, who sees them as a means of celebrating the achievements of people from the area.

"Anyone who is mentioned alongside Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen and Ferenc Puskas (lynchpin of the fabulous Hungary team of the mid-50s) is touched by greatness said Mr McCarthy.

"lt is overdue that Mervyn Griffiths' achievements are recognised and fitting the plaque was unveiled by that other great Welsh referee, Clive Thomas."