LOVELL'S Athletic - Newport 'second' football club - disbanded 50 years ago this month. ANDY RUTHERFORD delves into the Argus archives to revisit its post-war glory years, including a Welsh Cup win, an FA Cup run, and a defender who went on to play for the greatest English team of the early 1950s.

A COUPLE of hefty goalmouth clearances away from Sainsburys' Newport supermarket, in Crindau, sits The Turnstiles.

A housing estate of some 40 years vintage, its name is the only indication of the site's former role - for this was previously Rexville, the home of Lovell's Athletic, for half a century or so, Newport's 'second' football team and for a while one of the finest works and non-league football teams in the UK.

Newport is no stranger to the special joys and unfettered drama of Cup football these days, and it was no different in the immediate post-war years.

But back then, it wasn't only County - who reached the fifth round in 1948/49 - who were giving fans their money's worth.

Lovell's Athletic formed in 1918, the jewel in the crown of a sporting and leisure club developed by the Lovell's confectionery company, whose founder George Lovell and his son and successor Harold Lovell believed strongly in the welfare of their employees.

The football club won a string of trophies through the 1920s and 1930s, including the Western League (1923/24), the Welsh League (1931/32), three successive Welsh Amateur Cups from 1925/26, and more than a dozen Monmouthshire league and cup titles.

A number of its players during that era went on to play for the likes of Everton, Cardiff City, Glasgow Rangers, Wolves, Chelsea and Newport County, several gaining Welsh and Scottish international caps and senior and amateur level.

For much of the Second World War, Lovell's Athletic kept the football flag flying in Newport, with County - deprived of players who were called up, and without a ground after Somerton park was requisitioned - going into hibernation.

Wartime football was regionalised, league set-ups changed season by season, and teams comprised whichever players were available, based on Armed Forces and other war service.

Lovell's managed to field teams throughout 1939-45, and the Football League North 2nd Championship final table from 1942/43 published here, is a fine indication of the exalted company they were keeping, and how well they performed as a non-league team mixing it with the likes of Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester United (Division One) and Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday (Division Two).

Lovell's success continued into the post-war era. In 1945/46, the club embarked on an FA Cup run, beating Bournemouth, then in the Third Division South, in the first round. The competition that season involved two-legged ties and Lovell's won 6-4 on aggregate, with a thumping 4-1 home first leg win the foundation for victory.

Bath City were dispatched 7-3 on aggregate in the second round and Lovell's reward was a third round tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers, one of England's foremost teams.

Ten thousand people packed into Rexville on a murky early January Saturday afternoon for the first leg, on a pitch described in the Argus as "very heavy" and "sprinkled with a generous supply of sand".

And for 45 minutes the fans were in dreamland as Lovell's took a 2-0 lead. But Wolves, fielding three England internationals pulled themselves together after the break and ran out 4-2 winners, before winning the return leg 8-1.

South Wales Argus:

CUP WINNERS: The Lovell's Athletic team pictured before the Welsh Cup final win over Shrewsbury Town in 1948. Picture by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales

Lovell's won the first of three successive Welsh League titles that season, and enjoyed perhaps their greatest season in 1947/48, when the club also re-entered the Southern League, one of English football's leading non-league competitions.

It ran two teams, one for each league, though players regularly played for each, based on availability and injury.

Lovell's also, as usual, entered the Welsh Cup, in those days open not only to the Football League likes of Cardiff City, Swansea Town, Wrexham and Newport County, but to English teams within a reasonable distance of the Welsh border.

Teams from higher divisions, and a host of higher-placed non-league teams, including Lovell's, entered at the fifth round stage, and it was their seeming misfortune to be paired, albeit at home, with Cardiff City, Third Division South champions the previous season, and riding high in the Second Division

On February 5 1948, on a Rexville pitch described perhaps generously in the Argus as "sticky on top" Lovell's came from behind to dump their illustrious south Wales neighbours out of the competition, winning 2-1.

They were at the giantkilling game again in a home quarter-final, on March 2, beating 10-times cup winners Wrexham, of the Third Division North, a cunning chip by Alec Shaw and a late winner from George Hodder delivering the win.

Cheshire County League side South Liverpool awaited in the semi finals, at neutral Shrewsbury, and Lovell's ensured they did not end up the fools on April 1, having "fully merited their success", according to the Argus, in winning 1-0.

Lovell's exploits were turning heads and, the concept of a transfer window non-existent back then, Football League clubs including First Division Manchester City, inquired about the availability of the club's players. They were given short shrift.

Seven of the semi final team worked for Lovell's, and the remaining four worked elsewhere, and they could not be tempted, at least for now, by the lure of a full-time career in football.

Several hundred intrepid Lovell's supporters made the trip to Wrexham for the final on April 22. Much of the 10,000 crowd in north Wales that day sported the yellow and blue of Shrewsbury, just 32 miles away.

The team for the final was: Billy Williams, Garnett Edmunds, Jack Steggles, Les Bye, Harry Clarke, Sam Prangley, Harold Morgan, Alec Shaw, Trevor Holland, Terry Wood, George Hodder.

South Wales Argus:

ACTION: Lovell's on the attack in the Welsh Cup final. Picture by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales

Lovell's should have won in the regulation 90 minutes, according to the Argus, but Hodder missed "a sitter" after 55 minutes, Holland "was guilty of a grievous slip when he fired over the bar in easy circumstances" 10 minutes later, and four minutes from time, "Wood failed to outwit an advancing goalkeeper".

Defenders Clarke - more of him later - and Prangley had fine games however, and goalkeeper Williams overcame being knocked unconscious after 49 minutes - no head injury protocols or substitutes in those days - "to give one of the most stirring performances of his career".

He also picked up a badly cut chin for his trouble, but this was a former Royal Marine Commando who had doubtless overcome far more challenging circumstances.

Lovell's made extra-time amends for their earlier profligacy, Holland with an "amazing" chip and a second after "a sparkling manoeuvre", and Terry Wood completing a 3-0 win.

Lovell's players were mobbed by their fans at full-time, before captain Len Bye received the trophy from the Mayor and Mayoress of Wrexham.

South Wales Argus:

TRIUMPH: Lovell's Athletic captain Les Bye receives the Welsh Cup from the Mayor and Mayoress of Wrexham. Picture by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales

It was a sweet moment for everyone, but trainer Tommy MacGill had reason to be extra proud.

Lovell's was only the second Monmouthshire club to win the Welsh Cup and 22 seasons earlier - in 1925/26 - MacGill played in the Ebbw Vale team that became the first, having beaten Newport County 2-1 in the semi-finals and Swansea Town 3-2 in the final.

It was another 32 years before Newport County emulated Lovell's Welsh Cup success, subsequently enjoying the fruits of a European Cup Winners Cup campaign that had been, since the early 1960s, another reward for victory.

But by then, Lovell's Athletic was no more. The club had attempted unsuccessfully to become a Football League club at the end of the 1947/48 season, through the old system of re-election. Thereafter honours - plentiful up to that point - became harder to come by.

There were South Wales Senior Cup wins in 1949 and 1955, a Welsh Amateur Cup triumph in 1954, and another appearance in the Welsh Cup final, in 1959, when Cardiff City beat them 2-0 at Somerton Park.

A final Welsh League title was won in 1965/66, but by then, the days of competing in the Southern League too, were long gone.

Crowds had dwindled, the cost of running the Welsh and Monmouthshire Senior League teams fell increasingly on the supporters' club, and Rexville, which had hosted so many memorable matches over the years, was an increasingly valuable asset for development.

On May 9 1969, the Argus reported that Lovell's Athletic was to be wound up.

The ground "may well be needed for development by the expanding confectionery firm", ran the story.

Club president John Lovell said it was "a great wrench" to have to wind up the club his father Harold Lovell had started, and the Argus described it as the end of an era for a town institution that had always been held in high regard in footballing circles.

Lovell's final match took place on Saturday May 24 1969, in the Welsh League at Pembroke Borough.

Solid as a rock - the story of Harry Clarke

LOVELL'S Athletic developed dozens of players who went on to ply their trade in the Football League, several of whom - mostly Welsh - subsequently gained senior international caps.

But perhaps the best player ever to don a Lovell's shirt played a key role in the club's success after the Second World War.

At 6' 3" - 1.9 metres in new money - Harry Clarke was an imposing figure at the heart of the Welsh League and Cup double winning team in 1947/48.

Born in Essex in 1923, Clarke played with the RAF during his war service, and found work at Lovells in Newport after the war.

The seemingly unflappable defender soon made a big impression, starring in the club's !945/46 FA Cup run and post-war Welsh League and Cup triumphs.

Argus sports writer 'Marlovian' described Clarke as being "solid as a rock" during the Welsh Cup semi-final victory over South Liverpool, and this trait soon brought Second Division Tottenham Hotspur calling.

South Wales Argus:

UNFLAPPABLE: Lovell's star man Harry Clarke pictured after his move to Tottenham Hotspur. Picture - Tottenham Hotspur

The Argus reported in March 1949 that Clarke, then 26, had been considering pursuing football full-time and plumped for Tottenham following interest from several Football League clubs.

One of these was Third Division South Newport County, fresh from a giant-killing run to the FA Cup fifth round, and keen to strengthen for the following season.

But Clarke had set his heart on a move to London, despite repeated overtures from County manager Tom Bromilow, and a personal appeal by Harold Lovell.

"There can be little doubt about his ability to make the grade," wrote Marlovian in the Argus, and so it proved.

Clarke was an ever present during Spurs' runaway Second Division title success in 1949/50, and in May 1951 - little more than two years after leaving Lovell's - he was celebrating as part of a First Division title-winning team that included the likes of full back, England international and future World Cup-winning England manager Alf Ramsey, and wing half, England international and future Spurs Double-winning manager Bill Nicholson.

Clarke played 322 league and cup matches for Spurs before retiring in 1957. He too became an England international, earning his sole cap in 1954, in a 4-2 win against Scotland in front of 135,000 spectators in Glasgow.

He stayed at White Hart Lane in a coaching role with the club's juniors, before a return to Wales in 1959, to manage Llanelli. He later managed Southern League Romford.

He died in April 2000, aged 77.