THE legendary Barry-based footballer Charlie Dyke, formerly of Barry Town and Chelsea, died on the weekend.
This tribute is by BTSC's Ashley Cox, with research by Jason Pawlin and Jeff McInery.
Born in Llanbradach, outside right Charlie Dyke played his early football for Troedyrhiw during the most successful spell in the Valleys club's history immediately after the Second World War.
His ability and skill on the flanks, as well as a haul of goals (including one against Barry in 1946/47), soon caught the eye of North London giants Arsenal, but Charlie modestly turned down a trial, believing he "just wasn't good enough" for the Gunners.
It was not long, however, before the 'big time' came calling once more and, after helping Troedyrhiw to Welsh Amateur Cup honours, Charlie was contacted by a scout from London rivals Chelsea.
Speaking to the Barry Town Supporters' Committee's Jason Pawlin in 2006, Charlie recalled: "I took the train to Cardiff General (now Central), and signed forms with Chelsea there and then, on the platform. My dad wasn't too happy. Signing for Chelsea meant I'd miss out on my amateur Welsh cap and he was disappointed at first."
However, it was full steam ahead for Charlie and, after signing in November, 1947, he made his Chelsea debut away at Aston Villa on February 21,1948. While this initial excursion would end in defeat, the following weekend saw Charlie play in Chelsea's 3-1 win over English champions Liverpool in front of almost 40,000 spectators at Stamford Bridge.
In March, 1948, a crowd in excess of 60,000 saw Dyke's Chelsea beat FA Cup holders Charlton Athletic 3-0, while wins over Everton, Manchester United and would-be suitors Arsenal would follow. Although more of a wide man than a traditional forward, Charlie would also score two important goals in Chelsea colours - both winners no less, at home to Sheffield United and away against Charlton at The Valley. The latter, incredibly, came direct from a corner kick.
Staying with Chelsea for three seasons, Charlie eventually found himself out of favour due to a change in management and the irresistible form of Scottish international Bobby Campbell, a fellow outside right. Drawing attention from various Football League clubs, he opted instead to return to his native South Wales, joining Barry Town in the Southern League in 1951. His final appearance for Chelsea came in a 3-1 win over Newcastle United in front of 43,840 fans at the Bridge.
Arriving at Jenner Park on a wave of summertime publicity, Dyke, valued at a considerable £8,000, proved quite the coup for Barry's well-connected manager Bill Jones, and slotted comfortably into Jones' new-look Barry Town XI.
Playing over 50 matches in his first season, Dyke opened his Barry goalscoring account against Gloucester City on August 27, 1951, before netting against old club Troedyrhiw in the FA Cup and Rhyl in the Welsh Cup semi-finals. While the latter would culminate in a replay win for the North Walians, Dyke and Barry's march to success would not be curtailed for long.
The following season was bookended by Charlie Dyke goals in both its opening and closing matches, against Cheltenham Town and Cardiff City respectively. The latter win over the Bluebirds was the second of three consecutive South Wales Senior Cup Final triumphs Dyke would play a part in; with his brace in the 1954 final helping Barry to a 7-0 win over Tonyrefail. In total, Dyke would collect six winners' medals in this competition with Barry Town.
However, the 26-year old Dyke's finest hour would come in the Welsh Cup Final of 1955, Barry Town's inaugural appearance in Wales' showpiece tie. Following a 1-1 draw with Chester at the Racecourse in Wrexham, a dramatic replay at Ninian Park on Saturday, May 14, was poised at 3-3 - before a 20-yard, curling Charlie Dyke free-kick settled matters in the 85th minute.
The old 'Barry Herald' recounted vividly the moment that Dyke “found an honoured niche in the annals of the Town Association Football Club as the man whose goal at 3.55pm – five minutes from the end – brought the coveted Welsh FA Cup to Barry for the first time.”
Charlie's recollections, over half a century on, were altogether more humble: "I felt quite sorry for my friend, Idris Niblett. He scored two goals, and I only scored one. But I scored mine last, and so it was me who everybody wanted to talk to!"
In October, 1956, Dyke joined a number of ex-Barry players at Haverfordwest County.
"They treated us very well down there,” Charlie recalled. “£8 a week, and a whole turkey at Christmas."
However, he found himself back at Jenner Park the following year, resuming an association with the club that would endure for decades.
During his second stint, Dyke assumed the role of trainer and, while he would miss out on a starting berth against Queen's Park Rangers in Barry's FA Cup run of 1961, the 35-year old would score another vital winner against Gloucester in the competition as he combined his playing duties with new responsibilities.
As the 1960s progressed, Charlie would act as a mentor for new talent at Jenner Park, with prolific goalscorer Ken Gully among those to benefit from his advice. He would also don the manager's jacket, coaching the club's Welsh League and Barry & District League reserve sides at various points.
Dyke's final bow for the Barry first team came in the 1963-64 campaign - a full 13 years on from his debut appearance. His last goal for Barry was typically significant, helping the team to a 2-1 win over eventual runners-up Kings Lynn. In total, Charlie would score over 150 goals for Barry Town across multiple competitions.
Remarkably, 30 years later, Dyke was still heavily involved with Barry Town as steward of the social club. In a delightful twist of fate, the man who helped bring the Welsh Cup home to Barry the first time was, therefore, present to toast its return in 1994, when Andy Beattie's Barry side upset Eddie May's favoured Cardiff City at the National Stadium.
The build-up to the final saw Dyke's cup accomplishments of the 1950s highlighted by 'BBC Wales.' While the Welsh Cup victory remains irrevocably etched in the history books, it is also notable that Dyke played against the first ever continental side to visit Barry; IFK Stockholm the visitors to Jenner Park, and beaten no less!
Retiring from Barry Town service in 1996, Charlie continued to live in the town with wife Ros thereafter and, on reaching the milestone of his 80th birthday, received a letter of congratulations from former club Chelsea and its then-manager, Jose Mourinho.
Meanwhile, the Barry Town Supporters' Committee recognised Charlie's achievements by inducting him into the Barry Town Hall of Fame in December, 2012. As one of only five players in history to have played over 500 games for the club, it can be argued that there are few candidates more deserving.
On Saturday, the BTSC will honour Charlie Dyke's memory by issuing a special programme cover for the game against Pontardawe, while the Barry Town team will wear traditional Barry green for the match as a mark of respect.
While Charlie Dyke was not a Barry man by birth, the unprecedented glory he helped bring to the town and his years of contributions, both on and off the field, as player, trainer, manager and steward, suggest he will forever be remembered as one of Barry's greatest footballing sons.