Terry Medwin and the spirit of 1958

When Cymru qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar it provided the perfect platform to celebrate the heroes of 1958 who reached the quarter-finals of the tournament in Sweden. Terry Medwin, who has sadly passed away at the age of 91, was one of those heroes.

Playing alongside his Cymru team-mates Cliff Jones and Mel Hopkins at Tottenham Hotspur at the time, Medwin was part of the team that defeated Israel in the World Cup play-offs to earn his side their place at the 1958 finals, and he would go on to play in every match at the tournament. Medwin played a key role in Sweden as he scored the winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Hungary which booked Cymru’s place in the quarter-final and what would be a defining match for that generation against Brazil.

A teenage Pelé scored the only goal of the game as Cymru were eliminated with a 1-0 reverse, but as the decades passed by without a return to the world stage, so those who remained the only players to represent Cymru at the World Cup became important figures in our football history. Although the football landscape was very different in 1958, the achievement of reaching the finals and only being eliminated by the eventual winners remains one of our greatest sporting accomplishments.

“I’ve such great memories,” Medwin told the official Tottenham Hotspur website in an interview in 2015. “We stayed in a hotel about six miles outside Stockholm. It was beautiful. The Scottish lads were there as well. We had three draws in the group, 0-0 against Sweden and 1-1 against Hungary and Mexico. We then had to play Hungary again in a play-off. They went 1-0 up, Ivor Allchurch scored the equaliser and I managed to get the winner, what a moment! We then played Brazil in the quarter-finals but John Charles, a terrific player for us, was out injured. Brazil had some fantastic players but we pushed them all the way.”

Born in Swansea in September 1932, Medwin would represent Swansea Town between 1949 and 1956 before completing a reported £25,000 move to Tottenham Hotspur. During his time at White Hart Lane, Medwin would enjoy incredible success as he played a pivotal role in Spurs’ famous league and FA Cup double in 1960/61 before lifting the FA Cup again the following season.

“It was May, 1956,” explained Medwin when asked about his transfer. “It was brilliant. I travelled over on a Saturday to look around the place. I met with Jimmy Anderson, who was manager at the time, but Bill Nicholson soon took over and things really took off for the club from there. Bill was an absolute gem, a true Yorkshireman and a lovely man as well. I didn’t really get any praise out of him though! I remember when we played Burnley in the 1962 FA Cup Final. Bill had a right go at half-time! But he knew he could rely on us and we went on to retain the trophy.”

Spurs would also claim the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1962/63 but Medwin was not included in the starting line-up that defeated Atlético Madrid 5-1 in Rotterdam. Although he was only 30 at the time, Medwin’s career would come to an end that summer as he suffered a broken leg in a pre-season tour of South Africa. Coaching roles, most notably as assistant manager to John Toshack at Swansea City, would follow his retirement, but his success with Spurs and Cymru would ultimately define his career in the game.

Although Medwin was part of a different generation of Cymru success, in November 2022, he and his wife Joyce, together with Cliff Jones and his wife, were invited to the team headquarters to meet with captain Gareth Bale on the eve of the World Cup finals. Bringing together the heroes of the past and present, Medwin, Jones and George Baker were also invited to the squad announcement in Tylorstown as a mark of passing over the World Cup baton to the current generation.

Terry Medwin will forever hold a place in Cymru football history for what he and his team achieved in 1958. RIP Terry.

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