Several English clubs were in fact members of the Welsh FA, and the cradle of Welsh football, the industrial north east, is very close to the midlands and Lancashire, where professional football developed most rapidly in the 1880's and 90's.
Here we will look at the involvement of Welsh clubs in the two great footballing institutions of England, the Football League and the FA Cup, and the boom which saw the Southern League develop a separate Welsh Division.
In the early years the FA Cup was not limited to English teams. Teams from Scotland, Wales and Ireland entered in the 1880's.
Similarly the Football League, since it's inception in 1888, has never been the 'English' league. Clubs from Scotland and Wales were eligible to apply for membership, although none did so until the expansion of the league in the 1920's.
The first Welsh club to compete in the FA Cup was Druids.They entered in 1876–77 , but didn't actually play. The following season they were knocked out 8-0 by Royal Engineers . Druids next appeared in the cup in 1882-83 when they were beaten in the 5th round by Blackburn Olympic having earlier eliminated Bolton Wanderers.
Druids later played in The Birmingham & District League (founded in 1889), one of the strongest leagues outside the Football League itself.
The 1882-83 and 1883-84 seasons saw FA Cup appearances by two clubs who were members of the Football Association of Wales despite being English - Oswestry Town and Davenham.
1883 also saw Wrexham's first involvement in the FA Cup, under the name Wrexham Olympic. They were also founder members of the Combination in 1890, and later played in the Birmingham and District League (1905)
In 1921 Wrexham were elected to the newly formed Third Division North of the Football League.
Chirk AAA- 1894- Billy Meredith far left middle.
Llangollen Town participated in the FA Cup in 1887-1888.
Aberdare (Athletic)- Founded in 1893, they joined the Southern League in 1920-21 and the Football League Third Division South in 1921–22. They played in the FA Cup for the first time in 1922-23 and as Aberdare & Aberaman Athletic rejoined the Southern League in1927.
The 1909-20 period saw many Welsh clubs joining the Southern League
Ton Pentre joined the second division of the Southern League in 1909, and Treharris Athletic Western F.C in 1910.
In 1911-12 they were joined by Cwm Albion, Mardy, and Pontypridd, with Llanelly (who would repeatedly try, without success to join the Football League) and Mid Rhondda joining in 1912-13.
Newport County-founded in 1912 they joined the Southern League that year and made their FA Cup debut in the 1913-14 season. They were elected to the new Football League Division 3 in 1920.
Swansea Town - founded in 1912 they joined the Southern League that year and were elected to the new Football league Div 3 in 1920. They made their FA Cup debut in 1920-1921, making the semi finals in 1925-1926.
In the 1913-14 season Abertillery, Barry and Caerphilly joined the Southern League, followed by Ebbw Vale.
When the Southern League resumed in 1919-20 the 11 club second tier was exclusively Welsh, with Porth Athletic and Aberaman Athletic being the new faces. This Welsh section continued until the
Lovell's Athletic F.C. - a works team from a sweet factory in Newport, joined the Southern League in 1928.
By 1937–38 season Barry and Newport County reserves were the only remaining Welsh sides in the Southern League.