Merthyr Tydfil supporter Carol Jones, wife of player Peter Jones shows the tension of Merthyr's European match against Atalanta. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Martyrs Manager Lynn, Who Masterminded Stunning European Win Against Serie A Atalanta, Has Died

Lyn Jones, remembered as the manager of Merthyr Tydfil Football Club’s golden generation, has passed away.

He was in charge of the Martyrs’ most famous victory in their history 32 years ago when their part-timers defeated Italian Serie A side Atalanta 2-1 in the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

That was one of the biggest upsets in European club football history.

He was appointed Martyrs manager in 1985 and stayed six years.

Lyn’s first trophy with the club was the South Wales Senior Cup, defeating Barry Town 3-1 on aggregate in a two-leg final. 

It was under Lyn’s management Merthyr won the 100th Welsh Cup final – their first triumph in that competition for 36 years – when they won against Newport at Ninian Park in 1987.

Merthyr also won the Southern League Merit Cup (presented to the team that had scored the most goals out of the three divisions) thanks in large part to Dai Webley, who scored 59 goals in all competitions.

The career-defining moment of his managerial days came when the Martyrs took on Atalanta in the European Cup Winners Cup. 

The story of Merthyr’s epic 2-1 win against the Italians was covered by every major sports and news network.

Merthyr were the only team from either country to play in Europe during 1987-88, a result of a ban on English clubs following the Heysel Stadium disaster in Belgium.

The Martyrs were drawn against Italian club Atalanta, a club seven divisions above Merthyr in football terms, and grabbed a 2-1 win at Penydarren Park.

An Italian journalist said before the first leg: “If Atalanta aren’t 5-1 ahead by half-time it will be a farce.”

Ian Rush, then playing for Juventus, rang to wish Merthyr manager Jones all the best, while match-winner Ceri Williams was a guest on ITV’s top football programme Saint and Greavsie, hosted by Ian St John and Jimmy Greaves.

Atalanta were able to spare their own blushes by winning the second leg 2-0 to squeeze through 3-2 on aggregate.

Lyn spotted a weakness when he watched Atalanta play Vicenza in Italy, saying: “When Atalanta defended a free-kick they had a defensive wall, but, rather than staying strong and solid, they attacked the ball.

“Their wall disintegrated because they ran towards whoever was taking the free-kick.

“Vicenza scored when one shot hit a defender and flew in, while another free-kick deflected just over.”

Merthyr players spent training time in Porthcawl firing free-kicks straight at the wall and the ploy worked wonders on match night.

Both goals came from free-kicks which flew in off defenders.

It was Williams who fired the winner and he said: “The memories are fantastic.

“The atmosphere that night was brilliant. I’ll never forget the moment that goal went in.

“No question, none at all, that it was the best match of my football life.”

Action: Merthyr Tydfil FC v Atalanta in 1987. Pic: Getty Images.

The official attendance at Penydarren Park was 8,000, but team captain Andy Beattie disagrees, saying: “There were far more than that. I reckon 14,000!

“The atmosphere was magical.”

Merthyr’s team was: Gary Wager, David Tong, Chris Baird, Roger Mullen, Phil Evans, Kevin Rogers, Nigel French, Dai Webley, Chris Williams (Peter Jones 88), Andy Beattie, Ceri Williams.

Following their exit from the European Cup Winners Cup, following the away clash against Atalanta, Lynn was manager for an 11-0 league win against Rushden when Chris Williams scored six.

He also masterminded a remarkable Merthyr turnaround in the league when they rose from 17th to the top, three points clear of their nearest rivals, Dartford. 

Their run of success saw Merthyr suffer only two defeated in 25 fixtures.

Lyn’s Martyrs completed their remarkable climb to the top when, in front of 4,000 spectators at Penydarren Park, Merthyr beat Crawley 3-1 to become champions and earn promotion to the Vauxhall Conference.

His final league game as manager of Merthyr was at Barnet, where Merthyr capped off his managerial stint with a 3-2 win.

Lyn’s time at the club was key to the club’s success story during the 1980s. 

“I worked with a great bunch of lads at Penydarren Park, made a lot of friends and feel privileged to have been manager of Merthyr Tydfil.”

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