RTB Ebbw Vale AFC was formed in 1951 as part of the then Richard Thomas & Baldwin Steel Company (social section) and entered the Ebbw Vale & District League. In the early 1960s RTB, as they were to be known, joined the Mon Senior League. The club won the Mon Senior Cup in 1969-70 and were finalists in 1971 and 1973. They were crowned Division One Champions in 1973, just missing out on the double by losing in the cup final. During this successful period Welsh League football had been talked about but the club would have to wait almost thirty years before they achieved this goal. Hopes were high in 1979 when a new crop of youngsters came to the forefront; they won the Welsh Youth Cup beating Hawarden 4-0 with a young Jeff Jones scoring a hatrick. Jeff has served the club as a player, vice chairman, chairman, programme editor, sponsor and loyal supporter throughout the many years that have passed.
In 1980 the Mon Senior League was amalgamated with the Gwent Premier League to form the Gwent County League. Mike Cope led the club to promotion to the First Division of the Gwent County League as Division Two Champions in 1993-94 and Mike Williams, as player/manager achieved their long held ambition of promotion to the Welsh League Third Division in 2000-01. The club struggled to adjust to the rigours of Welsh League football, and were not fully prepared at that time for the demands put upon their squad of players, due to the travelling, and the sheer expense of survival. Although it has to be noted that the quality of football played by the first team and second team (Welsh Reserve League) was exceptional and commented on by many a visiting player, manager and supporter. In 2002 the club found respite from the tough league season in the cup competitions and were runners up in the Gwent Senior Cup, losing 4-1 to a very strong Newport County side at Caldicot. After two seasons of struggle in the Welsh League the club were relegated back into the Gwent County and have fluctuated between the First and Second Divisions ever since.
During the 1990s the club decided to raise funds by selling enamel badges, a small crest with the letters RTB was designed. Johnathan Caswell, who created the badge said, “The design needed to be as simple as possible because it had to fit onto a tiny badge, I never thought that it would be developed into the clubs crest. It was influenced by photographs from the past of the then RTB youth club’s sign, with the letters RTB being a prominent feature. The style and shape of the badge echoed the shield used by the FAW for the Welsh National Team at the time”. The badge has since featured on every club shirt and training jersey since the late 1990s.
Lee Hinch, another who acted as player/manager and his assistant Neil (Nelly) Stevens ran the first team during the mid-2000’s and won promotion from the Second Division in 2007-08, finishing just two points away from being champions. The club decided to part company with the duo that summer and struggled to regain any type of form for the following few years. After unsuccessful attempts to ‘steady the ship’ by Andrew Smith and Johnathan Caswell in 2008-09 the club were again relegated back to the Second Division. This was probably the darkest period in the clubs history as there was no Youth Team and the Second Team folded, due to unfulfilled fixtures and a lack of players. The club were in serious trouble of dis-banding altogether. However, the following season gave the club renewed hope with a bright young youth team being led by manager Andrew Battle, and with an influx of new players the second team were re-formed. Caswell utilised the strength of the youngsters by incorporating four, Nathan Lapping, Lewys Thomas, Daniel Battle and Nathan Petit into an already young first team, led by Gareth Andrews and Alex Worthing. Although the club only narrowly avoided relegation again that year the future looked a lot brighter and when Andrew Battle took over the first team duties in 2010-11 the club moved its way up the table and challenged for promotion in 2011-12 finishing a respectable fourth.
Players of the calibre of Chris Holvey, Mike Dix, Bryn Edwards, Kevin Hitchcock, Steve Woods, Andrew Battle and Mike Williams have represented the club and made names for themselves further up the footballing pyramid. Others like Ian (Spinksy) Jones, Paul (Archie)Lewis, Matty Price, Mark Congreve and Leigh Hinch have represented the club impeccably as players, volunteering as coaches or working as ambassadors throughout the years. According to our clubs Honorary President Mr Mike Cope, “These young men have always left with a handshake and a pat on the back. We as a club are always disappointed to lose any player of quality but we would never stand in the way of someone trying to better themselves.” The club still holds the same philosophy today.
Mike Cope joined the club as a player in 1953 and has seen all the highs and lows that the club has gone through; he became secretary in 1958 and has coached or managed the first team, second team and youth sides to many of their successes. He was instrumental in forming the first club committee in the 1990s and is largely responsible for the club’s structure and how it is run today.
In the summer of 2012, during the Annual General Meeting, the club committee was re-structured. It was decided that the club would amalgamate RTB Seniors (First Team, Second Team and Youth) and RTB Juniors (all age groups between under 6 up to and including the under 16s). After the initial season as one committee it was decided in 2013 to revert to two separate committee's, with a select few from both Senior and Junior section to sit on the CLUB committee. Thanks go to our experienced club members, such as Kevin Greenland, Geoff Greenland, Cliff Parfitt and Mike Williams who oversaw the transition of the two clubs becoming one. Everyone involved has worked hard to enable the club to have a renewed energy to push for Welsh League status that we are now prepared for. 2012/13 saw another season of uncertainty at the club. We failed to find a manager for the start of the season so former player Kevin Lewis offered to help as much as he could. He got the side off to a blistering start with a series of great results. The teams performances dipped when Kevin's work committments took priority and second team manager, Kevin Greenland stepped in. Kevin's committment to managing the first team was superb. His organisation and communication was a breath of fresh air and the first team finished the season strongly.
After another unstable spell under Ian Munroe (2013/14) the committee recognised that it was no longer a job for one person. With a few seasons of success at Youth level the club didnt want to lose good players or coaches to other clubs, so the start of the 2014/15 season saw Lee Thomas and Shane Davies step up to head a coaching team which consisted of Clive Price, Grant Matthews, Nicky Stephens and Johnathan Caswell, all of whom shared responsibilities for the running of the First team and newly created Development side. With the workload being shared 2014/15 became one of the most successful seasons the senior section has seen in decades.
The Youth team, led by Grant and Shane went unbeaten all season winning both the League and Cup double, with some tremendous performances from the players in both Senior teams on Saturdays as well as their Youth games on Sundays throughout the year. The newly formed Development team finished Runners-Up of the Ryan Transport Reserve Division with the First XI just missing out on promotion to the Gwent County First Division.
Lee and Shane added the experience of Kyle Holmes to the coaching set up at the beginning of the 2015/16 season. It was going to be very difficult to top what was an excellent season for the club the year before but Lee had his sights set firmly on winning promotion to the First Division. With a few players added to what was an already talented squad the boys did themselves proud in winning the Gwent County Second Division, with a few games to spare, as well as finishing runners-up in both the Amateur Cup and Gwent County Motors Cup. To complete what has been described as one of the the best seasons in the clubs history, the Development squad won the North Gwent Reserve Division.
In 2016 the club reached its 65th year and with the success of the senior teams there was no better way to celebrate. During this spell the Junior section is going from strength to strength and are close to having a full compliment of teams for the new season. The success on the playing field is coupled with hard work off it by many dedicated parents of players and supporters, none more so than the sponsorship deal and support displayed by the 'Castle Inn - Briery Hill'. It is the first time since the club had to leave RTB Social Club that it feels as though it has found a home.
The 2016/17 season saw both senior teams face new challenges. The development moved into the North Gwent Premier Division for the first time. It proved to be a difficult season for the boys competing. The results never really went their way and every game that they lost they only lost by the odd goal. It was a learning curve for all involved and it is hoped that the experience for the young players will help them in their development. The first team had a fantastic first season back in Gwent County 1. They challenged for the league all season but finally ran out of steam (due to a number of serious injuries to senior players) in the last few games. A more than respectable fourth in a tough league was yet another excellent return from Head Coach Lee Thomas and his staff.
Over the past few seasons and with the success on the field and a lot of hard-work off it by a number of individuals the club has had a revamp at committee level. In 2017, Nick Pepper stepped down as chairman. Nick was thanked by all at the club for his service, which has been extensive over the years, he will continue in a lesser capacity to assist the club as much as he can and Grant Matthews was voted into the role. Grant will bring a fresh vision to the club and with the support of an already busy committee hopefully the club can move forward and gain the Welsh League status it deserves.
Season 2017/18 saw the coaching staff change slightly with Shane Davies taking more of a back seat due to his commitments with the coaching of the Welsh Vets side and Joel Morgan stepping into the void. Joel brought a wealth of knowledge to the club and has done a great job assisting Lee throughout the year. The season was a difficult one after we lost around 9 senior players to either direct competition or teams above us in the Welsh League pyramid. We struggled to gather any momentum losing games that we should have won. Many spectator and opposition manager commented on the style of football we were playing but the 3 points continually went begging. We just managed to avoid relegation and are hoping to improve in 2018/19. One of the highlights was the emergence of a few young players who stepped up from the Youth team including, Jonathan Powell, Morgan Griffiths and Iestyn Gwillem (Iestyn was only playing his first season of youth football). If our Junior section continues to produce players of their calibre we will be very lucky. These are only a few who helped the senior sides out this year as our development team looked like a school side at times but finished a respectable 5th in the North Gwent Premier Division.
Off the field it has been a busy year. Our fundraising officer, Darren Mott, has worked overtime in securing funding for a perimeter fence for the ground (£16,600) and £30,000 from the Welsh Football Trust and Sport Wales for a new drainage system. This is the first time a team outside of the Welsh League has gained this type of funding and it is hoped that the work, once completed, will secure football at our home ground for generations to come. The field drainage project won the 'McDonalds FAW Grassroots regional project of the year (Gwent County Area) and has been nominated for the national award. The club has grown beyond recognition over the past 5 years with now over 140 children playing within the Mini/Junior Section and over 40 players attached to the Senior Teams. This year we have entered talks with the local council about possibly taking over the running of Eugene Cross Park (in partnership with Ebbw Vale Rugby and Cricket Clubs) and Hilltop Stadium (the pitches directly next to ours in Hilltop).*
2018 also saw Mike Williams given the recognition he deserves. Mike has served the club as a player, manager, committee member (fulfilling many roles), groundsman and general dogs-body. He is as much the face of the modern day RTB as anyone and was revealed as one of only 3, alongside Mr Michael Cope and Mr Geoff Greenland, as an Honorary Life President of the club. An award that he thoroughly deserves. Congratulations Mike!
The end of the 2018/19 season saw yet more changes to the club. The first team finished in a respectable mid table position but the whole year seemed to be a struggle for Lee as coach. With commitment from players an issue, fielding the same team two weeks on the trot was an almost impossibility. This had an impact on the development squad who struggled to field a team on many occasions. Once the season drew to a close Lee made the tough decision to step down as first team manager. He had hoped to return the club to the Welsh League by the end of his five year plan. That didn't materialise, however he did leave the club in a good position. Lee was given a good send off at the annual presentation evening and the club only wishes him well for the future.
The club acted swiftly and after interviewing a number of strong candidates for the vacancy of First Team Coach, Dan Battle was awarded the role. Dan has been coaching within the clubs junior section for many years and is well qualified with a UEFA B License to his name. He also has vast Welsh League experience playing for clubs such as; Risca United and Cwmbran Town. Dan has the club in his veins and follows in his fathers footsteps both playing and managing the First Team. Dan has the assistance of former development coaches Nicky Stephens and Johnathan Caswell to help with training and matches.
The development squad also have a new management team led by Stephen (Pob) Watkins and assisted by Michael O'Keefe and Nicky Ball. All three have great experience of North Gwent football and will add much needed know how to what is always a predominantly young squad of players. Both new coaching teams will be ably assisted by Grant, Darren, Clive and Mike.
In the summer of 2019 the club were selected to be 1 of only 20 throughout Wales to pioneer the girls 'Huddle' programme. This is an exciting time as the club continues to grow and has more involvement with the Welsh Football Trust. After the success of the ground refurbishments the pitch and surrounding areas look magnificent. It looks as though first team games will go 'home' this season and be played at Hilltop Stadium, after over 15 years playing at Eugene Cross Park (on a rugby pitch) it will be nice to actually see what the club can achieve playing on a proper surface.
The 2019/20 season was interrupted in March by the Coronavirus pandemic. The first team sat 9th in the table with 7 games to play before the season was declared null and void. The development team were fighting for top spot in the North Gwent Reserve league with 1 game left to play. The weeks after the lock-down many of our teams, juniors and seniors raised funds for the NHS and many other charities within the Blaenau Gwent area, donating money, chocolates and essentials.
Throughout its long history the club has changed dramatically, allowing young people an opportunity to build and develop their talent within the local area has always been its main aim. Players who have represented the club always belong here, there is a sense of camaraderie that can’t be equalled, and we urge everyone to experience this. The club has grown from fielding one team of eleven players to now having more than 200 footballers, coaches and club members associated to it. Players and coaches move clubs, that's football. It is rare to see loyalty in the game anymore. We as a club are a victim of our success, if we do well other clubs come calling for both players and coaches. The club hopes that it is building something that players, coaches, parents and supporters can be proud of. This will hopefully encourage them to stay at the club enabling us to enjoy success together. Its what (RTB) Ebbw Vale deserves.
With thanks to Jeff Jones and Mike Cope for their contribution to this HISTORY and other aspects of this website.
* Unfortunately by Aug 2019 the club weren't awarded either of the playing fields.
J Caswell Aug 2012
(Updated Aug 2019)