When Wales faced George Best, Billy Bremner and Jack Charlton for Rest of the UK

Cliff Jones
Former Wales winger Cliff Jones was a part of Tottenham's double-winning team of 1961

Wales' rivalries with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are firmly established through history, so imagine if they had to take them all on in a one-off game?

That was the case for the Welsh national football team on 28 July, 1969, when they faced a scratch team drawn from the best players in the rest of the United Kingdom.

It was a formidable collection, including Manchester United's iconic Northern Irishman George Best, Leeds United's inspirational Scottish leader Billy Bremner and Jack Charlton, a defensive rock of England's World Cup triumph three years earlier.

Wales' side that day also had its share of stellar talents, such as future Liverpool striker John Toshack and Tottenham's double-winning winger Cliff Jones, who had played for Wales at the 1958 World Cup.

And it was the captain of that 1958 side, Dave Bowen, who managed Wales against the Rest of the UK, who were led by the mastermind behind England's 1966 World Cup victory, Alf Ramsey.

The same fixture had been played in 1951 to commemorate the 75th birthday of the Football Association of Wales (FAW).

In front of a crowd of 26,454 at Cardiff City's Ninian Park, two goals from Ivor Allchurch and one from Trevor Ford gave Wales a 3-2 victory over a Rest of the UK side featuring the likes of Tommy Docherty, Billy Wright and Nat Lofthouse.

George Best 'was hard as nails'

Looking for an occasion to mark the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969, the FAW arranged for the two teams to do battle once again at Ninian Park.

England and Tottenham midfielder Alan Mullery was one of four Englishmen in the Rest of the UK's star-studded starting line-up that day.

"It was quite a privilege to get picked in that side. To play with that calibre of players from the Home Nations was quite something," he told BBC Sport Wales.

"George Best was one of the world's greats. He was hard as nails as well - if you hit him, he just came back for more.

"When you played in the Home Championship, you certainly wanted to win because you didn't want to return to your club the next week and have the Scottish or Irish players having the bragging rights.

"I was in Ireland with Pat Jennings for an event recently, and it was great to reminisce about some of those games.

"Willie Henderson was playing in that match and I remember him asking me specifically to pass it to him from 10 yards or closer. I asked him why and he said: 'Because I'm blind!'

"It turns out he couldn't see anything beyond 20 yards. I couldn't believe it - he'd been playing for Rangers all those years and still he'd run at defenders."

England 1970 World Cup team
Alan Mullery (front row, centre) was a part of England's 1970 World Cup squad in Mexico

The teams that day

Wales: Gary Sprake, Peter Rodrigues, Mike England, Terry Hennessey, Rod Thomas, Barrie Jones, Graham Moore, Ronnie Rees (Gil Reece, 81), Cliff Jones, Ron Davies, John Toshack.

Rest of the UK: Pat Jennings, John Greig, Terry Cooper (Keith Newton, 46), Jack Charlton, Tommy Gemmell, Billy Bremner, Alan Mullery, George Best, Derek Dougan, Franny Lee (Willie Henderson, 46), John Hughes.


Eighteen years on from their victory in 1951, Wales were unable to repeat the trick as they lost 1-0 at Ninian Park, with England striker Franny Lee scoring the only goal in the 33rd minute.

Although the line-ups that day gave the fixture a fantasy football feel, the FAW deemed this an official 'A' game and awarded caps to the Wales players involved.

Toshack, who was 20 at the time, was making his sixth senior international appearance, while the team's more experienced players that day included Mike England and his former Tottenham team-mate Cliff Jones.

"I remember playing with John Toshack as he was just making his way with Cardiff City. He became a top-class front player, one of Wales' best," Jones told BBC Sport Wales.

"And the fact George Best played says it all. Georgie had to be one of the greats.

"I can remember his first game for Northern Ireland at the Vetch Field in Swansea. There were two players I'd never heard of before that day - Pat Jennings in goal and George Best on the right wing. Those two young players were just a different class.

"Franny Lee was a good player, strong and powerful, and Billy Bremner and Jackie Charlton were tough players. I kept out of the way of them!

"Alan Mullery was a terrific player and he's a terrific character. I still work with him at Tottenham on a match day.

"We're still friends now. There was a lot more of an attachment between the players in our day than there seems to be now with players these days.

"There was a lot more attachment between us and the supporters as well. We didn't earn that much more than the supporters.

"Our manager at Tottenham, Bill Nicholson, used to say the most important people at the club were not players or management but the supporters. He said 'they pay your wages' and told us how important the supporters were.

"And I played at the World Cup with [Wales manager] Dave Bowen. The way he spoke and the way he led the team meetings, you knew he'd go into some form of management or coaching. He was a good bloke."

How would the teams look 50 years on?

If the same match was to take place today, who would you select in the Rest of the UK to take on Ryan Giggs' Wales?

Send us your suggestions by writing in the comments section below.

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