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A week with Cliff - Gareth 'the marked man'

Fifty years ago this week, Cliff Jones and his double-winning team-mates had just beaten Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and were preparing for their next challenge - the semi-finals of the European Cup.

With another FA Cup quarter-final on the horizon, who better than Cliff to rekindle a few memories of those glory, glory days past and talk about the current crop of players determined to write their own history.

This is the second day of our 'week with Cliff', where the Welsh legend will talk about the current team, Gareth Bale, the events that shaped our history 50 years ago, the Nat Lofthouse-inspired Bolton team that won the FA Cup in 1958 and what the FA Cup means to him.


Cliff tipped Gareth Bale for the top long before his fellow Welshman lit up the Champions League and showed the footballing world what he can do last season.

And Cliff - probably best described to younger fans as the Gareth Bale of his day, a flying left-winger at Spurs and mainstay of the Wales national team - is backing him to continue his rapid progress now he’s a ‘marked man’.

Cliff joined us aged 23 from Swansea in February, 1958. He went on to score 159 goals in 378 appearances in the next 10 years, including 15 in the famous double season of 1960-61.

Gareth is still only 22, but his performances since January, 2010, when he finally nailed down a regular place in the team, have been nothing less than breathtaking.

Awards and personal accolades have followed - including being named last season’s PFA Player of the Year, and the first Spurs and Welsh player to named in the Team of the Year for 2011.

But, as Cliff knows all too well, with the reputation comes recognition from opponents that you are the man to stop.

“Yes, he's a marked man now,” said Cliff. “Before teams play us, I’m sure they are thinking 'let’s stop Gareth Bale'.

“He's got to get used to that but he's got the ability to do exactly that.

"I'm sure Gareth will show them because he's a top-class player, no doubt about it. He's a smashing young man as well, very grounded.”

Cliff certainly took a few ‘whacks’ in his day, but insisted it made him all the more determined - all part of the job back the glory, glory days.

“I just went out and played, that was it,” he added. “I knew I was going to get man-marked. In many ways, it's a compliment, and I got kicked by one or two!”

Wednesday - 50 years on…