BY JACK CARTER
Coca-Cola League 2.
Forbes’ early strike wins Jackett’s Swansea promotion on dramatic final day.
It was clear from the offset of the 2004-2005 season that promotion was the goal for Swansea City in Kenny Jackett’s first full campaign as manager. Jackett had been given the resources needed to bring in many new signings over the duration of the season, and no fewer than 6 of these players started on the final day of the season as the Swans headed to Gigg Lane, Bury, hoping to better the result of promotion rivals Southend United who faced a trip to Grimsby.
Despite the fact that the team were reliant on the Shrimpers dropping points at Blundell Park, the buoyant Jack Army travelled in massive numbers to Greater Manchester, still on a high from the 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury in what would prove to be the final League game at The Vetch Field. Such was the demand from Swansea fans to see the team clinch promotion; the host side Bury allocated 5,000 tickets to the visitors, much to the dismay of many Bury season ticket holders who were forced to relocate seats for the fixture, the 5,000 tickets were snapped up by the travelling Jacks.
Following the final league game at The Vetch, where Swans fans were encouraged to all wear white, the club issued a similar challenge to supporters, asking them to “turn Gigg Lane Red for the day” – red being the colour of the away strip that the Swans would be turning out in against Bury. The fans accepted this invitation en masse, and the site of two packed out sides of Gigg Lane dominated by red was certainly an impressive one.
Bizarrely, Bury had also decided to invite a Samba band to march around the four sides of the ground for their season finale, this only added to the Carnival atmosphere for the Swansea fans, many of whom were making themselves at home in the local pubs in the vicinity of Gigg Lane.
So the game got under way to the melody of a Samba beat, and many fans had barely positioned themselves in the stands when local boy and Player of the Year Kristian O’Leary hit a brilliant 30 yard ball over the top for Adrian Forbes to run onto, the winger headed the ball down before unleashing a thunderbolt of a strike past Welshman Glyn Garner in the Bury goal. 1-0 Swansea after just 25 seconds of the match, cue delirium from the travelling masses who spilled onto the playing area to celebrate with their heroes.
Unfortunately, we still had another 89 minutes of football to play, plus lengthy periods of stoppage time due to constant infringements onto the pitch by Swansea fans, much to the anger of the players and fans of the home side.
After the chaotic scenes that followed Forbes’ early goal the game settled down into an uneventful, yet full blooded affair. Bury certainly weren’t thinking of their summer holidays and came close to equalising before the end of the first half, whilst Swansea’s star man Lee Trundle was struggling to get into the game on a very boggy surface.
At half time, all the talk in the away end was of Grimsby v Southend, which was still deadlocked at 0-0. The dream was on!
News got better early in the second half as reports filtered in that Grimsby had taken the lead against Southend; Michael Reddy’s strike for the Mariners was greeted like a Swansea goal. There was almost a double celebration moments later as Trundle was played in on goal, however he couldn’t keep control of the ball on the muddy surface and fluffed his chance to seal the game. This would prove to be Trundle’s last contribution on the pitch as he was substituted minutes later as Kenny Jackett looked to preserve the 1-0 lead. Despite this, Trundle was called into action in the final 10 minutes of the game, asked by Police and Stewards to help appease the Swansea fans behind ‘keeper Willy Gueret’s goal, many supporters had encroached onto the playing surface in anticipation of the final whistle, Trundle encouraged the fans to climb back behind the advertising hoardings in order for the game to finish smoothly.
Bury players appealed to the referee to call both teams into the tunnel and abandon the game; this did not go down well with Swansea’s substitute full back and “hard man” Andy Gurney who reportedly head-butted one of the opposition staff during a skirmish between the two benches as the game wore on. There was one final scare for Swansea when Bury forward Ricky Shakes was played in on goal; however he blazed his chance high over the bar and into the stand of jubilant Jacks.
Following what seemed like an eternity of injury time (not helped by yet more infringements onto the pitch from Swans fans), referee Colin Webster blew the full time whistle to spark the mother of all pitch invasions as Swansea fans from both stands swarmed onto the pitch to celebrate with their side. “Kenny Jackett’s Barmy Army” and “The Jacks are going up” rang around Gigg Lane as the players emerged from the directors’ box armed with champagne to greet the adoring masses.
But this is Swansea City. And at Swansea City things never run quite as smoothly as they should. During the celebrations goalkeeper Willy Gueret entered a heated discussion with police officers, which ended with the Frenchman being handcuffed and bundled away in just his football shorts, having thrown the rest of his kit to the fans. The players were soon forced into the stand and the celebrations on the pitch were cut to an abrupt finish.
Despite the intervention of Greater Manchester Police the smile on Swansea fans faces didn’t disappear for very long, as fans and players alike would have another chance to celebrate just days later at The Vetch Field’s final match, a F.A.W Premier Cup Final against Wrexham.
The Swans were promoted into Coca-Cola League One and manager Kenny Jackett had achieved the goal of Automatic Promotion in his first full season in charge. This success was important as it meant the club would now be playing their first season at the new stadium in Landore outside of the bottom division. The feel-good factor around the City and the Football Club was clear for all to see. Attendances at the last season at The Vetch had averaged 8,457. The following season in League One they had risen to 14,155. Many of the team that day at Bury would go on to help the team on their subsequent promotions to the Championship in 2008 and the Premier League in 2011. After four seasons in the bottom division Swansea City had climbed out, and this time around they looked much better equipped to not only stay out of it, but to strengthen as an outfit and expand the gap.
What they said:
“Sometimes in football, it’s your day, and this was our day. I’ve won promotions before as a player and a coach and I’ve played in the FA Cup final, but this is the best moment of my career by far. It’s a fantastic achievement, not just for myself and the players, but everyone at the club. It’s been a big, big team effort. Someone came up to me and said, ‘Last time we won promotion, we came straight back down.’ The usual optimistic Swansea supporter, then. He didn’t even say ‘Well done’!”