Category Archives: 1960s

Swansea-born international XI 1966

In 1966 a team of Swansea-born internationals played a charity match at the Vetch. And what a team it was:

Jack Kelsey, Harry Griffths, Ray Daniel, Mel Charles, Mel Nurse, Barrie Hole, John Charles, Ivor Allchurch, Len Allchurch, Trevor Ford, Barrie Jones.

It’s a pity they never all played for the Swans…

You can download the programme here. international xi 1966

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Swansea vs Arsenal 1968, the Vetch Field’s Record Attendance.

By Stuart Booker

On Saturday 17 February 1968, Arsenal visited the Vetch Field  to play Swansea Town in the Fourth round of the FA Cup. With Arsenal a First Division side, a cup upset was what the Fourth Division Swans aimed to achieve. The Vetch Field broke its record attendance, as 32,796 spectators squeezed in.  Fans remember being squeezed into the ground ‘like sardines’.

A header from Arsenal superstar Bobby Gould was to be the only goal of the game. Gould’s goal ended Swansea’s dream of a cup upset on a historic afternoon. Bert Mee, Arsenal’s manager, felt Swansea were ‘too good a footballing team to be lost in the obscurity of the Fourth Division’.[1]

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Despite its legacy as a record-breaking afternoon, the game is notable for being perhaps the first time significant football-related violence occurred inside and outside the Vetch Field.

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Bobby Gould heads Arsenal to victory. Western Mail, 19 February 1968, p. 16. 

Attendance declining due to affluence…

At the time of the match, football attendances were in long-term decline throughout Britain. The total attending Football League games had fallen from 41.2m for the 1948-9 season to 28.2m by 1971-2.[2] Despite occasional seasons where the figure increased slightly, Swansea’s attendances were in decline. Average home attendance for league games had fallen from 22,535 in 1948-49 to 7,694 by 1965-66.[3] Cardiff City faced a similar problem. Average league attendance at home games went from 35,091 in 1948-49 to 11,005 by 1965-66.[4]

Attendance figures

Swansea’s average league attendance from 1921 to 2017. A breakdown of the numbers can be found here.

The most significant reason for this decline was the rise of affluence among the working class. The 1950s saw an affluent society emerge as post-war austerity had ended. This was a decade of television, cars, DIY and better housing. Historian James Walvin, argues that technological and economic growth led to radical social changes.[5] Disposable incomes rose giving people greater choice in their leisure time. Sitting at home watching television or taking the car for a spin were more appealing to standing on the terraces on cold  afternoons, particularly for those with families and older generations. Family, too, was becoming more important in this better-off and some husbands were increasingly expected to spend time with their loved ones rather than disappear for an afternoon.

With alternative leisure options came the altered demographic of spectators. Crowds grew younger which led to less supervision of its behaviour from older, calmer fans.[6]  Even when older generations attended, they often occupied the increased amount of seated accommodation, leaving the terraced ends to the younger generations.[7] In line with the wider influences of the Teddy Boys and Mods and Rockers, a changing persona in the behaviour of the youth emerged.

Affluence also benefited the lifestyle of young people. Between 1951 and 1963, juvenile weekly wages rose by 83 per cent.[8]  More disposable income meant young fans could travel to away games. Less supervision and travelling away gave an opportunity for trouble to occur.

Despite falling attendance, football is still in demand…

Historian Matthew Taylor believes football in this period, while still extremely popular, was falling out of favour with those who had once supported it.[9] Swansea had gone from playing Division Two football for the 1964-65 season, to playing in Division Four by 1967-68. Despite this, the record attendance shows that football was still extremely popular, especially when the giants of Arsenal came to town.

Swansea’s directors noted the changing in attitude to football. In the match day programme, they voiced their opinion:

“Just like the old times to welcome so many of you to Vetch Field. We know that Arsenal have tempted many of you from your fireside, we think that some of you feel certain that cup football, rather than the bread and butter clashes in the Fourth Division provides the right sort of excitement, but whatever your beliefs – Croeso I Abertawe”.

To put the record crowd into perspective, under 4,000 turned up less than a month later for a league game with Lincoln City.[10] A new lowest attendance to date was then set against Hartlepool in the final game of the season. A mere 3,491 attended the game.[11]

Calm before the storm…

The day of the game was expected to be a chaotic affair, but not due to the risk of violence. The match clashed with the Swansea University College rag procession, a charity fancy dress parade. E.G. Hill, the South Wales Transport traffic manager, stated that people should expect the complete disorganisation of public transport.[12] Arsenal fans were flooding into Swansea from 8am onwards. Many came on special coaches at £1 per head, whilst others made the journey by car or train. Police and organisers were concerned that Swansea would grind to a standstill.

charity event

Swansea University College’s charity ‘rag procession’. South Wales Evening Post, 19 February 1968, p. 1. 

Behind the scenes, some were concerned that the game would not happen. Ground staff arrived at the Vetch on the morning of the cup-tie to find someone had sawn through the goalposts at the east end of the ground. Quick improvisation meant the goalposts were reinforced with an angled iron wand. Match referee T.R. Walters and both managers were happy with the work. Precautionary measures had been taken with goalposts being sent over from Cardiff.

Who was behind the vandalism still remains unsolved today and holds a place in Vetch Field legend. Club secretary Gordon Daniels claimed it was a stupid prank and obviously the work of students.[13] David Rann, chair of the Swansea charities week, objected the allegations, stating how there was no evidence to support the claim.[14]

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Groundsman Syd Tucker examining the severed Vetch Field goalposts. South Wales Evening Post, 19 February 1968, p. 1.

The possibility of violence was not completely ruled out. By 1968, violence was emerging at football games. At the start of the 1967/68 season, Geoffrey Green wrote a column in The Times noting how hooliganism on the terraces had become a ‘universal problem’.[15]

Weary of the potential for violence, The Official Swans Supporters’ News section of the match day programme issued an appeal to notably young supporters. They were asked not to run onto the playing area during the match and requested not to throw rolls of paper onto the pitch.

The violence inside the Vetch…

Inside the Vetch, it was apparent that a small but significant minority ignored the request to behave themselves. The game was stopped for two minutes whilst seven youths were led from the ground by police. Police helmets went flying when police went into the crowd to break up a fight between groups of youths.

youths dragged from field before start of second half

Youths dragged from the pitch before the start of the second half. Western Mail, 19 February 1968, p. 1.

The violence outside the Vetch…

Away from the Vetch, violence occurred throughout the streets of Swansea. Inside Swansea market plums, tomatoes and peaches were grabbed from stalls and used as ammunition in a wave of vandalism. One young girl working in the market was injured during the violence. A nuisance was reported in the British Home Stores on Oxford Street. A group, thought to be Arsenal fans, attacked a number of programme sellers in the town. They made off with an estimated £20 worth of programmes. On reflection, Billy Lucas, Swansea manager, felt someone had to ‘crack down on this madness’.[16]

Other accounts of violence the same weekend…

On the same weekend, football related violence occurred in other parts of Britain. A friendly between Newcastle United and Glasgow Celtic saw twenty-four fans arrested in and around St. James Park. A further seventy spectators were ejected from the ground. The Fourth Round FA fixture between Tottenham and Preston at White Hart Lane saw eighteen arrests made.

Ticket stub from the Arsenal Game. For more, see the Swans100 collection on the People’s Collection of Wales.

A transformed South Wales Derby, a sign of the times… 

The emergence of football hooliganism in Swansea had a significant effect on the South Wales derby. Prior to the Arsenal cup-tie, no significant violence had occurred in meetings between Swansea and Cardiff. In the 1940s and 50s supporters of both teams watched in unsegregated zones. At worse, verbal exchanges in the form of ‘banter’, occurred between fans. United by their interest in South Walian football, no largescale violence occurred. It was not unusual for some fans to watch Swansea one weekend and Cardiff the next.

A Division Two meeting at the Vetch between the two sides in March 1960 epitomised the friendly atmosphere. With Cardiff 3-0 up at half time, Swansea struck back in the second half to draw 3-3. Swansea player Barrie Jones commented how ‘both sets of fans clapped us off at the end… there was about four policemen in the corner of the ground and not a hint of trouble’.[17]

It was a different story when the two teams met in the two-legged Welsh cup final of 1969. The 3-1 Cardiff victory at the Vetch was overshadowed by violence. Supporters were asked not to throw missiles- an action that temporarily halted the game. On their return journey, Cardiff fans wrecked two train carriages. Windows were smashed and seats slashed. With the communications cord pulled ten times, the train arrived in Cardiff 50 minutes late.

Train damage photo vs Cardiff 1969

Part of the train carriage damage by Cardiff fans. Western Mail, 23 April 1969, p. 1.

A representative from the railway summed up the changing atmosphere of the derby. Prior to this, the railway had praised Cardiff fans for good behaviour. The representative hoped the football related vandalism would not be ‘the start of vandalism on the scale experienced elsewhere’.[18]

The return leg at Ninian Park featured further violence. Police broke up scuffles between supporters in the popular bank section of the ground. Cardiff fans attacked two coaches transporting Swansea fans. With windows smashed and dented bodywork, the damage totalled £150. The once friendly atmosphere of the South Wales derby had evidently disappeared.

Summary…

The Swansea vs Arsenal FA cup-tie is remembered as the game which set the Vetch Field’s highest attendance. It is not remembered for being the first time significant football related violence occurred in the stadium and town. The violence was committed by a minority of young supporters, but witnessed by the majority of the record attendance. The violence and unrest that occurred was a product of the time. It was part of a trend that was emerging across football. Falling attendance opened the possibility for younger generation to become involved in trouble. The trend is evident through the transformation of behaviour in the South Wales Derby.

Swans’ team: John, Roy Evans, Vic Gomersall, Herbie Williams, Brian Purcell, Davis, Humphries, Ivor Allchurch, Keith Todd, Screen, and B Evans.

Download the whole programme

Further reading:

  • To view the match day progamme for the Arsenal game, click here.
  • For a general history of football, see: Matthew Taylor, The Association Game: a History of British Football (Harlow: Pearson/Longman, 2008).
  • A brief history of FA Cup, by David Barber, can be read by clicking here.
  • More information on the history of football hooliganism can be found by reading: Steve Frodick & Peter Marsh, Football Hooliganism (Cullompton: Willan Publishing, 2005).

References:

[1] Western Mail, 19 February 1968, p. 16.

[2] Matthew, Taylor, The Association Game: a History of British Football (Harlow: Pearson/Longman, 2008).

[3] Swans 100 Archive, Average League Attendances, available by clicking here.

[4] Brian Tabner, Through the Turnstiles (Harefield: Yore, 1992).

[5] James, Walvin, The People’s Game: A Social History of British Football (London: Allen Lane, 1975), p. 157.

[6] Richard Holt, Sport and the British: a Modern History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 335.

[7] Holt, p. 335.

[8] Holt, p. 335.

[9] Taylor, p. 252.

[10] David, Farmer, Swansea City 1912-1982 (London: Pelham, 1982), p. 174.

[11] Farmer, p. 174.

[12] South Wales Evening Post, 17 February 1968, p. 1.

[13] South Wales Evening Post, 17 February 1968, p. 1.

[14] South Wales Evening Post, 17 February 1968, p. 1.

[15] The Times, 19 August 1967.

[16] Western Mail, 19 February 1968, p. 1.

[17] Neil Palmer, Derby Days: Cardiff City v Swansea City (Skipton: Vertical Editions, 2011), p. 32.

[18] South Wales Evening Post, 23 April 1969, p. 1.

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The gods are with Swansea: looking forward to the FA Cup quarterfinal 1964

Fans, including the father of Mel and John Charles, discuss Swansea’s chances against Liverpool in the FA Cup quarterfinal in 1964. Published in the Daily Mirror, 27 February 1964. Reused for non-commercial purposes from  www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk 

Ned Charles

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1964 FA Cup quaterfinal Swans v Liverpool

Click to enlarge and zoom in.

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1963-64 scrapbook

1963-64 scrapbook

 

1963-64 scrapbook

1963-64 scrapbook

1963-64 scrapbook

Read about the match build up here

Read about Swansea at Anfield, Liverpool in the League here.

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Newsreels of Swansea Town in the FA Cup 1950s and 1960s.

Newsreel footage of Swansea Town FA Cup and Welsh Cup matches from the 1950s and 1960s.

Newsreels were shown at the cinema before the main feature. In the 50s and 60s, with little football on tv, they were most the common way for fans to see big clubs in action or the important away games of their own teams.

FA Cup round 5, Swansea Town v Newcastle United 1952

Newcastle United v Swansea Town, FA Cup round 3, 1953

FA Cup round 4, Swansea Town v Stoke City 1955

FA Cup round 5, Swansea Town v Sunderland, 1955

Burnley v Swansea Town, FA Cup 1961

Welsh Cup final 1961 Swansea Town v Bangor City, Ninian Park

Preston North End v Swansea Town, FA Cup semi-final 1964 at Villa Park

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Record attendance at the Vetch

The record attendance for a match at the Vetch was against Arsenal for the FA Cup 4th round in 1968. 32,786 people somehow squeezed themselves into the Vetch, only to see the lads go down by the only goal of the match, scored by Bobby Gould. Fans remember being squeezed into the ground ‘like sardines’.

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Programme cover from 1968 clash

To put the crowd size into perspective, only a month later, under 4,000 watched the home draw with Lincoln City.

Arsenal were rather lucky to win, as this report in the Daily Express noted.

Express 19 Feb 1968

Swans’ team: John, Roy Evans, Vic Gomersall, Herbie Williams, Brian Purcell, Davis, Humphries, Ivor Allchurch, Keith Todd, Screen, and B Evans.

Roy Morgan004

The match was also one of the first to see serious crowd trouble at the Vetch.

You can download the whole match programme here.

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Swansea Town/City average league attendances

attendances

Year Average
1921       13,370
1922       11,685
1923       15,050
1924       14,870
1925       12,600
1926       16,118
1927       14,286
1928       12,153
1929       11,201
1930       12,101
1931       10,506
1932         9,756
1933         9,566
1934         8,204
1935         8,332
1936         8,966
1937         9,880
1938       12,015
1939       10,843
1947       21,039
1948       17,858
1949       22,535
1950       21,571
1951       19,398
1952       18,228
1953       20,469
1954       17,197
1955       21,052
1956       19,487
1957       16,585
1958       15,711
1959       14,612
1960       14,355
1961       12,084
1962       12,174
1963       10,365
1964       10,911
1965       10,467
1966         7,694
1967         6,390
1968         5,855
1969         5,664
1970         8,406
1971         8,034
1972         6,412
1973         3,104
1974         2,815
1975         2,070
1976         2,932
1977         5,311
1978         8,108
1979       13,746
1980       14,391
1981       13,143
1982       18,226
1983       11,704
1984         6,980
1985         4,421
1986         4,306
1987         5,169
1988         4,471
1989         4,897
1990         4,223
1991         3,665
1992         3,367
1993         5,199
1994         3,534
1995         3,582
1996         2,996
1997         3,850
1998         3,443
1999         5,225
2000         5,895
2001         4,913
2002         3,690
2003         5,160
2004         6,853
2005         8,458
2006       14,112
2007       12,720
2008       13,520
2009       15,187
2010       15,407
2011       15,507
2012       19,946
2013       20,370
2014       20,407
2015       20,555
2016       20,711
2017       20,619

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Swansea Town v Cardiff City 1969 Welsh Cup Final

BY MARK CAREY

22 April 1969, 1st leg, Vetch Field

Swansea Town 1-3 Cardiff City

Swansea goal: Herbie Williams       Cardiff goals: John Toshack (2), Mel Nurse (og)
Attendance: 10,207

Swansea Town’s bid to re-enter the European Cup Winners’ Cup suffered a huge setback as they were comfortably beaten by a strong Cardiff City side. ‘City slickers give Swansea a roasting’ was the title of the article in the Evening Post, with the reporter saying ‘Cardiff went about their task with the thoroughness of a demolition squad’. Cardiff won the game within the first half going into the break 3-0 up. City gave the shaky Swansea defence a battering, whilst they were sound in every department. The away side scored their first two goals within the opening 20 minutes, a 20-year old John Toshack heading into the net off a Frank Sharp delivery. The second came through unfortunate circumstances when Swans captain Mel Nurse bundled the ball into his own net. Toshack then found the net again for Cardiff’s third, another headed effort this time coming off a Don Murray free kick.

Swansea’s performance was far from their best. The only real threat was coming from Brian Evans. Evans was lively upfront forcing Cardiff goalkeeper Dai Davies to make a fine save before later striking the bar. It was Evans who laid on a sublime ball to Herbie Williams as he snatched a consolation goal for the Swans on the 50th minute.

The game will unfortunately be remembered by many for the wrong reasons due to the actions of jubilant Cardiff City fans after the game. Celebrations got out of hand during the train journey home, when a number fans destroyed a carriage on the 9.20 train from Swansea to Bristol. Windows were smashed, seats slashed, lampshades wrecked and fire extinguishers and buckets were thrown onto the track. The train was delayed by 50 minutes due to Cardiff supporters pulling the emergency cord a total of 10 times. The police boarded the train at Bridgend and a police dog was used to subdue the hooligans.

A British railway spokesman expressed his disappointment in the behaviour of the Cardiff fans saying ‘up until the present this has not been a problem in south Wales’. The carriage that was damaged was put out of service indefinitely. Many people regard this as one of the starting points to the fierce rivalry between the two clubs we now see today.

29 April 1969, 2nd Leg, Ninian Park

Cardiff City 2-0 Swansea Town
Attendance 12,617

Goals: Toshack, Lea

Swansea City put in a brave performance in the second leg; however the difference between the two sides was one man. John Toshack. Swansea matched Cardiff’s superior skill and know-how with courage and determination. They may have even taken the lead if only the ball fell kindlier for their forwards. All of Swansea’s hard work was undone by a John Toshack header on the 33rd minute. There was of course still hope as the tie was decided on points rather than goals, and the Swans pressed hard for an equaliser with Brian Grey and Willie Screen having their chances blocked by the battling Cardiff defence.

The tie was decided with Toshack again playing a role in the goal, heading forward for Leslie Lea to smash home from close range leaving Swans goalkeeper Mike Hayes with no chance. Swansea did have one glorious opportunity to pull one back with Evans rounding the defence and with only Davies to beat he pulled his shot across the goal mouth and out for a goal kick. A special mention was given in the press’ reports to a young Carl Slee who was handed the audacious task of marking Toshack and performed his job admirably.

Just as the previous match, violence erupted after the game. Cardiff City fans attacked two of the coaches carrying Swansea fans back home. Causing £150 worth of damage to the first coach smashing the windows and denting the sides, the hooligans were said to be throwing anything they could get their hands on from bricks to milk bottles from front door steps. The police were immediately called by the driver and order was restored. The other coach in question was damaged during the game. The owner of the coach company Mr Trevor Toms was quoted saying ‘it was the worst trouble his company have had in 20 years of transporting Swans fans across the country’.

Team Line ups (unchanged for both games)

Swansea – Hayes, Lawrence, Gomersall, Slee, Nurse (c), Hughes, Grey, Thomas,  H Williams, A Williams, Evans

Cardiff- Davies, Derrett, Carver, King, Murray, Harris, Sharp, Clark, Lea, Toshack, Jones

Referee- L Callaghan (for both ties)

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“Jack Army Collection: Style + Hard + Cool = Beer + Football + Chicks”

Click to enlarge

Before it became purchase to buy replica shirts and official merchandise in the 1980s, fans used to make their own ways of displaying support for the Swans.  As far back as the 1920s, this involved making ‘favours’ (rosettes or ribbons) or even wearing leeks.

We’ve had one home-made rosette from the 1960s donated to the project. It’s a little faded but it was very carefully made, perhaps with some help from Mum for the embroidery? Mothers, grandmothers and aunties were also employed into knitting many a black and white scarf.

Even after official merchandise became available, fans liked to make their own and the development of cheap printing for t-shirts allowed the imagination to be set free.  Many t-shirts took on the style of concert tour shirts, listing the away games that the Jack Army was visiting in their annual tour of English football grounds.

These t-shirts were all part of the close links that developed in the 1980s between fashion and following football. Labels mattered, being cool mattered, wearing the right gear mattered. Sometimes this  was a little tongue in cheek but sometimes it was deadly serious.

Here’s a great ad for T-shirts from the Love, Peace and Swansea City fanzine, issue 6 May 1993.

 

 

 

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The Vetch – The Board Room (1960s?)

Click to enlarge. The Board Room under the Centre Stand. Later this room became part of the Harry Griffiths Bar.

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