Jimmy Rimmer testimonial. Swansea City v Manchester United 24 February 1987
Category Archives: 1980s
A poem about the Vetch by Geoff Tanner
Swansea City completed their spectacular rise through the leagues by clinching promotion to the first division for the first time in their history with a 3-1 away win at Preston. Just six years earlier, the Swans had been forced to apply for re-election to the Football League after finishing bottom of the Fourth Division but the win at Deepdale secured a third promotion in 4 seasons for John Toshack and his side.
Swansea went into the match knowing that a win would be enough to pip Blackburn Rovers to the third and final promotion place thanks to their superior goal difference. Preston needed the points for very different reasons. Languishing in 20th place in the league, they sought to ruin the swans’ promotion party in order to keep their survival hopes alive.
The Swans were backed by more than 10,000 supporters who made the long trip to North West England. This was the biggest away support for the South Wales club “since Swansea met Preston at Villa Park in 1964” (South Wales Evening Post, 2 May 1981). Unusually, the Preston supporters were outnumbered by jacks in their own ground. Throughout the match, the travelling contingent backed their team vocally and “included Cwm Rhondda and the Welsh national anthem in their musical repertoire” (South Wales Evening Post, 2 May 1981).
The Swans were without captain John Mahoney who picked up an injury in a 2-2 draw with Luton Town at the Vetch Field earlier in the week. In the opening periods of the game, both sides enjoyed periods of pressure but it was Swansea who struck first. After cutting inside from the left wing, Leighton James broke the deadlock with 24 minutes on the clock. Preston goalkeeper Roy Tunks stood little chance of saving James’ shot which sailed over him and into the top corner. Within minutes, the swans had doubled their lead after Neil Robinson’s cross found an unmarked Tommy Craig whose shot struck the Preston keeper before trickling over the line. The Swans now had a foot in the door of the First Division and left the pitch at half time with a 2 goal lead following a fast paced first half.
Determined to beat the drop, Preston had no choice but to push forward in the second half and several convincing attacking moves reminded the travelling Swansea fans that the game was far from over. The pace of the second half was slower than that of the first and as the game progressed, Swansea seemed the more comfortable of the two sides. Alex Bruce pulled one back for Preston on 78 minutes after Swansea goalkeeper David Stewart failed to deal with a high ball in the box.
It was now nail-biting time for the many thousands of Swans fans inside the ground. With 87 minutes gone, Jeremy Charles put the game beyond doubt with a powerful drive from just 10 yards out which sent the travelling supporters into absolute delirium. The match was won and Swansea City had secured themselves a place in the top flight of English football for the first time in their 69 year history.
However, this was not the end of the season for the Swans who still had a Welsh Cup final against Hereford United to look forward to. Having already qualified for the European Cup Winners’ Cup due to Hereford’s ineligibility to represent Wales, the Swans added some silverware to their cabinet following a 2-1 victory over the Bulls in the final which was played over two legs.
The 1980-81 season and particularly the promotion clincher at Deepdale will live long in the memories of all Swansea fans who were fortunate enough to experience them.The speed of Swansea’s rise from the Fourth Division to the First earned them praise from many highly respected figures in football. Never before had a side managed to climb the league system as quickly as the swans did under John Toshack. Bill Shankly, whom Tosh had played for at Liverpool, applauded the club’s remarkable achievements. In an interview with BBC Sport shortly after the match at Preston, he asserted that Toshack could be “manager of the century”.
“This is the greatest day in the history of Swansea City and there’s no reason why they can’t stabilise themselves in the big league” he added.
There was a time when football fans were not treated very well. Hooliganism led to supporters all being tarnished with the same brush: animals to be controlled and caged. Fences were erected in front of terraces across the UK in the 1970s. Some were scaled down after the Hillsborough disaster but it was the late 1990s before they were removed completely at the Vetch. As this 1980s photo from Swansea shows, the fences didn’t stop fans enjoying themselves but they were degrading and at Hillsborough they cost 96 people their lives.
Photo copyright of South Wales Evening Post.
Click on images to enlarge. With a game against Man City coming up, here are images from the programme for the home game played almost exactly thirty years in April 1982. This is hard to believe because this is one of the games that stands out most clearly in my memory. It came at the end of a great week, in which the Swans had already beaten Southampton 1-0 at the Vetch, and the team stood in third place in Division One (the old highest division). The Swans beat City 2-0 in a game played in brilliant sunshine in front of a crowd of 19,212, and it was marked by a goal scored from a fantastic long-range shot by Gary Stanley. It seemed then that the Swans were unstoppable and could even pip Liverpool to the title. But looking back, the game against City in fact marked almost the all-time high in the club’s fortunes. Five of the remaining six games of the season were lost, and the club finished in sixth place in the league. The slump continued into the next season, and relegation ensued. The rest as they say is history. What a day that was, though, and it can be relived on Match of the Day footage to be found on the ‘golden years’ videos and DVDs.
Any thoughts or memories about that game or others against City? If so, let us have them.
Click on the images to enlarge. With a game against Wigan coming up, does anyone have any memories of games against the Latics? No? I thought not. The game in August 1985, featured above, was the first of a new season in what was then described as Canon League Division 3 (now League 1). The previous season the Swans had avoided the drop to the bottom division on the very last day of the season when, managed by John Bond, they drew 0-0 at home to Bristol City. The game against Wigan was lost 1-0 in front of 4,700 spectators, and this set the tone for a dismal season which eventually ended in relegation. Indeed, the club was lucky to survive at all. Bond (‘Call me boss’)was sacked just before Christmas and the Swans went into receivership. Those were very dark days, another episode in which the club nearly had its life support machine switched off.
Eileen Morgan saw her first Swans game in 1946, and her survey response contains some very vivid memories. Click here.
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.
We have now had several hundred surveys filled in or returned to us. Thanks to those who have taken the time to complete the form, even though it does take some time. Your memories are invaluable to a project such as this and they will be preserved on the site.
One very interesting thing emerging from the surveys is that during the 1950s and 1960s significant numbers of fans from Merthyr, Treorchy, Treherbert, and Aberdare watched the Swans one week and Cardiff City the next. [In fact, and this might come as a surprise or shock to some, I know a couple of people who still attend the home games of both Cardiff and the Swans. Between games they receive counselling] When the two clubs played one another during the 1940s and 1950s, supporters mingled quite freely, and on the North Bank at the Vetch the Bluebirds fans congregated at the ‘town end’. Although banter and only the occasional left hook was exchanged between the different sets of supporters, there was no full-scale violence of the type that became common place later.
It is possible to date very precisely when ‘aggro’ began to occur between fans of the Swans and Cardiff. This happened on a large scale in Welsh Cup ties in 1968-9 and 1969-70 when trains and coaches were trashed and full-scale fighting broke out for the first time. This set a pattern of heightened tension which continues to this day, even though there have been long periods when the two clubs have not actually played one another. So a couple of questions:
1. Do you have fathers or grandfathers who used to go to both Ninian Park and the Vetch?
2. When, if at all, did you first experience violence at Cardiff- Swans games?
Let us know, and tell us your stories.
Some replies from Twitter:
smalclacene: “Thought my dad was only man to have held SCFC and CCFC STs. Then my neighbor admitted the same. Valleys boys, see: confused.”
Steven Carroll: “I’ve heard of someone who’s had seasons for both. Can’t understand it personally.”
There are some more articles about the rivalry here.
By Huw Cooze
I’ve seen many, many games in my 40 odd years following the Swans, none more intense than Preston in 1981. We left the Millers Arms in Ynystawe early in a convoy of six cars, but by the time we reached the M4 just a mile away the convoy had split up.
Despite passing hordes of the Jack Army making their way to Deepdale, we never saw any of our lot again until we hit a pub on the outskirts of Preston. It had not been planned and without the aid of mobile phones it was quite uncanny that all six cars stopped in the same pub. Great minds think alike.
The game itself passed me by although I seem to remember a group of about 50 Blackburn Rovers supporters to our left who had come over to support their Lancashire neighbours hoping for a Preston victory in order for Blackburn to pip us at the post. Why they weren’t at Bristol Rovers supporting their own team was beyond me.
They had something to cheer when Preston pulled one back and news filtered through that Blackburn were winning at Eastville but we were still 2-1 up at this stage as I took leave and went to the toilet.
From my position behind the goal it took quite a while to push through the crowd. The toilets were located to the rear of the stand. There were many grown men there pacing nervously like expectant dads in a maternity ward. They were unable to watch the end of the game. Everyone knew that if Preston scored Blackburn would be promoted and not us.
I got back to my place just in time to see Jeremy Charles score our third goal and seal our place in history. That was the signal for all those ‘expectant dads’ to rush back to the stands to join in the celebrations. Happy days…
Do you remember the club shop at the Vetch?
It was tiny, little more than a converted front room in a terraced house. And on a Saturday afternoon it would be jam packed with fans trying to part with some money and not always succeeding. If you wanted to browse the limited stock you had to get there early or go mid week. If you did go when there wasn’t a game on, you might see a player or even get served by one. I saw Cyril the Swan in there once too.
It’s not clear when it opened but in 1971 the material on sale was very meagre.
The small size and being located in a side street and opposite a busy pub weren’t exactly good for business and the match programme for the Swans’ first game in Division 1 told fans that they had to ask the police to be let through the barriers if they wanted to buy something.
That year (1981) the club were selling seven types of scarves, ranging from a ‘silk’ one saying “Up, up and away Swans” for £1.20, to a ladies headscarf for £3.50. There were lots of types of pens too and a car sun visor for £1.60. Adult replica shirts were £11.64, which today would be about £35 once inflation is taken into account. The club was also selling men’s tracksuits at £30.99, which today would work out at about £93. Who said football was cheap in the past! I suspect the club must have sold many more of the 64p rulers that imaginatively declared “Swans rule OK”.
The merchandise available varied over the years in quality and quantity but by the 1990s visiting the shops of other lower league clubs when we played them away made you realise how far behind the times we were falling.
The club shop was as far from the Liberty’s superstore as a corner shop is to Tescos but it was all part of the charm of the Vetch.
Some responses from the fans:
“Do you remember the old club shop?” Oh Yes, more than 7 people in there, jam packed! #jackmemories” Neil
“I only lived a few doors away on William st, and used to go and buy random bundles of programmes for £1 and pennants.” William Grove.
“Dad’s ‘football in the community’ office was upstairs…” Ian Curtis
“Memories of the mountain of pointless match day programmes for sale QPR v Barnsley in old div 2! Got loads in attic!” Dean Daniel
“It was classic and iconic -forget your modern day superstores. Was it Myra who worked there, the old girl? #clubshopisahouse” Jacs y Gogledd
“Myra we loved you. What about the programme shop down the corridor?” Richard Bailey
“Yeah but no matter how many was in there, good old Maria sorted the tickets out no fuss
#fablady” Robert Day
“Wow those were the days! Buying tickets,programmes and a few replica shirts in the little old box room!
#goodtimes” Jason Evans
“Did 6th form work experience in the ‘commercial dept’. There was a huge mushroom up in a corner of the back room ceiling!” Nick Clark