Category Archives: 1990s

‘Swansea ‘til I die’: Nostalgia, identity and family in modern football

My career as a Swans supporter has structured my life. I cannot put it any more strongly. Relationships have come and gone (and the Swans have played a part at times), my career has changed and my life circumstances have altered, but the Swans have been a constant throughout it all. Even though the fortunes of the team have fluctuated wildly over the years I have supported them, the club have always played a huge role in the background of my existence, and have been the thing I have planned my everyday life around. Without the Swans, how would I idle away time on rumours or arguments on forums? How would I plot the months between August and May? What would I do? No idea. Supporting the Swans is a kind of totalising world … My friends, my social life, my moods – all intricately dependent upon the Swans. I celebrate this, rather than bemoan it! STID

Leighton (32)

These words were written as a response to a survey to record fans’ memories of supporting Swansea City FC, a club that after decades of languishing in the lower division joined the game’s elite in the Premier League in 2011. The project was part of the commemoration of the club’s centenary in 2012 and, as this quote illustrates, the themes it raised both extended beyond football itself and also illustrated the powerful role the game has in some people’s lives and perceptions of the world.

Through a series of prompts and open questions people were asked for their memories of supporting the Swans and to reflect on what the club meant to them. What I want to do today is to examine some of the themes that arose, in particular those of nostalgia, identity and family. These are not specific to football in Swansea or Wales but understanding recent and contemporary Welsh culture should not just mean concentrating on those few aspects of cultural life that are unique to Wales. Indeed, one of the most powerful lessons of studying Welsh sport is how Welsh popular culture exists within a wider British and indeed western context. The basic needs, rhythms and concerns of the Welsh are not specific to Wales.

I

Football has a powerful sense of its own history. Supporters boast a strong sense of the traditions and identities of their clubs; many fans hoard old programmes, ticket stubs, scarves and other pieces of memorabilia that signify their club’s history and their personal history of attachment to it. They may not go through these very often but they keep them in shoe boxes, in attics and in the garage, unwilling to throw away relics of a lifetime of commitment. Similarly, videos and books of past triumphs are popular products and often compensate for a lack of present success. Moreover, there is often a strong sense of nostalgia for the past, a past where, in the imagination at least, football culture was somehow better.

What exactly there is nostalgia for is difficult to pinpoint and varies across the generations. For fans whose memories stretch into the early 1960s and beyond, football’s past is perceived as an era when players were working men and the terraces smelt of woodbines and heaved with locals in flat caps who cheered on the boys but knew how to behave. For the next generation, the nostalgia is for a more flamboyant, pre-Premiership era when players were macho stars, and the terraces were packed with noisy young tearaways who liked a ruck with their football, but were essentially good lads at heart who only picked on their own kind.

Nostalgia has clearly become evident at Swansea City in the past few seasons, not so because of the club’s elevation to the Premiership in 2011 but because of the 2005 move to the Liberty Stadium from the Vetch Field, the club’s home since its creation in 1912.

Amongst older fans there is a general welcoming of the new stadium. It is quite simply cleaner, more comfortable and more modern than the Vetch. With better sightlines too, the new stadium offers a superior all-round experience to the middle-aged and older generations. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t had to be adaption for those fans. New routines, new travel routes, new parking places and new drinking places have all had to be developed. The rhythms of people’s Saturdays have changed but the process of change seems to have been relatively painless. Such habits and behaviours may on the surface just seem to be trivial and inconsequential but we should not underestimate the importance of what some historians call the ‘everyday’. If history is about people as much as processes then the ordinary is as important as the extraordinary.

The celebration of the Liberty Stadium is something shared by a younger generation in their teens. For them the Vetch Field is the subject of hazy childhood memories or even just something talked about by older family members. They have grown up in an era of all-seater stadiums, not just for the game’s elite but for any club that aspires to join them.

For another generation, those who grew up going to the Vetch but whose legs are still young enough to happily stand for two hours in the cold there is a more divided view of the change. There is a memory that while the terraces could be noisy, full, fun and electric, they could also be cold, sparse and aggressive. Some of this generation show the pragmatism of football fans, where there is a willingness to sacrifice tradition and history in the name of progress. As one 31-year-old fan put it, the move to the Liberty was ‘a step back in experience, but a massive step forward for the club as a whole’. Such fans accept that new a stadium was inevitable in the modern game, a necessary change to bring higher revenues, attract better players and assist the club’s move up the leagues. The fact that in less than a decade the club has moved from nearly falling out of the professional league structure altogether to residing in the top division with the game’s elite provides a vindication of that view, a confirmation that more has been gained on the pitch than has been lost off it. And ultimately football is a game about success. Results matter.

Even though there is awareness of the danger of a rose-tinted view of the past, this generation still tend to think that much has been lost. Sitting down in stadia means not being able to choose who you are with; groups of friends used to standing together are now dispersed across the Liberty. Some feel this has brought a loss of atmosphere as the singers are dispersed and sitting itself makes people more reserved, less likely to shout and let forth. People are also aware that the change is illustrative of a wider shift in football culture, where the game has somehow lost something of its soul. A 39 year old reflected, ‘The matchday experience is not what it was – queuing for ten minutes for a plastic pint doesn’t appeal to me. The Liberty experience is much more corporate. Overpriced beer/food etc. You shouldn’t serve French fries at a football match.’

The sense of loss can be quite profound, illustrating the depth of feeling some have for the club and for football. A 47-year-old reflected:

I loved the Vetch it was OURS. I loved the smell of the turf and the liniment, tobacco & booze, 3 inches of piss on the floor of the bogs, the swearing, shouting, singing & fighting. The Liberty’s only ok in a bland 21st century, Sky TV obsessed way. I hate the fans in front of me constantly on their smartphones, texting, chatting & playing bloody games when they should be getting behind the team. I can’t stand vacant eyed kids slopping down overpriced shitty junk food and pawing at Dad (or worse Mum) to go and get them fizzy drinks. The view’s good though.

Even those less emotional about this can have the feeling that something is not quite right. A 33-year-old said of the new matchday experience: ‘doesn’t feel like the club I loved as much. Feels like I’m cheating on my slightly backward underachieving Mrs with her better looking, high flying sister.’ Even a 21 year old could say: ‘I feel it doesn’t have the same special feel as going to the Vetch and smelling the burger vans and hearing Daydream Believer playing with the North Bank singing. Being at the Vetch was just simply more entertaining than the Liberty (the quality of football is much better these days though)’.

Yet these feelings cannot be interpreted in a straight forward fashion. Some of the longing for the Vetch is mixed up with the experience of men looking back fondly on their own youth, a time of fewer responsibilities, of more drinking and hanging out with mates. They will also fade with time. One 23-year-old remembered of the Vetch ‘you could feel the history within its walls’. Now, as the Liberty stadium ages, it is becoming associated with more and more new memories, especially as the club as moved up the leagues. The Liberty is getting its own history, moments, that on the pitch at least, even exceed what happened at the Vetch.

Nostalgia is a common condition in post-industrial societies such as Britain and a reaction to dislocating and unwelcome changes. For many Swansea fans, nostalgia is also furthered by a sense that the club is no longer theirs so much. For non-season ticket holders getting into matches is now very difficult. The resentment of this amongst lifelong fans is compounded by a sense that the tickets are being taken up by what is termed ‘plastics’, fans who are only there because of the club’s recent success and who will disappear again should the club get relegated. There are fans who have been attending regularly all their lives, for decades, yet were unable to see a single game last season in what was perhaps the club’s most successful year. It is little wonder then that there is a nostalgia for a past, when you could just turn up, when you were one of a select few, when your support mattered and couldn’t just be replaced by someone else in the queue for tickets. The club has defined much of such people’s lives. They now feel cast aside and their pride in the club’s achievements is tinged by a sense that they have had little thanks for helping make sure that the club exists at all.

It maybe that online surveys of the type employed by this project over represent the extent of nostalgia. Those willing to reflect on their experiences through writing are perhaps those who tend to dwell on these things, whereas other fans are just more content than their club is now doing well. But, whatever the case, there is an important point here about how the present shapes our view of the past that always need to be remembered in oral history. Studying the club’s history at a time of unprecedented success is unavoidably going to colour how people remember that club’s past.

II

The project has also revealed some trends in the history of the club that run counter to assumptions about the nature of football fandom. For all the talk of the tribal and unconditional loyalty of fans, of being Swansea ‘til I die as the song goes, attendances have ebbed and flowed according to fortunes on the pitch. Some fans like to talk in these terms: ‘SCFC is like a family member to me. I was at the Vetch with crowds of 3000, I’m there now in the premiership, and if we went back to League 2 with crowds of 3000 I’d still be there.’ They talk of how, to quote one 44-year-old, ‘The Swans always have been and always will be part of who I am’.

But others, when reflecting on their lives, articulate how their interest and attendance has fluctuated according to family and financial circumstances and the performances of the team. Having young children in particular has taken men and women away from watching. Going away to college or working weekend shifts are other factors that hit attendance. Fewer admitted to not going when the team was not well, no doubt because loyalty is generally regarded as an important quality in football fandom, but average attendance patterns clearly show how significant these shifts have been.

One of the defining features of Swansea fandom is the relationship with rival club Cardiff City. Yet the intense and sometimes violent rivalry between the Swans and Cardiff seems rather different when placed alongside the memories of people from the 1940s, 50 and 60s of watching both clubs. This was partly about seeking entertainment, with some fans being willing to travel across south Wales to see whichever of the two clubs had the most attractive fixtures or was playing the best football. Indeed, in 1952 the manager of the club even asked the league if home games could be scheduled when 1st division Cardiff City were away because he feared fans would prefer watching the better standard of football forty miles away.

Those fans most likely to watch both clubs were not from Swansea but the south Wales valleys. Transport links did mean there were natural catchment areas for both football clubs but the spread of working-class car ownership in the 1950s and 60s and the associated improvements in roads brought more flexibility in people’s choices over which teams to support.

Such behaviour declined significantly from the late 1960s when in the face of the rise of the televised game loyalty to a single club became a significant feature of fan culture amongst smaller clubs across the UK. Moreover, alongside this, regional rivalries replaced regional identities. Many Cardiff and Swansea fans thus began wanting the other to lose and even singing about hating one another. This does not mean a common Welsh identity lost all relevance. It still helps explain the hatred that can be found, with football being intermingled with a sense of resentment over the Welsh Cardiff-centric media and government. Other fans, meanwhile, continue to want to see Cardiff doing well, but just not as well as Swansea. Indeed, throughout the post-war period fans have seen the club as representing Wales against English opponents.

There does not appear to be any clear correlation between ‘hating’ Cardiff and coming from Swansea. Nor do those fans who replied to the survey who are not from Swansea itself appear to talk about their loyalty to the club in less powerful terms that those from the city. Yet the civic importance of the game is still very clear and many fans articulate that they support the club because they are from Swansea. A 45-year-old put it simply: ‘Swansea is my city therefore the Swans are my club’. Indeed, even people with little interest in the game have been expressing pride that their city’s club is now playing in the world’s most watched league.

Those who have left the city to live elsewhere also use the club as a way of both physically and psychologically keeping in touch with their roots, whether that’s through using visits to games as reasons to visit family or symbolically through using their support to express their roots in an alien environment. As a 59-year-old man living abroad said: ‘Once a Jack always a Jack!’

Football’s place as part of the civic identity of towns and cities is, of course, unsurprising. After all, most teams are actually named after the place where they are situated. When Swansea was granted city status in 1971 the football club immediately changed its name from Swansea Town to Swansea City. Clubs are also part of the urban landscape. Until the modern redevelopments of the last two decades, most stadia were situated, quite deliberately, in the heart of residential areas in order to make it easy for fans to attend games without the cost and time of travel that might put them off. This meant that crowds pouring to games along narrow streets were unavoidable and the game became part of everyone in the area’s lives, whether they liked it or not. For children, a football ground could be part of their urban playground and the survey revealed many memories of children sneaking in to have kick-arounds on non-match days.

The new modern Liberty stadium is still part of the urban landscape and its crowds (and their cars) have made football part of the lives of a new part of the city. But the stadium is not interwoven into a residential area in the same way the Liberty was. It stands on the edge of town, on a redeveloped industrial site, closer to large modern retail units than people’s homes. But, in that, the council-built stadium is also a marker of the changes and developments of what was once an industrial city with a clear identity based on copper but is now a service-based city, dependent on the public sector and multinational companies based elsewhere. Football remains a symbol of civic identity.

III

Change is often unsettling for people. That is most obviously true of personal upheaval but it also applies to the world around them. Historians sometimes forget that people witness long-term rather than just short-term changes. Sociologists in Swansea the 1960s were discussing how old people were bewildered by how much life had changed in their lifetimes. Even today there can be considerable unease at the general direction of society, with discomfort about everything from climate change, technological revolution to immigration and crime.

Football too has changed but it also offers a powerful source of continuity for people, a link to their past, to their roots and their youth. A 49 year old reflected, ‘Once it’s in your blood it don’t leave. If you are a true Jack you are married for life. It’s like having children. You love your children irrespective of what they do, you love the Swans through good and bad.’ A 50 year-old concluded, ‘I’ve still got the same feeling on match days as when I was a boy’. It is also a source of continuity which they are sure will still be there in the future. As one fan put it, ‘You can change jobs, move house, change wives, even change sex nowadays – but you can’t change the football club you support’.

This sense of continuity and security is exacerbated because of the relationship between football and family. Some men remember how being taken by their fathers as a child in the 1950s was some sort of coming of age ritual, an acknowledgment they were now big enough to be with the men rather than left at home with the female family members. Although most fans graduated from going with their parents to going with friends in their teens, there is a reoccurring pattern of people returning to viewing with their parents as they get older and take great pride in passing on support to their children.

Another 46 year old remarked: ‘All the family are involved. Wife, 2 kids, brother, nephew, mother and father all have season tickets. Main topic of conversation!!’ In other words, football helps bind some families together. This is particularly important because it is family that offers an important source of support and happiness in a modern world that many found unsettling and unhappy. Family remains at the core of what makes society and how people perceive the world and live their lives. The words of one 43-year-old fan show this better than I can.

My dad was a big supporter like myself. He died in 2011, before he could have a smile about us being in the premiership. I remember crying at Wembley after we had beaten Reading 4-2 because the only person I wanted to share my elation with was my dad, and he wasn’t here anymore. He left me a mint copy of Swansea vs Preston at Villa Park, semi final of the FA cup 1964. It seems quite apt that Swansea’s first Prem away win was at Villa Park, and I was there. I looked up to the sky and just smiled. I think my dad knew why.

IV

Whether your team is winning or losing, football is a game of emotions and of stories, and not all of these are related to what happens on the pitch, especially during your team’s lean times. The survey for this project produced a collection of memories of goals, fights, drinking, jokes, funny sights and characters. Most of the stories were remembered because they evoked emotions, whether that was happiness, pride, anger, frustration or laughter. Some no doubt had grown and been polished in the re-tellings. They were often fragmented, undated and chronological-less. But this does not mean they matter any the less. Stories help structure our understanding of both our individual and collective past. It is football’s ability to create stories and memories that lies at the heart of its cultural importance. It is these stories that define the game’s contribution to individual and collective identities.

But not all people have the same memories. The experience of listening to a match on poor radio reception is obviously rather different to actually being at the game. But even where people are at the same match, their experience will vary according to who they are with, where in the ground they are, how much they have had to drink and why they are there. In this, we run into one of the fundamental points about the past: collective experiences are also individualized. Yet the collective experience of being at the football is more powerful than the shared experience of millions watching the same television programme in millions of different homes. Football is a game watched in crowds and that creates a powerful sense of literally being part of something bigger in a way that is not often replicated. The scale of football can be very powerful and that is part of its drama and attraction. But even for those not there, those who find out the results from friends or from the paper, or whose interest does not extend far beyond extending wondering what mood a husband will be when he returns home, football is still part of the shared cultural milieu of interests, loyalties and memories that binds families, communities and even nations together.

By Martin Johnes (Swansea University). Written in 2013.

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Farewell my dear old friend

A poem about the Vetch by Geoff TannerGeoff Tanner013geoff-tanner014.jpg

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Memories from Rob Blades

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Stories about Tony Millington’s testimonial and the infamous 2003 great escape game against Hull City.

 

 

 

Swansea City v Hull City 2003

Swansea City v Hull City 2003

Swansea City v Hull City 2003

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by | July 3, 2017 · 9:32 am

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 City by Teen Anthems

We’re never ever going to win the Premier League / I’ll doubt we’ll even stay in Division 3.

Listen here 1orN4P?src=5

 

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Stoke City v Swans

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With a Premier League game away at Stoke coming up, does anyone have any memories of games against The Potters?

I can’t recall anything about the away League Cup tie of 1990 (programme cover above),  apart from the fact that it was played at the old Victoria Ground.  The Swans did the hard work by drawing 0-0 in this first leg in front of a crowd of 7,806, but then promptly lost the second leg at the Vetch a week later in front of 4,464 spectators.

In 1993 Andy Legg scored a sensational volley against Stoke at the Vetch, beating goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar in the process, but the game was lost 2-1 in front of a league-season high crowd of 8,368.  I might be wrong, but I think that there was quite serious trouble after that game.

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West Ham in the FA Cup 1999

West Ham United 1 Swansea City 1 F.A Cup Third Round (2 January 1999) Attendance: 26,039

Swansea City 1 West Ham United 0 F.A Cup Third Round Replay (13 January 1999) Attendance: 10,116

By Michael Richards

Along with reaching the promotion play-offs in Division Three, victory in the third-round of the F.A. Cup against West Ham United was arguably the most memorable moment of the 1998/1999 season for Swansea City.

The announcement that Swansea was to play West Ham in an away fixture had sparked excitement around the city. A cup tie against the Premiership side was well deserved after two strong victories in the previous rounds against Millwall and Stoke City. Due to the huge gulf in divisions, it was a game in which the pundits expected Swansea to be easily brushed aside by West Ham. Biographer of Swansea City FC, David Farmer, said that ‘had the Swansea supporters travelled to Upton Park believed all they read in the papers, they would not have bothered to go’. Such opinions from experts however did not put off a small army of loyal supporters with high hopes travelling down to London. Despite being outnumbered, the Swansea fans were able to offer great vocal support which aided their team to unexpectedly outplay their famous opponents. Patriotism and pride was also displayed by the manager John Hollins who carried out his away match habit of placing a Welsh flag in his dugout. Unfortunately for the Swans, a Hammers equaliser that goalkeeper Roger Freestone could have prevented ending up in the back of the net made the score 1-1 at the dying stages cancelling out Jason Smith’s earlier goal and  denying them a famous win at Upton Park that their endeavours deserved.

The replay at the Vetch Field however, was to result in an illustrious giant killing with Swansea making history by becoming the first bottom division team to defeat a Premiership club in the F.A. Cup since the re-organisation of the league structure in 1992.

A full capacity crowd had packed into the Vetch carrying the belief that something special could happen. Providing an abundance of loud Welsh voices, the supporters created an intimidating atmosphere hoping to help carry their team on to a well fought win. Many fervent fans had queued outside the Vetch a week in advance eagerly hoping to get hold of match tickets. On the date of the game the rain had also lashed down upon the pitch all day providing the ingredients for a lively encounter. Harry Redknapp’s West Ham was able to boast a team with a wealth of talented players which included the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and also Swansea born John Hartson. Such big names however counted for nothing that night as Swansea produced another brave team performance and this time overcame the Premiership side.

Both sides played fast paced football that was end to end creating an enthralling cup game. West Ham showed their Premiership qualities early on with Lampard in particular demonstrating his flair. However, it was Swansea midfielder Martin Thomas who was to be the man who made the headlines that night by producing a handful of impressive chances throughout the match, one being an in swinging free kick that rattled against the post. It was Thomas’s next effort though that was able to put the Swans ahead against their London opponents. His goal came on the 29th minute through an outstanding volley from twenty yards out that swerved manically to trick Hammers goalkeeper Shaka Hislop who could do little to recover from his error and palmed the ball into his net. The entire stadium erupted into a state of euphoria as Swansea demonstrated why the F.A. Cup can be so magic, with minnow clubs being given the opportunity to accomplish the unexpected by overcoming teams considered superior. Extraordinarily, Thomas was able to play despite being in pain from a broken knee cap caused by an earlier challenge. Freestone had to be at his best throughout and was able to make amends for his error at Upton Park by tipping away Neil Ruddock’s vicious shot from outside the box late in the second half to preserve Swansea’s slender lead. It was a save that Martin Thomas described as ‘the best save’ he had ‘ever seen’ and it brought two Swansea players to their knees in relief while the fans had their hearts in their mouths as they feared a repeat occurrence of the away tie. Despite West Ham’s impressive work rate, they proved unable to break down a Swansea side that had played out of their skins and had defended valiantly to hold on to their lead.

Manager John Hollins celebrates him team’s famous victory with some elated fans.
Photo copyright of Daily Mail Online.

John Hollins was successful in orchestrating a shock upset by defeating West Ham’s star studded team to set up a fourth round tie against another Premiership side, Derby County. Once the final whistle was blown, some ecstatic Swansea supporters who were eager to celebrate a well deserved win with the players clambered onto the pitch. Hollins was overjoyed with his team which he was said to have written off earlier in the season claiming them not to be good enough for the Third Division. In a post-match interview with ITV, he stated that for him personally, the victory was his ‘greatest cup moment’. For Swansea City itself, the giant killing of West Ham United is without a doubt one of the club’s proudest F.A. cup memories.

View an Evening Post special edition on the match

 

 

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Fan Memories – Eileen Morgan (1280 games)

Eileen Morgan saw her first Swans game in 1946, and her survey response contains some very vivid memories.  Click here.

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Filed under 1940s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, Cardiff City, fans, Hooliganism, Liberty, vetch

Swans v Norwich

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The Swans face Norwich at home on Saturday 11 February 2012.

Last time Swansea  played Norwich at home in the top flight was in September 1982.  On that occasion the Swans won 4-0, with Bob Latchford scoring a hat-trick, but the crowd was only 11,694.  What odds on a repeat scoreline?  One thing is absolutely certain, and that is that the crowd will be larger in 2012.

The Swans have played The Canaries 46 times, winning 20, drawing 8, and losing 18 games.  Do you have particular memories of any of these games?  If so, let us know and post a comment below.

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Alan Davies (d. 4 February 1992)

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I have been reminded that Alan Davies died twenty years ago today when, tragically, he took his own life at the age of 30.  An elegent and creative midfielder, Alan made 127 appearances for the Swans in two spells at the club between 1987 and 1992.  He began his career at Manchester United, for whom he appeared in the two games of the FA Cup Final v Brighton in 1983 , and he went on to play for Newcastle United.  He won 13 Welsh caps.  Alan’s death was a great blow to the club and its supporters, as well as to his family and friends, and it was entirely fitting and appropriate that a benefit game was played against Manchester United at the Vetch on 11 August 1992.  As the note in the benefit match programme states, he was a very popular player who was much missed by many people connected with the club.

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Cardiff City: friend or foe?

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.

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Every now and then, for no particular reason at all, I break into that ‘Super Johnny Cornforth’ chant

I was fortunate enough to live in Swansea for a very brief time. The terraces at the Vetch were part of my initiation in Welsh sporting culture. The bleak, sodden midweek matches which invariably ended as scoreless draws were my favourites.

The rain which sleeted down in horizontal chunks, the tepid black stuff that masqueraded as coffee at half-time, feeling sorry for the guys in the prison, Roger Freestone’s heroics and the undying dedication of the hard-core Swannies are memories indelibly forged in my heart.

Every now and then, for no particular reason at all, I break into that ‘Super Johnny Cornforth’ chant.

Janine Stephenson
Port Macquarie, New South Wales Australia.

Letter to Evening Post, Farewell to the Vetch supplement, 21 March 2005.

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Remember Walter Boyd?

There are players you remember because they were great and there are players you remember because they were rubbish. Then there are the players who we remember because they were different. Walter Boyd was one of those.

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He joined Swansea in 1999 in something of a blaze of publicity. There were claims we had signed a player way above our basement-division station and that he was cult hero in his native Jamaica. More verifiable was the fact he’d made three substitute appearances in the 1998 World Cup and his 30 odd international goals (although the papers didn’t agree quite how many he’d scored).

He was given the number 35 shirt because this was the number of goals he was aiming to score, a figure that would equal the club record held by Cyril Pearce, a player better known to most of us for giving his name to our then new mascot.  Few believed the hype. We’d heard all before and it was coming from a team of directors who were not exactly trusted or flavour of the month.

Boyd made his debut against Rotherham in a cold evening game and scored twice in a 2-0 win. The first was a straight forward affair but the second was a long range curler into the top corner.  Or at least that’s how it looked from the far end of the North Bank. It seemed as though the Messiah had arrived, even if he did look rather bewildered by where he’d ended up.

A few more followed in subsequent games but then straight after coming on as a sub against Darlington he elbowed someone before play had even resumed. He’d been on the pitch for a matter of seconds and there was talk that it was the fastest red card ever.

After that things went into decline. The team was doing well, grinding out the load of 1-0 wins that would eventually bring the title but Boyd seemed to find life in Division Three difficult. To fans it seemed as if Boyd was not quite part of the team and sometimes not quite part of the match. He often seemed to be watching play going on around him.

But Boyd was more memorable for the debates about race he started.  His colour was inescapable and his nickname back home was apparently Blacka Pearl. He wasn’t the first black player to turn out for the Swans but he must have been the first black player who wasn’t from the UK.  Mike Lewis, the club’s general manager, even claimed that Boyd’s arrival could help solve some of the problems with racism that the club was experiencing from a few supporters.

On his debut the old boy who stood next to me on the North Bank jokingly said that should the floodlights fail we would only be able to see Walter’s eyes. This was a joke but some got quite uncomfortable with the way their mates spoke about Boyd. There was a lot of talk that he couldn’t hack a Welsh winter. That was an old cliché that was applied to black players throughout the 70s and 80s and it was often held up to be an example of racial stereotyping. But in Walter’s case it seemed to be true and he even said so in the press himself. But that didn’t stop talk in the pubs and online about whether the comments about Boyd were just because of the colour of the skin. Furthermore, some people weren’t sure whether to call him black or coloured. Quite simply, his presence created debates about what racism was.

Things weren’t made any more comfortable by fans from Jamaica going online and writing defences of Boyd in what seemed to be a parody of Caribbean speech. Perhaps they were genuine, perhaps they were wind ups. It was impossible to tell but they were replicated by Swans supporters unimpressed with Boyd and the team in general.

Boyd ended up being somewhat peripheral to the team’s success in winning the league that year. Being less effective up front than Julian Alsop or Steve Watkin didn’t quite match what we were told to expect when he arrived.  The next season he was injured a lot of the time and the team got relegated.  He only scored three goals that season and no one was surprised or too sorry to see him go.  But Walter still deserves his place in Swansea City history. There aren’t many players in the club’s history who suddenly won us a following in Jamaica.

Martin Johnes

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