A poem about the Vetch by Geoff Tanner
Category Archives: 1990s
We’re never ever going to win the Premier League / I’ll doubt we’ll even stay in Division 3.
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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.
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.
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.
Eileen Morgan saw her first Swans game in 1946, and her survey response contains some very vivid memories. Click here.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Port Macquarie, New South Wales Australia.
Letter to Evening Post, Farewell to the Vetch supplement, 21 March 2005.
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.Embed from Getty Images
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.