Category Archives: 2000s

‘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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Swans matches in the Premier League after an international break

By Gwyn Davies, September 2017

PL 22 WON 3 DRAWN 6 LOST 13 FOR 26 AG 36

Home: 12   Away: 10


11/09/2016:               Swans drew 2-2 v Chelsea                         (h)

15/10/2016:               Swans lost 2-3 v Arsenal                            (a)

19/11/2016:               Swans drew 1-1 v Everton                          (a)

02/04/2017:               Swans drew 0-0 v Middlesbrough (h)


12/09/2015:               Swans lost 0-1 v Watford                            (a)

19/10/2015:               Swans lost 0-1 v Stoke City                       (h)

21/11/2015:               Swans drew 2-2 v Bournemouth               (h)

02/04/2016:               Swans drew 2-2 v Stoke City                     (a)


13/09/2014:               Swans lost 2-4 v Chelsea                           (a)

19/10/2014:               Swans lost 1-2 v Stoke City                       (a)

22/11/2014:               Swans lost 1-2 v Manchester City (a)

16/03/2015:               Swans lost 0-1 v Liverpool                         (h)


16/09/2013:               Swans drew 2-2 v Liverpool                       (h)

19/10/2013:               Swans won 4-0 v Sunderland                    (h)

23/11/2013:               Swans won 2-1 v Fulham                           (h)

15/03/2014:               Swans lost 1-2 v W.B.A.                              (h)


15/09/2012:               Swans lost 0-2 v Aston Villa                       (a)

20/10/2012:               Swans won 2-1 v Wigan                             (h)

30/03/2013:               Swans lost 1-2 v Tottenham                       (h)


10/09/2011:               Swans lost 0-1 v Arsenal                            (a)

15/10/2011:               Swans lost 1-3 v Norwich City                   (a)

19/11/2011:                Swans lost 0-1 v Manchester United        (h)


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Farewell my dear old friend

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

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Swansea City extracts from the Football Disorder Log, 2000-2001

Football Disorder Log for Season 2000 / 2001

National Criminal Intelligence Service, Football Intelligence Section

Swansea City v Wigan Athletic 12/08/00 – Nationwide League Division 2

Following this fixture a group of 40 Swansea supporters made their way to a public house. On leaving the pub some of the Swansea supporters came across a group of students. The Swansea group mistakenly thought the students were from Cardiff and attacked them. One of the students had a bottle smashed into the side of the head, causing a wound that later required 40 stitches. The other seven all received injuries. The eight students eventually managed to escape and ran to a nearby pub pursued by the Swansea supporters. With the assistance of the staff the doors to the pub were shut and locked preventing the pursuing mob from getting in. The Swansea supporters proceeded to smash every window in the pub with an array of missiles found nearby, resulting in several of the customers who were already in there being cut by flying glass, some later requiring stitches. Police arrived and five Swansea supporters were arrested for serious assault and criminal damage.

Millwall v Swansea City 11/09/2000 Nationwide League Division 2

150 Swansea City hooligans travelled by train to London and made their way to London Bridge. A large police presence prevented any disorder before the match. After the game known Millwall supporters were forced back past South Bermondsey station. Serious disorder occurred with Millwall supporters throwing bricks, bottles, pieces of wood and scaffold poles at police officers. The Swansea group was escorted direct to Victoria. At Victoria, CS gas was discharged by one of this group. Eventually they were taken to Paddington and placed on an escorted train. When this train reached Cardiff Station the Swansea group attempted to alight and fight with a group of Cardiff hooligans who were waiting for them. Batons were drawn and order was restored. One man was arrested.

Swansea City v Stoke City 14/10/00 Nationwide League Division 2

A group of 80 Stoke supporters made their way to a local public house in Swansea. A group of around 200 Swansea supporters had gathered at another public house. There was a great deal of mobile telephone organisation between the two groups. The Swansea group then started to make their way to where the Stoke supporters were.  A strong police presence prevented the two groups from clashing. The Swansea group then made a concerted effort to attack the coaches carrying visiting supporters. A large police presence with batons drawn forced them back. The Swansea group were dispersed and taken under escort to another pub, where a police presence was maintained. A decision was made to clear the lane of people drinking and to house them in the pub.  Requests were made and warnings given, before the fully protected officers moved to clear the area. At this time missiles were thrown at the officers, batons were drawn and the majority of the violent supporters were cleared from the lane into the pub Some of this group made their way back to where the Stoke supporters were. The Stoke supporters were then walked under police escort to the stadium. Several attempts were made by the Swansea group to attack the Stoke supporters, but they were unable to do so due to the presence of Police.

Swansea City v Bristol City 31/10/00 – Nationwide League Division 2

A coach carrying Bristol City supporters made their way to a public house used by Swansea supporters. This group caused criminal damage estimated at around £10,000. There followed running battles with police as Swansea supporters attempted to get at the Bristol supporters. During these periods of serious violent disorder three police officers were injured and a police dog was blinded in one eye by flying glass.

Swansea City v Millwall 10/02/01 – Nationwide League Division 2

As the Millwall supporters were being escorted to the ground the escort came under a missile attack by a large group of Swansea numbering in excess of three hundred. A marine flare was fired towards the direction of the escort. The Swansea group was forced back by police officers with batons. They were supported by mounted and dog units.  The Millwall group under escort was placed inside the ground. At the same time four coaches containing around 200 Millwall supporters were stopped on the outskirts of the City and a search carried out. A number of weapons were recovered from one of the coaches including an axe, Stanley knife, knuckle duster, lock knife, wing knife, Chinese rice flails and pool balls together with a small amount of drugs.

Just after the game had re-started, an attempt was made by Swansea to get at the Millwall fans. By climbing up on to the trackside the Millwall supporters attempted to climb the 8ft high perimeter fence to attack the Swansea supporters. After the match the Swansea group again subjected the train escort to continued attacks.  They were again kept apart officers supported by mounted and dog unit officers. Prior to the escort setting off a search was made of the route and a cache of petrol and milk bottles with rags together with marine flares were discovered concealed in undergrowth near the foreshore.

Port Vale v Swansea City 16/04/2001 – Nationwide League Division 2

This was a ‘police-free’ match and there were no problems at all until the Vale fans discovered that there were about six Stoke fans in with the visitors. At the end of the game, there was a gathering of more than 100 Vale fans near to the visitors’ exit gates. The stewards guided the Stoke supporters out of another part of the ground but the Vale fans continued trying to find them amongst the Swansea fans. The stewards and police kept them apart until police resources arrived and dispersed the Vale fans to the town. Due to this, no disorder occurred and no arrests were made.


Oxford United v Swansea City 28/04/2001 – Nationwide League Division 2

A group of Swansea supporters were in a pub on the edge of the city and remained drinking there until their bus was bought to them at 2 pm. Just prior to the bus arriving the group began to smash the pub up and police entered the pub to clear it. Some arrests were made. The group was then escorted to the ground. This group left the ground after 30 minutes. They were rounded up and placed on the coach and which were escorted into Wales.

Merthyr Tydfil v Swansea City 08/05/2001 – Welsh FA Cup Semi-Final

Fifteen minutes after the start of the game, a group of around 12 Swansea supporters left the ground and went to a lounge bar nearby. An hour later 35-40 Cardiff supporters made their way to the same bar and began to confront the Swansea supporters. Police officers forced the Cardiff supporters away, batons were drawn and one Cardiff fan was arrested after a struggle with police officers. The Swansea group then attempted to leave the bar, but was forced to remain by police. The Cardiff group was then escorted out of the area and into the town centre. Subsequently, the group of Swansea supporters were taken to the station and placed on trains, with no further incidents occurring.


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Filed under 2000s, Hooliganism, Uncategorized

Memories from Rob Blades

Click on the images to enlarge.

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


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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One of many people’s favourite Swansea memories… Kevin Johns at Wembley 2011


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New song written to celebrate the club’s centenary

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Kevin Johns at Wembley 2011


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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

Bury 0-1 Swansea City – Saturday, 7 May 2005


Coca-Cola League 2.
Attendance: 7,575.

Forbes’ early strike wins Jackett’s Swansea promotion on dramatic final day.

It was clear from the offset of the 2004-2005 season that promotion was the goal for Swansea City in Kenny Jackett’s first full campaign as manager. Jackett had been given the resources needed to bring in many new signings over the duration of the season, and no fewer than 6 of these players started on the final day of the season as the Swans headed to Gigg Lane, Bury, hoping to better the result of promotion rivals Southend United who faced a trip to Grimsby.

Despite the fact that the team were reliant on the Shrimpers dropping points at Blundell Park,  the buoyant Jack Army travelled in massive numbers to Greater Manchester, still on a high from the 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury in what would prove to be the final League game at The Vetch Field. Such was the demand from Swansea fans to see the team clinch promotion; the host side Bury allocated 5,000 tickets to the visitors, much to the dismay of many Bury season ticket holders who were forced to relocate seats for the fixture, the 5,000 tickets were snapped up by the travelling Jacks.

Following the final league game at The Vetch, where Swans fans were encouraged to all wear white, the club issued a similar challenge to supporters, asking them to “turn Gigg Lane Red for the day” – red being the colour of the away strip that the Swans would be turning out in against Bury. The fans accepted this invitation en masse, and the site of two packed out sides of Gigg Lane dominated by red was certainly an impressive one.

Bizarrely, Bury had also decided to invite a Samba band to march around the four sides of the ground for their season finale, this only added to the Carnival atmosphere for the Swansea fans, many of whom were making themselves at home in the local pubs in the vicinity of Gigg Lane.

So the game got under way to the melody of a Samba beat, and many fans had barely positioned themselves in the stands when local boy and Player of the Year Kristian O’Leary hit a brilliant 30 yard ball over the top for Adrian Forbes to run onto, the winger headed the ball down before unleashing a thunderbolt of a strike past Welshman Glyn Garner in the Bury goal. 1-0 Swansea after just 25 seconds of the match, cue delirium from the travelling masses who spilled onto the playing area to celebrate with their heroes.

Unfortunately, we still had another 89 minutes of football to play, plus lengthy periods of stoppage time due to constant infringements onto the pitch by Swansea fans, much to the anger of the players and fans of the home side.

After the chaotic scenes that followed Forbes’ early goal the game settled down into an uneventful, yet full blooded affair. Bury certainly weren’t thinking of their summer holidays and came close to equalising before the end of the first half, whilst Swansea’s star man Lee Trundle was struggling to get into the game on a very boggy surface.

At half time, all the talk in the away end was of Grimsby v Southend, which was still deadlocked at 0-0. The dream was on!

News got better early in the second half as reports filtered in that Grimsby had taken the lead against Southend; Michael Reddy’s strike for the Mariners was greeted like a Swansea goal. There was almost a double celebration moments later as Trundle was played in on goal, however he couldn’t keep control of the ball on the muddy surface and fluffed his chance to seal the game. This would prove to be Trundle’s last contribution on the pitch as he was substituted minutes later as Kenny Jackett looked to preserve the 1-0 lead. Despite this, Trundle was called into action in the final 10 minutes of the game, asked by Police and Stewards to help appease the Swansea fans behind ‘keeper Willy Gueret’s goal, many supporters had encroached onto the playing surface in anticipation of the final whistle, Trundle encouraged the fans to climb back behind the advertising hoardings in order for the game to finish smoothly.

Bury players appealed to the referee to call both teams into the tunnel and abandon the game; this did not go down well with Swansea’s substitute full back and “hard man” Andy Gurney who reportedly head-butted one of the opposition staff during a skirmish between the two benches as the game wore on. There was one final scare for Swansea when Bury forward Ricky Shakes was played in on goal; however he blazed his chance high over the bar and into the stand of jubilant Jacks.

Following what seemed like an eternity of injury time (not helped by yet more infringements onto the pitch from Swans fans), referee Colin Webster blew the full time whistle to spark the mother of all pitch invasions as Swansea fans from both stands swarmed onto the pitch to celebrate with their side. “Kenny Jackett’s Barmy Army” and “The Jacks are going up” rang around Gigg Lane as the players emerged from the directors’ box armed with champagne to greet the adoring masses.

But this is Swansea City. And at Swansea City things never run quite as smoothly as they should. During the celebrations goalkeeper Willy Gueret entered a heated discussion with police officers, which ended with the Frenchman being handcuffed and bundled away in just his football shorts, having thrown the rest of his kit to the fans. The players were soon forced into the stand and the celebrations on the pitch were cut to an abrupt finish.

Despite the intervention of Greater Manchester Police the smile on Swansea fans faces didn’t disappear for very long, as fans and players alike would have another chance to celebrate just days later at The Vetch Field’s final match, a F.A.W Premier Cup Final against Wrexham.

The Swans were promoted into Coca-Cola League One and manager Kenny Jackett had achieved the goal of Automatic Promotion in his first full season in charge. This success was important as it meant the club would now be playing their first season at the new stadium in Landore outside of the bottom division. The feel-good factor around the City and the Football Club was clear for all to see. Attendances at the last season at The Vetch had averaged 8,457. The following season in League One they had risen to 14,155. Many of the team that day at Bury would go on to help the team on their subsequent promotions to the Championship in 2008 and the Premier League in 2011. After four seasons in the bottom division Swansea City had climbed out, and this time around they looked much better equipped to not only stay out of it, but to strengthen as an outfit and expand the gap.

What they said:

Kenny Jackett:

 “Sometimes in football, it’s your day, and this was our day. I’ve won promotions before as a player and a coach and I’ve played in the FA Cup final, but this is the best moment of my career by far. It’s a fantastic achievement, not just for myself and the players, but everyone at the club. It’s been a big, big team effort. Someone came up to me and said, ‘Last time we won promotion, we came straight back down.’ The usual optimistic Swansea supporter, then. He didn’t even say ‘Well done’!”



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Gillingham v Swansea City, 12 April 2008

Gillingham v Swansea City, 12 April 2008

By Daniel Brown

Guillem Bauza wrote his name in Swansea City folklore as his quick fire brace just before half-time sealed promotion to the Championship for the Swans. The Jack Army were in a jubilant mood after the game where 1,500 fans made the five hour journey to Kent. For those who could not get their hands on a ticket, Swansea Cityopened its stadium to allow around 2,000 Jacks a chance to witness Roberto Martinez’s men reach the Championship. The win not only took Swansea into the second tier of the league system for the first time in 24 years but also set a club record of 86 points, beating the 85 of John Hollins’ 1999-2000 side.

The away stand failed to provide a roof for the Swans fans and prior to kick-off April showers lashed down on the supporters. The atmosphere that was generated though was electric. The Evening Post described it as a ‘Wall of noise’. The fans, wearing thin, yellow macs to stay dry, were determined to not allow the rain to dampen their spirits. The Post believed had it been a covered stand ‘ears might well have been bleeding’.

Though it seemed Gillingham had not read the script, especially ex-Swan Dennis Oli, who gave the Gills a 22nd minute lead. A tense cloud hovered over the Swansea supporters – both atKent and back at home. Though in every important match, there is always a hero, andSwanseaCity found one in Guillem Bauza.

The Spaniard first bundled in a goal after Andy Robinson’s shot, and then fired his second across the Gillingham goal-keeper from an acute angle. The Swansea fans had barely finished celebrating Bauza’s first goal when the striker gave the Swans the lead, and it would seem the away stand was about to collapse with the sheer bouncing, that was only supported by scaffolding.

This was hardly a stylish performance that the Swans had produced for much of the season, but Swansea laboured their way to victory behind a chorus of Bread of Heaven and Hymns and Arias. Life-long Swans fans, Tony Christie claimed it was ‘one of the best days ever in football, alongside when we were promoted to the Old First Division’. For all fans connected, this truly was a special day in the history of Swansea City.

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Lee Trundle

By Rhys Buckney

When you talk about legends at a club, they normally display loyalty, outstanding quality and a connection with the fans, Lee Trundle had all of this and more. He was an icon, the first of its kind in these parts, especially for a kid who grew up in the 1990’s when supporting the Swans wasn’t as popular as it has become with success. We were brought up on stories of Alan Curtis and Ivor Allchurch, but had experienced a distinct lack of anyone who had this sort of hero worship amongst fans. Then ‘magic daps’ arrived.

There was an air of optimism surrounding pre-season, we had just stayed up on the final day on the previous season in that unforgettable thriller against Hull, and done it playing some fantastic attacking football. Brian Flynn would implement this style by bringing in youngsters such as Leon Britton and Alan Tate who are still club heroes, and more experienced heads like Roberto Martinez, who would become a future manager and later, a figure of much controversy. Trundle had played under Flynn at Wrexham and despite him celebrating a promotion to Division 2 (League 1), he took the gamble to move to South Wales to link up with him again in a move that would change Swansea City forever.

Embed from Getty Images

He started relatively slow for someone who would soon earn and give credit to the loving nickname ‘magic daps’, bagging a rare header against Bury in a 4-2 win. He really announced himself onto the stage though in a following match against Cheltenham. We were losing 3-1, when suddenly the match became the Lee Trundle show grabbing himself a second half hat-trick. Many players in circumstances such as this throw the old cliché ‘there’s more to come’, and having suffered as a Swans fan you’d be forgiven for taking this with a pinch of salt, but he was a man of his word.

Embed from Getty Images

Trundlemania would soon sweep Swansea taking us on a cup run to the 5th round including a thrilling 2-1 win against Preston North End in which of course he claimed the winner. A season of highlights saw him propelled into the spotlight through Soccer AM who took note of his enigmatic skills after the audacious shoulder roll against Huddersfield Town which saw Peter Jackson lose his cool and the plot. Although promotion wasn’t achieved, our new hero had truly arrived. Following seasons would see him sign an image deal with the Swans because over 60% of our sales were Trundle merchandise and his own LT10 clothing line.

Having turned down the opportunity previously to join Sheffield Wednesday when subject of a £750,000 bid, he needed to grab his chance.Bristolcame in with a record £1,000,000 bid for our star striker, who left with a heavy heart, but for the right reasons. He didn’t leave for the money, he left to try himself as high as he possibly could, and nobody could deny him that right.

The move didn’t work out, and he finds himself living locally now, a true testament to a man who was as much of a jack as anybody born in the city. For it was not just the goals, it was everything, it was him. He made time for all the fans, regardless of age, suddenly young boys in Swansea were getting the ‘Lee Trundle haircut’, wearing his boots, and even his signature wrist sweatbands. He was an icon in every sense of the word.

He bonded with the fans, and would have not been out of place if thrown in the North Bank. Stories circulated about him doing this good deed or that, and I personally witnessed him turning up to Ashleigh Road playing fields randomly alone to have a kick around with the children who were playing football there. The matches being played suddenly became a sideshow. He was never too busy for the fan, and his autobiography expresses all this and more.

For me, Lee Trundle will always be the very best, he propelled us to where we are now, yes he missed out on the last ride, but he began it all, without him, we could easily be languishing in League 2. A true Swansea hero.

 Back to Fans on Players

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For the good of Wales?

There was a time when Cardiff City’s owner thought Swans’ fans should get behind Cardiff City for the good of Welsh football.  It did not go down well and contributed to more than a fair amount of abuse heading the way of the Cardiff City owner. Here’s the report on the issue from the Western Mail.

When the Swans got promoted no one asked Cardiff fans to support us and their reaction to being confirmed as Wales’ second team has not always been very positive.

Western Mail, 16 May 2003 

Mixed Swans response to Sam’s call

SAM HAMMAM’S call for people across Wales to get behind Cardiff City’s promotion bid has received a mixed response in Swansea.

The charismatic Cardiff owner believes the Welsh nation should be solidly behind the Bluebirds’ push for a Premiership place to aid Welsh soccer.

But John Lewis, landlord of the Clarence Inn in Swansea’s William Street, just a stone’s throw from the Vetch Field, says his regulars think differently.

He said, “If I’m honest, I think it would be a good thing for the whole of Welsh soccer to haveCardiffup in the Premiership.

“But I’m afraid none of my customers would agree with me. They only support one team in here and that’s Swansea City.”

Long-term Swansea fan and now club director David Morgan agreed, saying, “I’m afraid Swansea and Cardiff are two different cities and two different regions.

“Why does Sam Hammam think his team and his vision of a glorious future have a God-given right to be supported by everyone inWales?

“It was very gratifying to get goodwill messages from individual Cardiff fans when Swansea were fighting for survival. But there was nothing from the club officially – it was down to some of the fans on the terraces who sent us messages over the internet or on phone-ins.”

Eileen Walton, secretary of the Swansea Civic Society, said she would rather see people supporting The Swans, but there was some support last night to backCardiffin a one-off game.

John Button, secretary of the Swansea City Supporters’ Club, said, “Maybe, for this one match, the football supporters of Wales could get behind Cardiff.

“I think most Swansea fans would wish them well and, personally, I would hope they do well.

“We only have three Football League teams in Wales and we very nearly lost our status this season, so the more success we can have the better. If Cardiff do well it will give everyone something to aim for.”

But Button admitted that not all Swans fans would share his view and a strong contingent would be hoping for aCardiffdefeat at the Millennium Stadium on May 25.

“There is such a tremendous amount of rivalry, but I think the genuine football fan would want to see them win.

“We haven’t played them in the league for a few years now, but I think there’s a love-hate relationship there really.

“I’ll bet there were some hopingBristolCityhad won this week, but I think mostSwanseafans would wish them well.”

From the very start of his reign at Ninian Park three years ago, Hammam has pleaded with Swans fans to join him in his quest for Premiership football in Wales.

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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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Vetch Field Match Day (1)

Click to enlarge. Crowd control outside the Garibaldi.

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Last league goal at the Vetch (30 April 2005)

Click to enlarge: The last league goal scored at the Vetch

Adrian Forbes scores the last league goal at the Vetch on 30 April 2005 in a 1-0 win over Shrewsbury Town.  Here he is seen smashing the ball past Joe Hart who is now (in January 2012) the goalkeeper for Manchester City and England. 

Adrian Forbes is now playing semi pro for Lowestoft Town and coaching for Norwich City FC’s player development centre. You can follow him on Twitter @forbesy7 

Are you one of the ‘faces in the crowd’ on the North Bank in the background?  If so, tell us your story of that emotional day.  Were you on the pitch at the end of the game, and what did you take home as a souvenir?

A reply from Twitter:

Brett Thomas “what a boiling glorious day that was #gonebutneverforgotten”

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The Vetch and the Liberty: compare and contrast

Click to enlarge

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White Rock by Richard Lillicrap

A closer look at White Rock

The large white jug was old but in startlingly good condition.    In large blue lettering which covered the front was inscribed

“This jug belongs to the Club at the Royal Oake at the White Rock.  May 5 1771”.

My visit to Swansea Museum on a wet Sunday was transformed in an instant from family chore to intense interest.     Up until this moment White Rock was little more than a name to me but here, right in front of me was hard evidence of the history behind the name.

I’m more than a little embarrassed that my knowledge of local history is, to say the least, scant.    I was born here, grew up in the fifties and sixties and clearly remember some of the local ‘attractions’ now long gone.    The Mumbles Railway – the most fondly remembered.  The working South and North Docks, Weavers flour mill, the Carbon Black Works, Tir John and the slag and wreckage of the works in the lower Swansea Valley are not widely missed.   But I had no knowledge of the real history.

I rootted around in the Museum shop and for around £3.00 came away with Factsheets on the Copperworks, Coppermen, Copper Industry and White Rock Ferry.     With due acknowledgement to the Museum and their contributors I’ve set out some of the story behind White Rock below, but I would urge anyone with more than a fleeting interest to get down to Swansea Museum and buy them for themselves.

The first copperworks in the area was at Aberdulais and the first on the Tawe opened in 1717.    The White Rock was arguably the most significant and was established as a copperworks in 1737.   It featured on the Swansea Valley landscape for the best part of 250 years.

Swansea was a busy port and market town back then but the population at the time White Rock opened was no more than 3,000.    The arrival of the copperworks sparked a period of sustained growth.     In 1801 the population was 7,000; by 1901, 130,000 and by 2001 230,000.

The copperworks with local coal mines (in places such as Landore, Penclawdd, Graig, Plasmarl, Morriston and Llansamlet) paved the way for growth in the docks, railways, brickworks, potteries and  smelting in lead, silver and aluminium and expansion into tinplate, manufacturing and other industries.

White Rock was set up by John Coster, a Bristolian, who is credited with having perfected the copper smelting process.    This process became known worldwide as the “Welsh process”.     Copper ore was combined with coal in a mix of 1 part ore to 3 parts coal.     The mix was heated and run through a series of 10 furnaces, each one increasing the copper purity, with the final product being 97% pure.

A final treatment would render the metal pliable so that it could be rolled,pressed and cut for the many different copper based end products then in demand.

Swansea quickly became a natural centre for copper smelting.    Although some works were set up in Neath and Llanelli, the Tawe provide better navigation.   The bulk of the ore was mined in Cornwall a short hop across the channel.    But with three parts coal it was cheaper to bring ore to where the coal was.

Most works were set up on the East Side of the Tawe.    This was ‘over the border’ from the Swansea Town Burghers who had visions of a resort town that didn’t sit comfortably with sulphur belching copper works.     More importantly was the coal wagon-way, later replaced by a canal and a railway which brought in the coal.

Ore bearing ships from Cornwall could navigate the Tawe and White Rock had its own wharf, apparently still visible to this day.   Manual labour was used to move the ore around – 70,000 tons a year at its peak.    The ships could also add to their profits by taking coal on their return journey.

The copper workers were extraordinary.     The finery men, the picklers, polers, splatchers, ladlers, and labourers.     The knowledge of the refining process was kept secret and handed down from father to son.     Jobs at the copperworks were well paid (by standards of the day) and these jobs were kept within families.     Wives and daughters were also employed and made up as much as 15% of the workforce.

One report tells of a girl, Elizabeth Matthew, who received an ear bashing for failing to turn up for evensong.   Her excuse was that she had spent the day wheeling 23 tons of ore in 150 separate loads in a nine hour shift.    That’s 24 stone each load and some 16 loads each hour.

The boys of 10 – 13 also got involved with shifting the ore and coal.   It was manually wheeled up onto the roof of the foundry to create loads of 4-5 tons.    A slat was withdrawn to allow the completed load to drop into the furnace.   Then the ‘finery men’ would take over.     They worked in temperatures of 130 degrees.    A foot thick layer of coke and slag would form on top of the copper mix and they would have to draw off the slag from the molten copper.

This was repeated all the way down the line of refineries.      But only the slag from the first refining would be thrown out.     The rest was recycled back into the furnaces.

Each process would release vast clouds of sulphorous smoke.    And a sweating finery man would consume 2-3 gallons of cheap beer each 12 hour shift (the owners later decided that water was a better idea).

The final process was to create the pliable copper which was useable.    This was ‘poling’.    A layer of charcoal was added to the pure copper and a fresh wooden pole used to manually stir the mix.    These activities were all fraught with danger.   The skill, agility, tolerance and strength of these people can only be imagined.

By 1850, the industry was at its peak.     The Swansea copper market effectively controlled the world copper price.    The town was clearly the most important copper centre of the world.     There were over 600 furnaces in operation in the Swansea Valley.

Swansea’s position as ‘Copperopolis’ declined from this point.    Cornish ore reserves were depleting but new sources were found, notably Chile.    This led to a growth in the docks to handle the larger ships but obviously hit profits.    The ‘welsh process’ was exported first to America and then to Australia as Swansea people migrated to escape the smoke, the slums and the cholera outbreaks.   And a new process using a Bessemer converter was introduced in France.

Despite these developments, Swansea continued to thrive.    In 1871, White Rock was changed to a lead and silver works and other works changed to importing and working refined copper.     Tinplate works started up and thrived for the next 60 years or more.

But there was an environmental cost.    White Rock had produced some 300,000 tons of slag that cut a swathe across the whole Tawe valley.    Kilvey Hill, and all points east, had borne the brunt of the sulphur filled smoke.   All vegetation was killed off leaving a dark barren wasteland.

White Rock was bought out by ICI and in 1929 they reported that it was working ‘atpressure’ on sheet and pipe making.    But terminal decline was now setting in and eventually, White Rock was closed.    The works were demolished in 1963 and work to clear up the slag heap began in 1967.

I can’t remember much of Swansea’s history being taught at school.     And looking back I have the feeling that the town was quite happy to gloss over its past.    The legacy of the industrial past was the polluted wastelands, the dreadful illnesses bequeathed to those who had worked in inhuman conditions and the seemingly insoluble unemployment brought on to a town whose livelihood was in potentially terminal decline.

But now we should be getting over that.     There’s an opportunity to celebrate the history whilst looking forward with a new confidence to writing our own.  The use of White Rock associated with the new stadium would celebrate this history.

Not just locally.   The stadium will become known throughout the UK football world and European rugby world – and hopefully a little beyond that.      We can wave a large flag to say – “Hey – we are proud of our history.    Swansea was the mineral centre of the world during the nineteenth century.    Let no one forget that nor the sweat and toil of those who made it possible.”

It is their descendants who will be at the new stadium to bring it to life with their noise and passion.    And the teams will carry the history and values of these earlier generations, who, through their back breaking endeavours and their close knit, tortuous, yet valuable lives created this passion that we know and love today.

Richard Lillicrap


Since starting this article The City and County of Swansea have announced the Stadium will be officially called “The City of Swansea Stadium”.    I understand the reasons behind this.   There may still be an opportunity to incorporate White Rock.   Eg – the City of Swansea Stadium at White Rock.   In time this will get shortened.   And there is an opportunity to get a small monument on the site to set out the history and significance of White Rock

Richard Lillicrap wrote this article – a remarkably good piece of local history – in 2005.  Tragically he then died two years later.  Richard was a driving force behind the formation of the Supporters’ Trust in the dark days of the Tony Petty.  I used to meet him in exotic places such as Mansfeld, Lincoln, and Kidderminster.  Now that the club is in the Permier League I often think of Richard looking down on the Liberty Stadium with a pint in one hand and a roll-up in the other, cackling with laughter about how unbelievable the re-birth of the Swans has been since 2001.

Gareth Phillips’s obitiary of Richard

Dan Falchikov’s obituary of Richard

For more on the Swansea copper industry

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