Steve Meredith has sent the following story in as his contribution to the Centenary project call for essays. This one has to go in the book!
‘The Face of Swansea’
(Swans 100 mini essay)
I ordered the tickets on the Swans website for the second leg of the playoff semi final against Forest and I already started to get butterflies in anticipation of this game – a game that could get us to Wembley with a chance of playing in the Premiership with £90 mill coming our way….yes us, Swansea City….I couldn’t believe it. We were heroes in the first leg at the City ground getting a 0-0 draw after Neil Taylor had been sent off in the first minute and I just knew we were going to beat them at the Liberty because of that result…..As I went to turn off the computer I just noticed a link to say ‘ Shirt competition’…..At first I ignored it then just pressed the link as I cast a very suspicious eye over this NPOWER competition asking fans to send in a description of their favourite football shirt stories that meant something to them. I just thought sod it I’ll tell them mine in a maximum 40 words ! I briefly wrote about the birth of my twins in 1997, Megan and Will. Will was born by normal delivery, and was handed to me, whilst Meg had to be whisked off to enter into the world by Caesarean section…whilst I was left with Will on my own in the room I wrapped him in my Swans shirt I had brought along. I also did this with Meg after she came out of the special care baby unit some weeks later……..
A week or so later whilst on the road working I get a call from Mollie our eldest girl to say that NPOWER had been on and wanted to speak with me…..without thinking I said ‘tell them politely to go away as we were with British Gas and I have just changed suppliers’…..I get a call back some moments later by a very polite lady from NPOWER and as I was just about to utter something polite to get rid of her she said she was Head of Marketing from the energy giant ! eh…..what the hell did she want ? ‘Is that Steve Meredith ?’…..’You have been shortlisted with another Swans fan along with 2 Forest fans to win a shed load of prizes and the chance to be ‘The Face of Swansea City if they reach the final’……! ‘what does that mean I asked her?’…..’just come to the Liberty at 2.00pm on the day of the playoff 2nd leg for a photoshoot………? Photoshoot……OMG !’…….I went home and told my wife Jane who screamed with laughter and panic.
The morning of Monday 16th May I set off with Will ( whom NPOWER had asked to come along also ) very early as we live in St Helens near Liverpool and set off for that 4 hour journey once again down the M6 – M5-M50- M4 to my hometown with emotions running wild. This is a journey I have made hundreds and hundreds of times for most home games and to spend time with my family but this time it was a chance to get to Wembley and maybe be the ‘Face of Swansea’ but we had to win the game first and there was another fellow Jack Army fan called Mike also shortlisted.
All four fans (2 from Forest and us 2 Swans) (and Will ) chatted prior to having our photos taken in the tactics room before the biggest game in years for us. The other fans were real football fans through and through, it was obvious and that made us all feel great that we were sharing this day….the people taking the photos asked If I could put the old shirt I wrote about on…….Well, there was no way I could get that on….I was weighing in at 15 stone these days and would have looked ridiculous in it… they threw the shirt to Will who donned it instead….but they said to me you have to wear a current Swans shirt….but I did not have one with me…In fact I haven’t got one…..Then a lady named Dawn said…’Don’t worry I’ll get one from the first team changing room !!…She came back with Fabio Borini’s shirt…threw it at me and said get that on……Well it was a medium and skin tight….There were ripples everywhere and I was sucking in air as if my life depended on it…..It was fruitless I looked like a an adult seal !! Will and I had our photos taken….flashes everywhere , white umbrellas, with the well coifed photographer saying ‘Give it more’ etc., etc….who the hell did we think we were !!!!!!
When Darren Pratley ran away up to the half way line my lungs just could not scream anymore…they had given up…but as that ball hit the net in injury time I grabbed my father as we screamed together louder than we have ever screamed because we were there….there was no coming back for forest…..Even being with him at Preston in 1981 it was magical when Charlo belted in the third but the excitement that night at the Liberty was phenomenal and seemed more raw………..We were off to Wembley…..I couldn’t care less about the photos…..what bloody photos ? !
The next day We had travelled back to St Helens and I had a call again from NPOWER to say that our photos were chosen to represent Swansea City at Wembley plus we had won another season ticket and complimentary tickets and other things…….I couldn’t believe all this………
I asked the lady what they would do with the photos and she explained that the a photo of Will and me in Swans shirts would hang from Wembley….60 foot by 30 foot !!!! and all down Wembley way and in the Wembley tunnel / programme etc. etc. etc…….Please wake me up from this dream I said…..but all I wanted was for us to beat Reading…….We were asked to come down a couple of days later to have some clips with BBC Wales / Sky and press……..Now this was getting ridiculous and I’m now getting way too show biz….but sod it !! 15 mins of fame and all that…..On BBC Wales news they had me coming out of the ticket office with the playoff cup but had Leighton James speaking before me and my all time Swans hero Alan Curtis speaking after me……What was going on ?…..Please wake me up…..It’s becoming a joke now !! I bought the Evening post that week and it said ‘The Face of Swansea’ and ‘Poster Boys’…The sponsors know how to milk it mind.
Very early on May 30th we set off from the North West. My wife Jane and all 4 of our Kids who are all huge Swans fans and everyone in this part of the world knows them as massive Swans fans – we really do fly the flag in this hotbed area of football greatness , in between Liverpool and Manchester….we tuned into Owen Money and then Mal Pope on Radio Wales and they were brilliant all morning with wall to wall Swans and great music…….we sang all the way down to the big smoke. Without a word of a lie we were about 2 miles from Wembley and our eldest son Tom said …Oh my god Dad, I can see you and Will from here its massive…..There we were draped all over this famous ground. At the ground fellow Swans fans were coming up to me saying….that’s you son ! – I just couldn’t believe it !!!!
What a game, what a result, what a day ! There have been some amazing moments I can remember as a 44 year old Swans fan but that day with all my family around including my Mum and Dad in Wembley was the best…..The rollercoaster of winning it and almost losing it and finally getting there was draining but awesome. To top off this memorable experience for me there was a massive Swans and Reading shirt held up by an inflatable with my name on it….I hadn’t even noticed it as I clapped as hard as I could for the soldiers coming around the pitch…..I felt a fraud as I knew these were the people who deserved to be held up and celebrated…..They should have chosen one of those boys to give the tickets and everything too not me.
I gave the sponsors tickets NPOWER gave me on the day to others and bought tickets right behind the goals to be with my fellow Jacks……..I will never ever forget that day and those few weeks…..EVER.