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Rough guide to... Swansea City
29 June 2004
In a nutshell
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome to the show. It's your favourite and mine; it's the only Welsh football team worth thinking about this summer, the only Welsh football team to smile about. Why? They're the team who once defeated Hartlepool 8-0! What else? They've beaten Real Madrid 3-0; they've been promoted and relegated – a lot! They were the first Welsh types in Europe; they've been sold for a pound! Twice! In one season! A rugby international has played for them; a former player went on to the mighty New York Cosmos; they have a mascot more famous than any of their players; they had Toshack; they've won the Autoglass Trophy; they've played Northampton in a play-off final; they had a player called Wilfe! They are the one! The only! Swansea City!
[Another one with enormous nuts, then - Ed.]
Their finest hour
...was actually a whole season: the 1981–82 season, to be precise. This was the first year of Swansea's only visit to the top flight and weren't they the busy bees? Yes. They were the only club to be taking part in five competitions: the first division, the League and FA Cups, the Cup Winners' Cup and of course the Welsh Cup, which had been their route to the ECWC (wonder if the Lincs Senior Cup could slip Town in to Europe? Probably not). The season started perfectly with a 5-1 victory over Leeds United (I never tire of hearing about that Yorkshire club's problems) and by October Swansea topped the league. Toshack appeared on This Is Your Life.
Then came their away fixture at Anfield. "It was an incredible coincidence that we should go to Liverpool on top of the first division to play a match at Anfield; the day after I helped to carry Bill Shankly's coffin," said Tosh. The game finished 2-2, and Toshack wore his Liverpool shirt under his tracksuit. With six games to go Swansea were top, Liverpool breathing hard down their Welsh necks. It was too much. Swansea lost five of their last six while the Merseysiders won five and knocked them out of the FA Cup for good measure. The Swans finished in a UEFA cup spot, but they won the Welsh Cup again that year and so entered the CWC again, in which the following season they recorded their biggest ever victory: 12–0 against Sliema Wanderers of Malta.
What's that? They won just four of their last twenty games? Four? Well now, good golly Miss Molly and all that, it's a good job they had a half-decent start to the season or I'd be writing this about York instead. Unsurprisingly Swansea departed company with their manager at the end of the last campaign (ah, military clichés). Brian Flynn went tail tucking and was replaced by Kenny Anorak – sorry, Duffel – no, I mean Coat. All right then – Jacket. Kenny Jacket. They still managed to finish tenth, however (showing what a lottery this new division of ours is), 15 points off the playoffs, but still a good position with such a poor run of form. At least they didn't lose to Scunthorpe (one win and one draw), but they lost twice to Hull, unfortunately, and failed to beat Lincoln (one draw and one loss). They took four points off Boston though, so they gave us a few giggles last year.
I know a Cardiff City supporter; he has the unimaginative nickname of Taff. "Taff!" I shouted across the factory floor. "Yes?" he replied in his Welsh lilt. "What do you think of Swansea City?" I innocently asked. His reply was just a little too bawdy to repeat. Let's just say it sounded something like "Plucking tankers!" One can only assume that the feeling is mutual, and the hatred is definitely alive and well given their derisory chants toward our own favourite – all together now: "Cheer up Lennie Lawrence, oh what can it mean to a sad Cardiff bastard..." Then there's the witty "Cardiff City went to see the Pope" (repeat twice more) "and this is what he said: fuck off!"
Depending on who you ask, Wrexham represent "only another away game" or "nothing but a bunch of thieving Scousers". Rivalries within Division Three (or fizzy pop League Two if you prefer) are purely geographical, with Shrewsbury not too far and Bristol Rovers only a short trip down the M4. They can also spit on Cardiff on their way to the Memorial Stadium.
Who's the Dadi?
Sit up and prepare to take note of the Swansea City music maker, the Grimsby Town heartbreaker; he's their stinger, he's our minger; he's Lee Trundle! A skilful player who walks rings around the opposition (this is why he's still in the third), his bags of talent are offset with thimbles of pace due to the sacks full of Mars bars. As with all cult/best player types, Trundle's is a flawed genius; while accepted as probably the best forward outside the top two divisions, he is slated for being too lazy, too fat, too one-footed (his left is apparently deadly) and he does look a pillock with that coiffure, but 21 goals in 38 games last season and an ocean full of show boating and entertainment make him worth the entrance fee alone.
Of course, I once heard all that about Jevons; it might have been from a Barnsley fan though. So who have they got to prop up Fat Boy Lee? At the back is 22-year-old Alan Tate (wasn't he in Emmerdale Farm?), a young man of whom big things are expected. Ezomo (Izzy) Iriekpen – gotta love the name – is another young potential at centre-half in the same vein as Tate. They also have Gary Monk of Southampton fame (you've maybe heard of him from his loan spells at Wednesday and Barnsley), while 31-year-old Kevin Austin has just been signed from Bristol Rovers to add a little experience to this young defence.
In the middle we'll be facing Andy Robinson, and while Trundle is the headline-grabbing entertainer, Robinson is the worker. Reckoned by many as the player of the year, he always gives 110 per cent (now that is generous) and is rated by one frothing Welshman as the best free kick taker "since David Beckham". He can score from them then, can he? Ten goals last season answers that. Leon Britton is the skilful 'can we really afford this luxury?'-type player, running at defences but doing little to help out when the chips are down. Is Anderson still ours? Roberto Martinez, who was accredited with saving the Swans in their woeful 2002–03 season, has gone off the boil since an injury against Boston (we trained Chapman well).
On the right wing they've just signed Adrian Forbes who scored 14 for Luton last season ("Help yourself, Ade," says Barney). Who's going to be banging them away when they come to collect their three points in October? Signed for £35,000 in March 2004 from Rochdale, Paul Connor scored five in twelve games for the Swans and has the fans in an optimistic lather as they contemplate the joys of a Trundle–Connor blond dynamic duo partnership. However, rated as the "best natural finisher" at the club, James Thomas may be the one (not like Neo, but still pretty cool) to score their goals. Since his heroic hat-trick against Hull in May '03 to keep the Swans up he has been quiet, with just three in twenty-two games last season. Expect plenty of noise against us then.
A sense of optimism seems to be sweeping the ether around south Wales. They have a young, talented side that can take on anyone and can score goals all over the pitch. At the time of writing new manager Jacket has already added five new signings to the squad, and in Trundle they always have a potential match winner. But how will they do? I see a lot of words like 'potential' or 'up and coming' and the classic 'on their day' and comments on their players such as 'one for the future' and 'is going to be great'. Hmmm. The problem with young sides with lots of potential is that they are always on trial, and always presumed rubbish till proven average. Anything good is generally a surprising bonus. So I'll stick my neck out and sit on the fence. If Trundle plays well they'll finish high; otherwise, and this seems more likely, I condemn them to mid-table and another year with nothing but the sheep.
For your geography question, where do Swansea City play their home games? At the Vetch Field, of course, but next year the answer will be the White Rock stadium, as this is their last season at the Vetch. They're off to share with their egg-chasing neighbours. For an orange cheese answer me this: what was Swansea City Football Club's name pre-1970? Any idea? Well, it was Swansea Town, and what's wrong with the name Town, eh? Not good enough for you? Sod you then.
Swansea's best league result came in an 8-0 hammering of Hartlepool [no harm mentioning it twice – Ed.] in the 1977–78 season, which was the year Mr Toshack arrived as player manager. Toshack joined due to then chairmen Malcolm Struel accidentally hearing on the radio that Toshack was the chief celebrity in a promotions project organised by a local firm. Struel took the opportunity to tap him up and try his luck; Tosh agreed and Liverpool gave their blessing as reward for services rendered to the club. I suspect that these days Swansea would have found themselves in the dock for an illegal approach. This, of course, led to their finest hour.
On with the history lesson. In 1927 Swansea buggered off on tour of the continent in March and beat Real Madrid 3-0. In 1933–34 Wilfred 'Wilfe' Milne scored his first league goal for the club in his 501st league appearance. I'll never diss Livvo again. 1961 saw them become the first Welsh team in Europe, playing against the East German side Motor Jena. Then, while the glorious English were winning the World Cup, the sharp-eyed coaches at Swansea released Cardiff-born Giorgio Chinaglia, who went on to little sides such as Lazio and New York Cosmos. In 1967 they were relegated to the bottom division for the first time and in 1970 pulled themselves back up, re-naming themselves Swansea City in the process.
Famous former players? Ivor 'the golden boy of Welsh football' Allchurch. Who? Well he's their record scorer with 166 league goals, and was noted as a gentleman on and off the pitch, but then aren't they always. The managers ring a few more bells: Toshack of course, but there were Terry Yorath (twice), Micky Adams and Jan Molby. Who else? They lost 8-0 to Arsene Wenger's Monaco in 1991 – does that count? No, I didn't think so.
Into the 90s for another lesson. They appeared in three play-off finals, losing them all to West Brom, Northampton and Scunthorpe, but tempered that with a 1994 Wembley victory in the Autoglass Trophy, defeating Huddersfield and celebrating the millennium with the Division Three championship. That was the last time they smiled. 2000–01 saw relegation and the year after the club was twice sold for a pound (whenever I go in those shops they only have crap mugs), and in 2002/03 they slipped to the bottom of the Football League for the first in their history with a defeat at Boston. "Cheers for that," they said. We thought we were bad for the chopping and changing, that season saw 21 players make their debuts.
Well, that's Swansea – they're not really very good, apart from one or two individuals, but at least they have a team, so expect a rigorous celebration for poor old Flossy during our two meetings. Mind you, it's not all doom and gloom: we've won five and drawn two of our last seven encounters, so bring 'em on.
There are a couple of well maintained and even reasonably entertaining Swansea sites out there. I was on some of the message boards during England' s exit from Euro 2004, which they found most amusing, for some reason. The official site is the usual predictably dull excuse for a catalogue – but the Rivals one is worth a glance; the Swansea Mad site isn't too bad; and Swansea Till I Die is fun if amateurish. Don't expect much communication from the users though: a seemingly friendly but unhelpful lot, on the whole.