Swansea City, Tuesday 23 January
How to get there
There and back on a Tuesday night? Let’s face it, you’ve got a long spell on the M4. Either the car, the coach or the GISC “banger”. Eurostar spotting on the A2, fog on Reigate Hill, the strange smell at Slough, Membury Services, the Severn Bridge toll, that lane that takes you off to Monmouth if you’re not paying attention, the tunnel at Newport with the posh hotel on top of it…one of the all-time great British roadtrips…
Not been to the Liberty Stadium myself, thanks to our penchant for playing there midweek in the depths of winter. I understand it is quite beautiful but lacking the bizarre quaintness of The Vetch Field, with it’s huge modern stand and Subutteo floodlight built shortly before Swansea ran out of money in the early 80s at one end, and an ill-fitting jumble of ramshackle covers on the other three sides.
Where to Drink
No time for a drink. You’ll be inexplicably delayed at the junction before Cardiff.
The Swans. Beautiful, graceful white birds that can break your arm if you sneak up on them with a caterpult, as characterised by the mascot Cyril the Swan. Also known as The Jacks, apparently after a life-saving dog (a flat-coated retriever) in the 17th Century called Swansea Jack. He used to rescue drowning sailors who’d had their arms broken by startled swans.
The scenic Gower Peninsula, the UK’s first area of outstanding natural beauty (in 1956) – a breathtaking eye-opener for those who thought that this region was obliterated by coal mines down to the sea, and allegedly named after cricketer David Gower’s enormous appendage
The Mumbles railway, the world’s first passenger service. It employed a wooden contraption conveyed by a horse along the perimeter of Swansea Bay. The fare in 1806 was one shilling, though group discounts were available if booked in advance by telegram. The service was dry on derby days between Swansea and Cardiff
Don’t try to interact in any way. A recent study attempted to ascertain why they wear so much perfume and make-up, but the results were inconclusive, other than establishing that without them they smell and they’re ugly. Famous fans include Catherine Zeta-Jones, who – legend has it – was deflowered by Michael Douglas at the back of the main stand during an interlude in a dull draw with Bristol Rovers.
Bluebirds. Sam Hamman. Rob Earnshaw.
Swansea Hate Figures
Leon Knight has incurred more wrath than most midget strikers in recent years, diving farcically to con penalties out of referees and mincing around town in little leotards. Further back, there’s Paul Raynor, a nasty piece of work who was a central figure when half our team got sent off at Cambridge in 1996 and provoked our travelling support to all but kidnap him when he took a late corner. And in the mid-80s I’m sure a chap called Ray McHale soiled the Swansea shirt….now there’s just that antagonistic tosser Tom Williams.
A Swansea side featuring John Toshack, Tommy Smith, Ian Callaghan, Phil Boersma and the legendary Geoff Crudgington being undone 2-0 at Priestfield in November 1978. Over 11000 saw the Liverpool rejects, sporting a magnificent 70s kit featuring a diagonal red and black sash, comprehensively outplayed, falling to Ken Price’s opener and a John Crabbe penalty. Swansea went on to nick promotion from us by one point.
Martin Robinson’s flying header to claim a last ditch equaliser in 84/85 after Gills had dominated to such an extent that 97% of the action took place in the visitors’ six yard box.
A 5-1 trashing of a hapless Jack side featuring 63 year old Tommy Hutchinson in October 1985, the start of a run which saw 23 Gills goals scored in five home games. David Shearer nabbed a hat-trick and missed a penalty, while crusty old David Hales grabbed the other two. The referee was Vic Callow, who was an utter tart, famous for getting a sarcastically applauding ballboy thrown out of Ashton Gate on one hot-headed afternoon.
The nadir of the March promotion collapse in 85/86, as we slumped 2-0 to relegation bound and virtually bankrupt Swansea at a misty Vetch Field. A late goal from Mel Sage and a Mark Weatherly diving header salvaged an unlikely point, and one of their strikers missed an even later sitter to rival Cascarino’s miss against Everton
The League Cup tie in 1996, the last occasion I remember being able to transfer from the Rainham End to the Town End behind the Gordon Road Stand at half time. We strolled to a 2-0 victory
Swansea 4 Gills 1. An early towering header from Leon Johnson gives the travelling cluster of 189 hope of a repeat of last year. The dream is wrecked by Adebayo Akinfenwa going wibble in the last ten minutes, drilling home a four minute hat-trick and then kneeing a farcical injury time fourth off the back of Bas Savage’s head. Ronnie Jepson declares himself “quite cross” while Paul Scally promises that six new faces, a state-of-the-art stadium and a range of Gillingham FC jams will be unveiled before the Sky cameras on Friday.
The Morty Vicker