History of Swansea City A.F.C.

Swansea City A.F.C. is a professional football club that was originally founded in 1912.

Early Years

Swansea traditionally had been a rugby union area, and despite previous attempts by a club named Swansea Villa, there were no notable football clubs until the establishment of Swansea Town AFC in the summer of 1912. They, following the lead of many other South Wales sides, joined the second division of the Southern League for the following season. J. W. Thorpe was the club's first chairman, Walter Whittaker its first manager. Its first secretary was S. B. Williams, who was to serve in this capacity for some 35 years. A site near the Town centre owned by Swansea Gaslight Co., called Vetch Field was rented to the be the clubs' ground, although for the duration of the first season the pitch was made of clinker and kneepads were necessary!

The club's first professional match was at the Vetch Field against arch-rivals Cardiff City on 7 September 1912; the result was a 1-1 draw. During that first season the Welsh Cup was won for the first time, and the following season the Swans became the first side to reach the First Round of the FA Cup. Blackburn Rovers were the first First Division side to the visit the Vetch for a competitive game in the 1914-1915 FA Cup - Blackburn were then the Champions of England, but little Swansea Town from the Second Division of the Southern League beat them 1-0 at the Vetch, while Blackburn's penalty taker Bradshaw missed a penalty kick. There's little remarkable about that, but before the game he'd scored with thirty-six consecutive spot kicks! The Swans drew at another First Division side, Newcastle, in the next round, before losing narrowly in the replay.

Following the First World War the Southern League dropped its second division, and with many clubs dropping out due to financial difficulties, the Swans were placed in the first division. After just four seasons in the Southern League, Swansea Town became founder members of the new Third Division of the Football League in 1920, and then Division Three (South) the following season.

After five seasons in Division Three (South) and a few failed bids for promotion, the Swans reached the Second Division for the first time in 1925, beating Exeter 2-1 at home on the final day of the season to beat perennial runners-up Plymouth Argyle to the Championship. The side had remained unbeaten at home in the league all season - something the next promotion team would emulate over twenty years later. The following season the Swans reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time - beating Exeter, Watford, Blackpool, Stoke, Millwall and Arsenal on the way to playing Bolton at White Hart Lane. Sadly for the Swans, an experienced Bolton side won the game 3-0 and went on to win the cup. The remainder of the inter-war period consisted mostly of finished in the bottom half of the Second Division.


After just one season back from wartime football, the Swans finished 21st in the Second Division, and thus returned to Division Three (South) for the first time since 1925. The following season was one of consolidation, however in 1948-1949 the Swans stormed their way to winning the division for the second time. Only one point was dropped at home all season as the feat of the 1925 promotion side was emulated, with the side finishing a whole seven points ahead of second placed Reading. Billy McCandless was the manager who led the side to promotion, and in doing so he completed a rare hattrick of winning the Third Division (South) title with all three South Wales clubs - and without losing a home game with Swansea or Cardiff.

Following promotion, the Swans had another 15-years of Second Division football to look forward to, however despite what successive managers and chairmen were to say, Swansea Town only once during that time looked like they could genuinely challenge for promotion. That came in the 1955-1956 season, when a side containing the likes of Ivor Allchurch, Terry Medwin, Harry Griffiths, and Tom Kiley led the table early in the season, before an injury to Kiley, referred to as the lynchpin of the side, in mid-November led to a decline in form. He was never adequately replaced, but despite this and the sale of some of the clubs' best players, the side remained in contention for promotion until the beginning of April. Following a 6-1 win over second placed Leicester at the Vetch at the end of March the side was just two points behind second placed Liverpool with a game in hand - however subsequent results were not as encouraging, and they eventually slipped away to finish tenth.

In 1964 the Swans reached a second FA Cup semi-final, beating Barrow, Sheffield United and Stoke on the way to a famous sixth round victory at Anfield. Few gave the Swans, struggling for their lives at the bottom of Division Two, any chance of causing an upset against the league leaders. But the Swans were 2-0 up at half time thanks to Jimmy McLaughlin and Eddie Thomas. Liverpool turned up the pressure in the second half, pulling a goal back before being awarded a penalty nine minutes from time. Ronnie Moran had established an excellent record as a penalty taker, but he failed to beat the excellent Noel Dwyer on this occasion. Fellow second division side Preston awaited in the semi-final at Villa Park, but despite taking the lead through McLaughlin again the Swans were to be denied by a second half penalty and a wonder goal from nearly 40 yards.

After flirting with relegation on a few occasions during the previous seasons, the Swans' luck finally ran out a season later in 1965, and they were back in the Third Division.

1965-1977: A downward spiral

Following relegation Trevor Morris, who had been manager since 1958, was sacked and Glyn Davies a former Swansea player appointed in his place. Davies re-signed the 36-year old Ivor Allchurch from Cardiff City, but in spite of winning the Welsh Cup the season saw some of the club's heaviest defeats, and the manager only lasted the season. Relegation to Division Four followed in 1967 and Ivor Allchurch retired. Paradoxically the 1967/8 season saw the record attendance of 32,796 at the Vetch Field for an FA Cup fourth round match against Arsenal. In 1969 the club name was changed to Swansea City and the early 1970s saw three seasons back in the Third Division, but in 1975 they were forced to apply for re-election to the Football League.

1977-1986: Meteoric rise and equally rapid fall

Despite promising performances during the first half of the 1977/78 season, Harry Griffiths resigned as Swansea City's manager in February 1978, doubting his own ability to take the club any further. The new manager was former Liverpool, Cardiff City and Wales striker John Toshack. On 1 March 1978, at the age of 28, Toshack became the youngest manager in the Football League, with Harry Griffiths as his assistant. Thus began a remarkable climb from the Fourth Division to the top of the entire league.

Before promotion was secured, however, tragedy struck when Harry Griffiths died of a heart attack on 25 April 1978 before the home game against Scunthorpe United.

A further promotion followed the following season and the club returned to the Second Division after an absence of 14 years.

After a season of consolidation, Swansea City again challenged for promotion and travelled to Preston North End on 2 May 1981 in the knowledge that victory would assure them a place in the First Division for the first time in the club's history. A 3-1 win guaranteed a third promotion in four seasons and Swansea City joined the footballing élite. The goalscorers on that historic day at Deepdale were Tommy Craig, Leighton James and Jeremy Charles.

The 1981/82 season began as implausibly as recent history had suggested it might. The fixture computer handed Swansea's upstarts a first-day home game against Leeds United, which Swansea promptly won 5-1 with a hat-trick by debutant Bob Latchford. Swansea had swept from the basement division to the top of the entire Football League in barely three years. Victories over footballing royalty such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur followed as the club topped the league on several further occasions that season but ended in sixth place.

However, a fateful combination of poor form, misfortune in the transfer market and financial problems led to a slump which was as quick and spectacular as the rise had been. Two consecutive relegations followed and Toshack was sacked. By 1985, the club was battling for its very survival on two fronts. Whilst its creditors lined up a High Court hearing with the aim of liquidating the club, Swansea City had come to rely on a combination of old stagers and young professionals.

Wound up by court order in December 1985, Swansea City was saved by local businessman Doug Sharpe who took over the running of the club, although the change of ownership was not enough to prevent relegation to the Fourth Division in 1986. Eight years on from the first promotion under Toshack, the club was back where it had started.

1986-1995: In place of strife

Swansea won promotion from the Fourth Division in 1988 - beating Rotherham and Torquay over two legs in the inaugural playoffs. They remained in the league's third tier for the next eight seasons - the longest period of stability the club had seen since the war.

Doug Sharpe may have kept the purse strings tight, but under Terry Yorath and then Frank Burrows, the club managed to stay in the second division, reach the playoff semi-finals in 1993 and make their first Wembley appearance a year later.

Burrow guided the Swans to within 180 minutes of Wembley in 1993 - a run of 5 wins in the last 6 league matches secured a playoff place, and with five minutes remaining of the first leg of the semi-final against West Brom, the Swans were 2-0 up and looking comfortable. Andy McFarlance scored an unfortunate own goal when the ball rebounded off the crossbar then into the net off his knee to give West Brom a lifeline, and two early goals followed by the sending off of Colin West in the away leg made it almost impossible for the Swans to make a comeback.

Although the league campaign the following season didn't live up the previous one, mainly due to the sale of key players, Burrows guided the Swans to Wembley for the first time in their history for the final of the Autoglass Trophy. Wins over Plymouth & Exeter in the group stage followed by triumphs over Exeter again, Port Vale, Leyton Orient and Wycombe over two legs saw the Swans play Huddersfield in a final that finished 1-1. Chairman Doug Sharpe brought back the famous hat, and the Swans went on to win 3-1 on penalties.

The following season failed to live up to expectations, although the club again reached the semi-finals of the Auto Windscreens Shield, eventually going out to Birmingham, and an eventful FA Cup run saw them win at Middlesbrough in a third round replay, before going out to Newcastle at St. James' Park.

95/96 ended with relegation back to the third division after 8 years. The Swans were doing fine around Christmas time, but a complete collapse in the second half of the season, including a 7-0 FA Cup defeat at third division Fulham, 4-0 and 5-1 defeats at Blackpool and Oxford respectively, relegation was inevitable, despite the arrival of Jan Molby.

1995-2001: The difficult years return

Relegation in 1996 was accompanied by an unfortunate statistic: never before had the club been managed by four men in the same season. Most embarrassing was the appointment of Kevin Cullis as manager by a consortium wishing to buy the club. Cullis, whose previous experience was with non-league Midlands club Cradley Town, was certainly not the "big name" manager promised by the new owners. Alarmed at developments at the club, outgoing chairman Doug Sharpe invoked a contractual clause to cancel the deal and resumed control himself: Cullis was promptly sacked after just six days.

Cullis's successor was Jan Mølby, a former Liverpool player taking his first steps in management. His appointment inevitably prompted comparison with the Toshack era which began nearly 20 years earlier. Despite relegation in 1996, the club reached the final of the 1997 Third Division promotion play-offs but lost to Northampton Town, whose goal came from a re-taken free kick by John Frain in the final minute. Mølby was sacked just weeks into the following season, with Swansea struggling near the foot of the league. After the initial optimism, the Liverpool connection had not caused history to repeat itself.

Alan Cork was appointed as manager, but was dismissed after leading the club to its lowest league finish for 23 years. John Hollins was appointed, and things soon started to improve. In 1999, the club reached the promotion play-offs, only to lose in extra time at Scunthorpe United. The season was also notable for a third-round FA Cup victory over Premiership opponents West Ham United, whose team included Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand and John Hartson. Swansea thus became the first bottom division team to defeat a Premiership club in the FA Cup since the wholesale re-organisation of the league structure in 1992.

The club was promoted in 2000 as Division Three champions, following a nail-biting championship decider on the final day of the season against second-placed Rotherham United. Promotion had been secured courtesy of a 3-0 win over Exeter City at a packed Vetch Field. The 1-1 draw at Rotherham, however, was overshadowed by the death of supporter Terry Coles, trampled to death by a police horse in narrow Millmoor Lane before the game.

Despite significant optimism on the terraces, it was clear that the team was not strong enough to survive in the higher division and relegation occurred in May 2001, just 12 months after promotion.

2001-2003: Meltdown

In July 2001, following relegation back to Third Division, the club was sold to managing director Mike Lewis for the princely sum of £1. Lewis subsequently sold on his stake to a consortium of Australian businessmen behind the Brisbane Lions football team, fronted by outspoken Londoner Tony Petty. The move prompted perhaps the most controversial period in the club's history as seven players were sacked and eight others saw their contracts ripped up. Supporters were incensed by the loss or sale of key players, and amid threatened sanctions by the Football League, a rival consortium headed by ex-player Mel Nurse sought to buy out the new owners.

The crisis led to the creation of the Swansea City Supporters' Trust, which sought to save the club and ultimately guarantee supporter representation on the club's board.

The Petty group sold its stake in January 2002 after a bitter stand-off with the Nurse consortium, which was supported by the majority of the club's fans. Results did not improve, however, and the club struggled for the remainder of the season.

In May 2003, Swansea City avoided relegation to the Football Conference only on the last day of the season, at the expense of Exeter City. By a cruel irony, Exeter's then vice-chairman was none other than Mike Lewis, who was widely seen as responsible for the Petty crisis at Swansea.

It was during this period, that the famous slogan "Judas Mike Lewis, Sir Mel, Petty Out" appeared not only at the ground, but around the city as well.At once they signed Frank Lampard on loanEven now, many Swansea supporters find it very difficult to be objective about the Petty era. It is clear, however, that the opposition which was galvanised by Petty's reign was translated into increased attendances as the people of Swansea rallied to the club's cause. The risk posed to the future of league football in Swansea, through both mismanagement and footballing failure, were a powerful incentive for supporters and the new owners to create a brighter future.

2003-2005: Rebuilding

Since then, the Swans have gone from strength to strength. In 2004, they finished in the top half of Third Division under manager Brian Flynn and promoted in 2005 under Flynn's successor Kenny Jackett.

ummer 2005: Goodbye to the Vetch

Swansea's last League match at the Vetch Field was a 1-0 win over Shrewsbury Town on 30 April 2005 in front of a full house; 11,465 people were present to say farewell to the asymmetrical ground and its crooked floodlights.

Many thought it fated that Swansea would win promotion during the final season at the Vetch, given so many prior false hopes both for promotion and for the new ground itself. One week after the Shrewsbury game, Swansea did indeed clinch promotion to Coca Cola League One with another 1-0 win, this time at Bury, where over 5,000 Swans fans had made the journey north to out number the home fans.

The last game of any sort at the Vetch Field was a 2-1 win against Wrexham in the final of the 2005 FAW Premier Cup; it was the Swans' first trophy win since the Third Division Championship in 2000 but the first Cup triumph since 1994's Autoglass Trophy.

Some pictures of The Vetch in its current state can be found here: http://www.swansea.vitalfootball.co.uk/article.asp?a=31214

The Liberty Stadium's 'official' name is not popular amongst some supporters, many of whom refer to it either as the Morfa, or the Whiterock Stadium: the former was the name of the athletics stadium which stood on the site from the 1970s until construction began on the current structure, the latter's origins being the name of the local copper works at Pentrechwyth which opened in 1737 and was adopted by developers as a working title for the stadium.

wansea City since 2005

The club took up residence at the impressive new Liberty Stadium during the summer of 2005.

In their first season in League One Swansea finished in sixth place, and competed in the play-offs. After beating Brentford in the semi-finals, they lost out to Barnsley in the final at the Millennium Stadium on 27 May 2006. Although Swansea dominated the final for long periods, the match finished 2-2 and Barnsley won a penalty shoot-out 4-3.

The club also tasted cup success on two fronts, winning the Football League Trophy for the first time since 1994 and the FAW Premier Cup for a second successive year.

The 2006-2007 season brought further disappointment as the Swans again failed to achieve promotion from League One. After a poor start Jackett's side brought themselves into playoff contention in November and December, however a poor run of form in the new year led to Jackett's resignation in February, after a home defeat to Oldham meant that automatic promotion was unlikely. Roberto Martinez took over as manager a fortnight later, beating off competition from Gary Megson. Under Roberto the side went on a late surge for the playoff places, taking 24 points from his 12 games in charge, but failed to reach them on the final day after losing 6-3 at home to Blackpool.

Over the summer many new faces arrived, including Dutchmen Dorus de Vries and Ferrie Bodde, as well as Spanish right-back Angel Rangel and Trinidad & Tobago striker Jason Scotland, who replaced the departing Lee Trundle. Although Scotland was originally brought to the club to partner the Scouse striker, Trundle left made a million pound move to championship side Bristol City during pre-season. After an average start to the season the Swans soared to the top of League One with an 18 game unbeaten run from November to March. Despite being unable to continue their excellent run through to the end of the season, the Swans were promoted on April 12th following a 2-1 success at Gillingham F.C., and crowned Champions the following week despite a home defeat by Yeovil Town F.C.. The club amassed a total of 92 points over the course of the season, the highest ever by a Welsh club in the Football League, as well as breaking club records for most away wins in a season (14), most goal scored away from home in a season (42) and fewest away defeats in a season (3). They also equalled the records for most wins in a season (27) and longest sequence of league away games without defeat (12). In addition to this, they came within one game of equalling the clubs longest ever unbeaten run (19 games) and one fewer defeat would have equalled the club record for fewest defeats in a season. The club also boasted five players in the PFA Team of the Year, and the divisions top scorer in Jason Scotland.

Swansea were also a penalty shootout from another visit to Wembley in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, after a largely second string side had reached the semi-finals and lost the first leg 1-0, a first choice team won the return leg 1-0 at Milton Keynes Dons, before losing 5-4 on penalties, with former Swansea 'keeper Willy Gueret saving the decisive penalty.

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