Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Long Way From The Vetch Field Days

A member of the Spanish press said of Barcelona’s recent form: ‘If only they could play more like Swansea City’.

Big praise indeed for the small Welsh club who have come a long way in the last 10 years. A club who nearly fell out of the Football League on the last day of the 2002-2003. Only a 4-2 victory on the last day of the season against Hull City earning them a reprieve at the crumbling Vetch Field.

It wasn’t just the Vetch that was old and decrepit. I was a young player at Swansea, signing at the Vetch at the age of 9 and leaving at 16 but what amazed me was the facilities we had compared to other clubs. It was not just the ‘Cygnets’ that struggled. 1st team players and Apprentices would jump in a mini bus and find a local park to train at on a daily basis. Hardly Premier League standards don’t you agree?

For a club who were chairman-less for a few seasons and limited funds, Swansea have always had the ability to pull a signing, permanent or a loan, out of the bag. In 2000 the club signed David Romo, a player who had sent that summer with the France Olympic team. Romo was class, a player in my opinion far too good for what was the equivalent of League 1. Romo was signed on the same day that John Hollins signed Venezuelan international striker Giovanni Savarese.

Along with Saverese and Romo, Swansea had Mamady Sidibe who went on to make 168 appearences for Stoke City. My granddad actually nearly ran Sidibe over on his first day of training at Fairwood Common. Walter Boyd is another foreign signing for The Swans. A player who like Saverese, wouldn’t of known where Wales was let alone Swansea. A Jamaican international with 66 caps became a cult hero and while at Swansea he scored twice on his debut but also achieved the unusual distinction of coming on as a substitute and being sent off before play had even resumed. 

In December 2002, not many fans would realise what kind of player they had just been handed on loan. A 20 yr old Leon Britton arrived from West Ham. Britts has gone on to make over 300 appearances for The Swans after making his move permanent 6 months after initially being on loan. He made the ‘Mistake’ in 2010 signing for Sheffield United and quickly hot footed it back across the border for Swansea’s promotion push.

That’s the thing with Swansea, through all the bad times off the field and sometimes on it, they have always made signings. Whether it be a gamble on a Venezuelan international or a sound investment in a former West Ham youth team player of the year. Fans become attached to certain players. What was needed was a bit of ambition off the field and things would surely fall into place? You know what happened next…

Liam Kenna

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