15 MARCH 1969 SWANSEA TOWN 1 GRIMSBY 1
Getting news about football was very different in the 1960’s compared to today. All we had then was Match of the Day, (if your parents let you stay up that late), and the Big Match on a Sunday. If we did hear anything about football in the school yard it was always about the big teams , Man U, Spurs, Liverpool, Leeds even Burnley!
Because of this we all had our favourite first division teams. I chose Chelsea as my team as I liked the colour blue, their name ended in “Sea”, and I didn’t know anyone else who supported them. We heard little, if anything, about the Swans. They were in the old fourth division, and if there was any news about them it would be in the Evening Post, and I don’t think any of us read that when we were at junior school. I can’t remember anyone being a Swans fan or who went to the Vetch.
We were football mad, and we played in the school yard at Mumbles Junior school every break time. (Unless someone got a gang together to play British Bulldog). One goal in the yard was against the wall of a row of terraces. I recall one neighbour, who looked like the bald bloke from the Hills Have Eyes, getting very angry each playtime, as the heavy lace up ball disappeared in to his small back garden. We also played regularly at Underhill Park, Southend Park or up the Castle field on the weekends, with, of course, jumpers for goalposts!
My father was not interested in football except for doing his Littlewoods pools coupon, sent by post each week.
I remember the day of my first game clearly.
It was such a surprise to be told by my father he was taking my brother and me to see a game at the Vetch. It was a big day for my brother too, as the team he had chosen to support, Arsenal, were playing Swindon, who were in the old Third division, in the League Cup final.
It pissed down. All day. The ugly, black metal shell of the North Bank rose above me as we went through the turnstiles. There was the smell of frying food and big puddles on the concrete floor. Then the ground opening up in front of me as we walked in under the North Bank and gasping at how big it all seemed (I was 9). There were not many people there. My father took us to stand at the front of the North Bank on about the half way line. The front of the bank was empty. I think he thought we may be attacked by hooligans if we went any further back, so we stood as far back as we could to keep out of the rain, but keeping a healthy distance away from the other supporters. Due to all the rain the pitch was waterlogged, and with every tackle the water sprayed up around the players.
At half time we had a Mars bar, a rare treat as we were not very well off. I remember the crowd cheering as Herbie Williams skinned a defender.(I’m sure I can remember Herbie was playing in his glasses, I may be wrong).Then the Swans went I-0 up. When Grimsby equalised my father cheered. The few people around us laughed as my brother and I hit him around the legs, we thought fighting at football was the done thing! He told us he had the Swans down for a draw on his coupon, that’s why he had cheered.
After the game as we walked out through the big black gates. The crackly voice over the tannoy announced the score from Wembley, Swindon were winning. I remember laughing at my brother at the news, and the later full time result. It was the one and only time my father took us to a game.
The next time I went to the Vetch was a few years later with some school friends in the old enclosure next to the south stand, but by then I was playing for Mumbles Celtic and then Mumbles Rangers so my Saturdays were taken up. It was when Toshack arrived and I was in my teens that I started going regularly, claiming my spot half way up the North Bank behind the TV gantry.
Lots of happy,and not so happy times, and still missed.
“C’mon my lovely boys”!
Great looking back. Thanks to GS for that. Would love to hear from more Swans fans about this. Email firstname.lastname@example.org