Stick With What We’ve Got
When you’re a newly promoted side surely you need to strengthen to make sure you don’t go back down? That’s what I was thinking anyway. John Hollins disagreed with me though and his only summer signing was Andrew Mumford from Llanelli which was as uninspiring as it gets. We needed a striker at least, we’d only scored 51 goals the year before and we were even worse off now that Julian Alsop had left. Hollins just hated making signings. He only made a dozen in his three years here, including short term loans.
We opened our account with two 0-0 draws but by the middle of September we had three wins under our belt and were up in 11th. I’ve got a recording in my house of the Soccer Sunday highlights which show us beating Luton 4-0 and Matthew Bound was asked after the game “Is there confidence in the side to get another promotion?” His response was “Definitely”. By the season’s end this would look like some of the most ridiculous overconfidence you were ever likely to see.
Romo and Savarese
The gaffer finally saw sense after a few defeats and plunged into the transfer market signing midfielder David Romo and striker Giovanni Savarese. Whilst Romo stayed until the end of the following season having little impact, Savarese was an inspired acquisition, scoring twice on his debut as we beat Stoke and ended up with fourteen goals in total. He was our best striker in years and he of course would realise he could do a whole lot better than us and departed at the seasons end, after I’d got him on the back of my shirt as well. Learnt my lesson after that, no ones had that privilege since.
Yes there were a few unsavoury scenes that year. Mainly involving Bristol City and Millwall. We faced the red half of Wurzel land on Halloween – a Tuesday night and they duly smashed up the Potter’s Wheel by accident, they’d meant to go for the Garibaldi but somehow ended up there. Then there was Millwall. This game was moved to an early Sunday game and finished in an uneventful 0-0 but afterwards was when things got ugly. My dad used to park in county hall so we had a prime view of all the trouble on Oystermouth Road. It was frightening to watch but eventually the police stepped in and got the Millwall lot back to the station.
I made it to five away games that season. Unsurprisingly I didn’t see us win, but my first trip to Bristol City sticks in my mind. After the trouble of our previous meeting it was decided the game would kick off at noon. 1,000 of us made the trip and were in full voice for the 90 minutes and I was introduced to the legendary “I can’t read and I can’t write” which I still love to this day. Stuart Roberts put us in front early on but Michael Howard was sent off shortly after and City equalised from the resulting free kick. From then on we battled hard with ten men and had a stone wall penalty turned down after Roberts was fouled in the box just after the break. But all our hard work was for nothing and the home side scored twice in injury time to break our hearts. We deserved better that day and I was gutted as we trotted back over the bridge.
One In Six Months
Home wins that is. Yes we really were that shocking. After that Savarese double against Stoke, we beat Walsall on Boxing Day but then didn’t win again at home again until FA Cup semi-finalists Wycombe visited twelve games after the clash with the Potters. That win though did witness two wonderful Walter Boyd goals. He did a twist and turn in the box before burying a right foot shot in the corner for his first and then scored a left footed 30 yard volley for his second. I’ve only just remembered that goal, it really was a screamer.
To try and stop us from being relegated Hollins moved into the transfer market and signed Nicolas Fabiano and Mathias Vershave from Paris St Germain. Predictably neither had much of an impact although Fabiano did okay for Aberdeen when he eventually joined them on a permanent basis. Surely we should have been looking for loans in this country rather than abroad as foreigners would need time to settle. Bournemouth were struggling at the bottom early in the season and then they borrowed some kid named Jermain Defoe. Now I’m not saying we’d get someone that good, but why didn’t we go to Chelsea and ask for someone seeing as Hollins was a club legend there. To be honest even if we’d had Defoe I still think we’d have gone down, we were worryingly out of our depth.
Hollins was always optimistic. Too optimistic for my liking. I remember him saying Kris O’Leary should be in Mark Hughes’ thoughts for a Wales squad before, no one else would have even considered him. With five games to go though we were 15 adrift of safety and he proclaimed we’d win all five and say up. Not even he believed it surely? Anyway it was irrelevant and we lost that day to Oldham and were going back down to division three after one miserable season in the second.
No Rest Bite
Sometimes the Cups can bring cheer to a bad season but they didn’t this term. Bournemouth and West Brom dumped us out of the big two and in the LDV Vans Trophy as it was then named our exit to Brentford was insignificant compared to the injury suffered to Jason Smith. He was never the same player after that and Smudger ended up retiring two years later which was a shame as he was easily our best defender. We also continued our woes in the FAW final by losing at home to Wrexham and failing to get a shot on target. Praise the lord that I don’t have to relive those shocking nine months again!