I was devastated to hear the sad news this morning that big Kevin Austin has passed away. He had a firm place in the hearts of the Jack Army with his no nonsense defending, the way he’d go into 50/50s and what can only be described as the best ability I’ve ever seen at holding off a defender to allow the ball to go out for a goal kick.
It was the summer of 2004 when he made the move to the Vetch Field in the famous ground’s final season. Kenny Jackett made it his top priority to sort out a leaky defence and Austin was one of his first signings, on a free transfer from Bristol Rovers. One of his first acts as a Swans player though is memorable for the wrong reasons. He was due to be in the starting eleven for a home game with Cheltenham but got stuck in traffic on the M4 on his commute from Bristol and actually missed the game!
After that I believe Jackett told him he would have to stay over in Swansea the night before a game to ensure it didn’t happen again. From then on Austin was more or less an ever present – usually at centre back but also at left back when necessary and it was during this season that the ‘Austin is our hero’ chant first came to prominence.
Who on earth started it I have no idea but it quickly became a terrace favourite on the North Bank and is still one of my favourite chants we’ve ever had.
That season would ultimately end with promotion on the final day, in front of 5,000 travelling fans at Bury, ensuring the Swans would play in a higher division at their new home the following August.
Austin continued to be a regular the next season and added a Football League Trophy to his medal collection (even though he missed the final through injury) but the ultimate prize of back to back promotions was denied by a penalty shootout defeat to Barnsley in the play-off final.
The Swans fell short in the next campaign, but in Austin’s fourth and final season with us, the Swans won promotion to League 1 by topping the table and breaking numerous club records on the way with BIg Kev featuring in 29 of the 46 league games.
By the time he departed the club later that summer, he had played exactly 150 times for the Swans in all competitions, the only shame being that he didn’t score for the club. The closest he came was when a cheeky backheel away at Southend in March 2008 was cleared off the line.
After he left South Wales, he moved to Chesterfield and was recently working as a coach at Scunthorpe until today’s sad news.
From all the tributes I’ve seen online today from his ex-teammates to fans of all the clubs he played at, it’s clear how well respected he was by his peers, not just as a player but as a person as well. Gentle giant is a phrase I’ve heard a lot and that is the perfect description.
None of us will ever forget Kevin Austin, on Wednesday night I suggest we all sing the ‘Austin is our hero’ chant in the third minute as a tribute to this great man.
RIP Big Kev, thank you for your service to our club, my thoughts are with your family and friends at this sad time.