After having three managers during the 1997/8 campaign the board decided it was time for another change at the top and out went Alan Cork to be replaced by John Hollins. Cork was on the verge of signing both Jason Smith and Martin Thomas and it was thought that these moves could fall through but Hollins decided to add both to his squad and they proved to be our only new arrivals during the summer.
Nice Swan Cyril
This was year the when mascot’s were widely introduced at each club and it’s fair to say things would never be the same at the Vetch once Cyril appeared. He was an absolute hero; he’d regularly mock the away fans by diving and flicking his boot in the air in reference to David Beckham’s France 98 red card. He celebrated on the pitch during the FA Cup win over Millwall and was subsequently banned and fined and even ended up on the national lottery. Those days are long gone now, he’s so boring and family friendly now, he died the day we left the Vetch when he got married (like so many men I’m told!)
My birthday’s in November and during this season I wanted to be mascot for the closest home game to that date. The fixture list threw us Cardiff the week before which left me pretty excited about running out with the players on the biggest day of the campaign. It was great, I got to meet all the players, tour of the Vetch (okay that lasted 5 minutes) and I scored three past Roger in the warm up. Of course the best thing of all was Matthew Bound scoring a late winner meaning at the third time of asking I’d finally seen us win a derby. That was the highlight though of a dour start to the season, the cup though was another matter…
We saw off Millwall and Stoke in the FA Cup and were in the third round for the first time since I’d been following the Swans. Naturally I was very excited about the draw and was chuffed when we were given a trip to West Ham as our reward. 3,500 of us descended on East London and witnessed a brilliant Swans display and we got a thoroughly deserved draw and completed the job on one of those special Vetch nights 10 days later thanks to Thomas’ winning goal. It was Derby up in round four and they survived a few scares to sneak through with a late winner.
Roger Freestone was as reliable a keeper as you’re ever likely to see. For most of his time here he was barely injured but at the end of January he slipped a disc in his back meaning unconvincing understudy Jason Jones had to take his place between the sticks. A few games later though we were in real trouble when he suffered concussion after a clash of heads with Steve Jones which left us without a goalkeeper. Hollins drafted in Matthew Gregg from Crystal Palace on loan to compensate for it and he was shocking. We were fortunate that Roger was back by 9th March, much longer and our season would have been finished!
Aiden Newhouse has the embarrassing accolade of being proclaimed the worst player to ever represent Swansea City by 442 magazine. With good reason too, he was absolutely useless. In mid February against Carlisle he was fouled whilst through on goal and was on the floor with the ball in front of him and the goalkeeper nowhere, it was an open goal, he shot and missed the target and the referee didn’t give the penalty as he’d allowed the advantage. That was bad enough but then later in the game as Stuart Roberts was about to pull the trigger he kicked him in the back of the leg to stop him taking the shot. He never played for us again after that unsurprisingly. He was so bad, in his 12 year career he only scored 21 goals and he’s supposed to be a striker, and yes none of those 21 were scored for us.
4 in a week
Due to numerous postponements we had to play four games in the final week of the campaign and needed some wins to secure a Play-Off place. First up was Rochdale away where we won 0-3 and then we lost 4-1 at champions Brentford three days later before defeating Cambridge on a Thursday night at the Vetch. It was then Hull at home in a game that was nearly called off due to a waterlogged pitch in May. With it being the final day the Football League were reluctant to let us rearrange the game and the game started nearly an hour late and with 30 minutes left and us 1-0 up we found out Halifax had lost and we had secured a place in the top seven.
It was Scunthorpe we were paired with in the semi-finals and Bound’s header gave us the 1-0 win to take up to Glanford Park. In the away leg that lead was wiped out after just two minutes but that’s how it stayed meaning extra time had to be played to determine the winner. Again just two minutes into extra time Brian Laws’ side took the lead but Tony Bird equalised for us and Scunny re-took the lead before the interval and that’s how it stayed leaving the Swans to contemplate another year in the basement league. To make the misery complete Cardiff secured automatic promotion and our paths wouldn’t cross again the league for nearly a decade.