People moaning about being in the top six of the Premier League? Imagine what they would’ve been like the year we spent all season in the bottom six on what is now League 2!
The Terrible Ten
Ok we’ll let James Thomas off for obvious reasons but the rest of them good God. Nick Cusack made ten new signings before the start of the season and I actually felt optimistic about the new campaign. That had soon given way though and by mid-September we were bottom of the Football League for the first time ever. Cusack was fired and Brian Flynn came in with the job of keeping us in the division. Out of interest can anyone name the other nine Cusack signed? (Answers at the end of this piece)
I could be wrong here but by my calculations 34 players wore the white strip that season, easily a record for the most amount different players in one term. It could have been more as Flynn bombed a few out without them making an appearance and Richard Duffy who’d leave for Portsmouth a year later was injured for the entire season. Don’t worry though I’m not going to ask you to name everyone who played, not even an anorak like me would know that without checking and we all know I need to get out more as it is!
Even though we’d started badly I never really believed we were going down. After all we were one of the biggest clubs in the division, there was no way we could go down, right? Well my view changed after a horror show in late October when Kidderminster beat us 0-4 at home in one of the most humiliating nights I’ve had watching this club. The realisation then dawned on me that we were in the mire and that the relegation we thought was unthinkable was a real threat.
We picked up a few decent results after that but at Christmas things got much worse as we lost six in a row to leave us six points adrift of safety. In one of these games we were 0-3 down to Bury in the first half which prompted chants of “You’re Not Fit To Wear The Shirt.” Amazingly we nearly turned it around but Steve Watkin who I’d despised for years missed a one on one chance to help us get back into it. His every touch was booed after that. If we were still at the Vetch I’d invite Yaya Toure to come and play for us, if he thinks not getting wished happy birthday is bad then imagine being abused by your own fans!
Flynn reshaped his squad dumping those nine players I’ll reveal later and signed Alan Tate, Marc Richards, Leon Britton, Lenny Johnrose, Kevin Nugent and Roberto Martinez to form a new look side which we hoped would beat the drop. It took a while but we took ten points from four games at the end of January and there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel at last. Sadly for us another refereeing howler set us back shortly after…
Headed Not Handled
Carlisle were one of our main rivals at the bottom of the table and our mid-March clash with them was heading for a 0-0 draw when Lee Jenkins headed off the line from a corner but the referee gave a penalty for handball and sent him off. I was incredulous, it was an awful decision which had cost us the game and could cost us our place in the league. There were a few terrible decisions that year, on the opening day v Rushden there were five minutes added time played which was too much and they scored in the fifth and in the return match live on Sky we had a goal disallowed for a push which only the man in the middle thought was a foul. There was one plus about that night though…
Black Away Shirt
Ahhh yes that legendary black away shirt. I loved that kit, it’s without doubt the best away one we’ve had in my time as a fan. I’ve always felt we should have a black away kit, at the end of the day Swans are either black or white aren’t they? That shirt helped change our fortunes as well, on the penultimate day we wore it at Rochdale and won 1-2 to keep our destiny in our own hands. So it was all set for Hull City to visit the Vetch Field on the last day of the campaign in our biggest ever game. What happened next was written into folklore.
The Great Escape
Capacity crowd, pouring rain, nerves like you wouldn’t believe. That was what game 46 of the season was like. Thomas calmed nerves with an early pen but errors from Jenkins and Michael Howard left us 1-2 down and staring Conference football in the face. This is when karma took over and we finally got the rub of the green from a ref who awarded us a dodgy penalty. Thomas dispatched it again and Johnrose scored following a goalmouth scramble to give us back the lead at the start of the second half. Then James Thomas became a legend when he chipped the keeper from thirty yards to complete a hat-trick and secure survival. Hairs on the back of your neck stuff. The rest of the game was a non-event and the crowd invaded at the end to celebrate the great escape. Phew!
The Away Home Game
If you ever want to question how much the club means to the Jack Army then an away match at Shrewsbury says it all. I only did three aways that season but this was one of them. We had the same amount of supporters in the ground as our relegation rivals which is startling enough and all you could hear from the ground on the cusp of the river severn was our supporters who gave the lads 100% backing in our quest to avoid the dreaded drop. Less said about the game the better, it finished 0-0 but you get my point!
The other nine were Andrew Marsh, David Moss, Paul Reid, Matt Murphy, Michael Jackson, David Smith, David Theobald, Jamie Wood and Johnathan Keaveney. If you knew that off the top of your head then you need to question the direction in which your life is going.