Swansea seasons: 2003/04

Win our first three league games, then lose a top of the table clash in the next game…

Stars Join Permanently

Most of the heroes of the previous campaign decided to stay in south Wales much to our delight. Leon Britton, Roberto Martinez, Lenny Johnrose, Kevin Nugent, and midway through the season Alan Tate all signed permanent contracts with us. Brian Flynn added Izzy Iriekpen and Andy Robinson to the squad and I’m sure there’s someone else I should mention here, oh yes I remember who it is…

Lord Lee

I missed the opening day win over Bury as I was on holiday but a Brad Maylett hat-trick helped us beat Bury 4-2. We scored another four at Cheltenham the following week and I had to wait until the third game of the season before I had my first look at a new look Swans. On that Friday night win over Boston I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had a player that could do just about anything with the ball; he scored one, set up two and performed various tricks in a virtuoso performance. At full time he came over to the North Bank, put his fist to the crowd and kissed the badge. After all the years of utter tripe we finally had a hero, and his name was Lee Trundle.

Top Of The League

It was a far cry from last term when we were abysmal for most of the season. We were top of the league in September and with Trundle on fire who knew how far we could go. The Scouser was fast becoming the darling of the crowd and hated elsewhere. No one hated him more than Huddersfield manager Peter Jackson who was livid when he did that shoulder roll in the 2-0 win over the Terriers. Was he taking the piss? Probably, but it was fun all the same and we loved him for it.

Eight Men

Disbelief would be the best way to sum up my thoughts on that crazy afternoon when Southend visited us in December. We scored early on through James Thomas but by half time were trailing 1-2. The Shrimpers though had ten men so I felt confident we could get back on level terms. We failed to do so and with five minutes remaining two more players saw red plus their assistant manager leaving us with a three man advantage to find an equaliser. Surely we’d find it now? Inexplicably we conceded a goal to go 1-3 down. My Dad has been watching us since the 60’s and never leaves early but was so appalled he walked out after that one went in. I remember just laughing to my mates in disbelief. How can you concede with a three man advantage? Only us. We did pull one back but it wasn’t enough and we humiliatingly lost to eight men. Pathetic. 

Round 5

Anyone remember that Keiron Durkan goal v Rushden in round one of the Cup? A truly amazing moment in Vetch history for me. A player who couldn’t beat a man running fifty yards with the ball and then chipping their keeper. It was the start of a glorious run to round five where we saw off Stevenage and Macclesfield before Preston came to us and in a mad five minutes Robbo scored a free kick and Trundle coolly volleyed in a winner to set us up with a trip to Tranmere. We could have won there too; the ref had a shocker that day sending Tate off for bugger all. But we’d done ourselves proud and it wasn’t half exciting! I loved a cup run when we were in the lower leagues; you always felt if we were at home we had a chance. 

Chequebook’s Out

It had been nearly half a decade but the Swans finally spent money to bring a player to the club. Paul Connor was the lucky man who became the first player bought for cash since Tommy Mutton in 1999. It’s laughable now we’re in the Premier League but £35,000 seemed like a lot to us at the time. He wasn’t bad either and would go on to become a good strike partner for Trundle over the next couple of years. The man who signed him though wouldn’t be around to see this partnership take off… 

Bye Bye Brian

I remember my old man telling me he’s gone and I thought he was winding me up. Only he wasn’t, Flynn was sacked in mid-March after our league form tailed off drastically. I was sad to see him go though, we’d survived with him the year before and for the first time in living memory we were playing attacking football. It soon transpired it was because he wouldn’t leave Burnley and wasn’t here enough. Still baffles me how he was allowed to live there and manage us in the first place to be honest. 

New Man

I had no idea who I wanted to take over but I’d barely heard of Kenny Jackett when it was announced he was the new manager. He didn’t inspire me and I think a lot of people felt the same. At this point we couldn’t wait for the season to end. He won one of his six games in charge that season as we finished 10th and although that was a marked improvement there was a feeling of what might have been. Jackett didn’t get off on the right foot with those results but he then made an even bigger gaffe at the season’s conclusion…

Farewell Freestone

It was fair to say that Roger Freestone wasn’t the force he once was and that he was on his last legs but the way he was treated at the end of the season was disgusting. For a man who was our record appearance holder and had spurned many chances to move on during his career to not be told before the final day that this would be his last game for us was a disgrace. He deserved so much better than that. The word legend is so overused nowadays but he is one in every sense of the word. On behalf of everyone, thank you Roger, we’ll never forget you. 

First published in SoS issue 28 in October 2014