That’s how long it had been since we were in English football’s second tier and we were going to enjoy it. Sadly our plans started badly when Andy Robinson decided to remain in League 1 with Leeds and Paul Anderson elected to join promotion rivals Nottingham Forest. Martinez signed a handful of new players to compensate for this; the standout one was Jordi Gomez who would soon become a hero…
But before I go into that I’ve got to mention the optimism that swept through the City as we travelled to Charlton on the opening day. 3,000 of us made the journey to south London to see us make our Championship bow. That optimism lasted 70 seconds as future scummer Mark Hudson was left unmarked at a corner and he duly headed home. We would go on to lose 2-0 that day but brighter times were ahead as we beat Forest and Plymouth in the next two games to put us above the one club we were looking forward to playing above all others. ..
We’d been looking up at them for years but finally we were on an even keel. Yes that’s right; the scum were in our sights. Having waited ten years for a league derby we were then paired with them in the League Cup as well. The atmosphere was incredible that night and Gomez’s deflected free kick gave us our first win over them since November 1998. Was it worth the wait? Yes of course it was! We now had the chance to beat them three times this season as well.
The Other Two
The league south Wales derby’s both finished 2-2 but that only tells half the story. At home Stephen McPhail saw red for the second derby running along with Leon Britton in the final minute and in Ninian Park’s derby swansong Joe Allen scored his first ever Swans goal to put us 2-1 up with just minutes left. We were on the verge of glory when Mike Dean pointed to the spot after Ross McCormack fell over and the Scot picked himself up to score from the spot. Even Tom Butler was fuming according to Garry Monk in his autobiography “Ref you know you got hit by the coin, it should have been a spear” which gave the unused substitute an instant red card. Special mention though to the two Cardiff fans who took a lot of abuse from us that day, especially the one in the pink shirt who you could tell was fuming but had to just stand and take it.
Ferrie Bodde took to the higher division like a duck to water. He scored one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen live at Preston in September with a forty yard shot and struck seven goals in the first sixteen games but then he ruptured the cruciate ligament in his knee at home to Birmingham in late November. Barring a couple of appearances the following year when he broke down again the Dutchman was finished, robbing us of a fantastic talent although in truth if he’d stayed fit there’s every chance a Premier League team would have bought him in the transfer window, he was too good for us at the time.
You don’t often get the chance to see your team equal a Football League record but that’s exactly what happened this term as the Swans drew eight consecutive league games from the end of November through to the win at Burnley in early January. In that run we were held by Coventry twice, Cardiff, Bristol City, Barnsley, Sheffield United, Blackpool and finally Birmingham where we really should have won after dominating most of the game. A deeply frustrating month although not a bad return of points for a promoted club.
After the misery of losing to Havant the year before, the Swans returned to the south coast and this time caused an upset of their own – knocking FA Cup holders Portsmouth out on their own turf. New loan recruit Nathan Dyer took extra pleasure when he scored as he was still on the books of Southampton at the time and a Jason Scotland penalty gave us a 0-2 win. It was Fulham at home in round five and we outplayed our top flight opponents and were very unlucky not to win but a 1-1 draw gave us a chance to win the replay. In the meantime the draw meant we would have Man U at home and Fergie’s reaction was “I watched the game yesterday and Swansea were fantastic.” Wow even Fergie thinks we’re good now! Sadly we didn’t progress despite Scotland putting us ahead the Cottagers hit back with two late goals. That was a truly sickening journey home, gutting just didn’t cover it.
Jason Scotland scored 24 times during the 2008/9 campaign and his 21st of the season from the spot in a 1-0 win over Plymouth was his 50th for the club and meant he became the fastest player to reach the milestone in Swansea City history. A lot of people didn’t like the Trinidad and Tobago striker but you can’t argue with that stat. I thought he was brilliant and when you consider we got £2 million for him and paid only £25,000 to buy him it has to go down as one of the best buys we’ve ever made.
It was a memorable campaign as there was not even a hint of relegation trouble and for most of the season we had a chance of the Play-Offs. Sadly that ended at Sheffield United in the final away game and after a last day defeat to Blackpool we finished 8th – six points of the Play-Offs. I’d much rather that though than finish level with the team in 6th and miss out by one goal. Wouldn’t you Dave Jones?