I never went to the Vetch Field. As a young lad brought up in a family who weren’t quite as into football as I turned out to be, I was never really given the option. As much as I regret not getting the chance to witness what I’ve only heard fantastic things from in the Vetch, it’s fair to say I haven’t had it too bad as Swans’ fan.
I’ll always remember my first Swans’ game as a 2-1 win over Crewe Alexandra, almost a year into the start of a new era for the club at the Liberty Stadium. Aged just eight at the time, it was an overwhelming experience – but one which I instantly became addicted to. The fact that I was gifted with my first season ticket in the following season certifies that.
As anybody reading this will know, it was that season (2007/08) in which we were crowned champions of League One, in that stunning green and black alternative kit. It was almost as nice as the navy away strip we had worn earlier in the season, but that’s probably a debate to have at another time. Anyway, it wasn’t a bad way to kick off a hobby that I have built my life around ever since.
Despite missing out on the years spent at the Vetch, I still feel that I couldn’t have started watching the Swans at a better time. It was the start of a revolution, and I – or many others – didn’t even know it. The likes of Lee Trundle, Willy Gueret and Izzy Iriekpin had all moved on, yet it was a transfer window which I don’t think has, or will ever be beaten by a League One club of our size.
Ferrie Bodde, Dorus de Vries, Ashley Williams and the Three Amigos: Angel Rangel, Guillem Bauza and Andrea Orlandi were all brought in for peanuts, while it only took £25,000 to bring in one of the most prolific forwards our club has ever seen in Jason Scotland. Even Febian Brandy, who was brought in on loan from Manchester United, is someone who I hold fond memories of.
The only negative I can take from my first season as a regular is the area-final loss in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. I hadn’t watched – or really even noticed – our win over Carlisle in the final just a couple of years before, but I still have vivid memories of me bawling my eyes out in my conservatory at home, watching Willy Gueret and MK Dons make it to the final. Luckily, there wasn’t much more of that to come.
So a revolution had begun right under our noses, and before I could even get a real grasp of what it meant to be a Swansea City fan, we were battling it out for a place in the Premier League. By the time the Play-Off Final came around, we had been through a lot. Managers had come and gone with Roberto Martinez moving to Wigan (that Carling Cup tie wasn’t a bad first away game to go to, either!) and Paulo Sousa joining and leaving within just over a year. We’d also lost Besian Idrizaj, a young Swans’ player who sadly passed away in 2010. Goals in the 40th minute – the same number as Idrizaj wore – of both of our Wembley appearances have been a superb, yet coincidental tribute to him.
Our run in the Play-Offs in 2011 though, gave me some of the best seconds, minutes and hours of my life. From securing a 0-0 draw at Nottingham Forest with ten men in the first leg of the Semi-Final, to not knowing where to put myself as Darren Pratley’s effort from the half-way line crawled into the back of the net. The goal was only second best to a Leon Britton screamer. This was what it was all about.
At risk of repeating what you will only be told by every other Swans’ fan on the matter, I won’t talk too much about the Play-Off final. The emotions experienced from Kevin Johns’ ‘Our Day’ speech to the lifting of the trophy at Wembley are, quite simply, indescribable.
For the best part, the same can be said about the Premier League. As far as away games go I don’t go to many, but I feel I’ve chosen well. I’ve seen us beat the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool away from home, as well as a few other big names. I’m no good with maths, but I think I have around a 70% win rate when I travel away, so maybe that’s something the club should consider if they ever dish out free tickets.
I was lucky enough to follow our Capital One Cup campaign in 2013 all the way through to the final, which again, was a truly immense experience. It was surreal for me, so I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for those who had been with the club through the Tony Petty era. Most fans are lucky to see their team at Wembley once in a lifetime, to see it twice in a matter of years was an honour.
The past two seasons have been difficult for us as a club. After such a dramatic rise to success, two years of struggling both on and off the pitch has been difficult to acclimatise to. Though despite recent struggles, going into my tenth year as a Season Ticket holder, I still can’t hold back the feelings I have going into a new season. Excitement, nerves, dread, expectation but most of all, fulfilment – because I know as soon as that first ball is kicked at St. Mary’s on the opening day of the Premier League season, football is back.