LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Swansea City

Jacks jumping for another crack at the Premier League

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

League Cup winners in 2013, Swansea City were relegated from the Premier League in 2018 after a string of poor managerial appointments. Now the Swans are struggling to go one better than former England youth coach Steve Cooper, who led the club to two consecutive, if unsuccessful, play-offs for a top-tier return in 2020 and 2021.

Yet major silverware, European competition, even second-flight football, would have been unthinkable in the early 2000s, when the club nearly went out of business – and out of the league.

Swansea have shown extremes of form before. The last and only other time they reached for the top, crashing and burning between 1981 and 1983, it was after a run from the Fourth to the First Division in four years. When Swansea fell, it was straight back down to the bottom.

Swansea.com Stadium/Bruce Haydon-Jones

Initially, the club, founded in 1912 and installed at the Vetch Field, were cup specialists. In 1926 Swansea beat Arsenal at the quarter-final stage, only to fall to Bolton in the semi. A year later, Reading prevented Swansea from reaching the semi, where eventual winners Cardiff lay in wait.

In the league, Swansea spent most of the pre-war and immediate post-war period in the Second Division. With a team featuring the famous brothers Allchurch brothers, Ivor and Len, Swansea pressed for promotion, without success. After they left, the Swans dipped into the Third, then the Fourth. They were even forced to apply for re-election in 1975.

Three years later, John Toshack arrived as player-manager. Only 28, he steered Swansea from Fourth to Second in consecutive seasons. Mercurial winger, locally born Leighton James, played a big part of this rapid rise.

Making the top flight for the first time in 1981, Swansea flew out of the blocks with a 5-1 win over Leeds. Topping the league at various points that autumn, Swansea eventually settled for sixth place.

Off the pace the following season, Swansea finished one from bottom and wouldn’t return for nearly 30 years.

Swansea City tickets/Bruce Haydon-Jones

In between, Swansea avoided going out of business in 1985 and 2001, when a supporters’ trust was formed to help save the club.

Within one match of dropping out of the league in 2003, under manager Bryan Flynn and captain Roberto Martínez, Swansea beat Hull to reach salvation. Two years later, under Kenny Jackett, they gained promotion in chaotic farewell scenes at the Vetch Field.

In their first season at the new-build Liberty Stadium, Swansea made the play-offs, losing on penalties at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Real change came with the return of Martínez as manager in 2007.

With a goal every other game from Jason Scotland, Swansea topped the third-flight League One in 2008. Narrowly missing a play-off place for the Premier League, Martínez left for Wigan, Brendan Rodgers successfully adapting his playing style a season later.

Swansea.com Stadium/Bruce Haydon-Jones

With a play-off win over Reading in 2011, Rodgers’ Swansea made the Premier League for the first time. After a creditable first campaign, Rodgers was poached by Liverpool.

His replacement was former Real and Barça star Michael Laudrup, who had worked miracles at Getafe. Picking up his former charge Jonathan de Guzmán and little-known Michu from Spain, Laudrup’s inventive Swansea beat Chelsea 2-0 away to reach the League Cup final.

De Guzmán grabbed two, Michu one, as Swansea won their first major honour in a 5-0 win over Bradford City. As well as the League Cup, the Swans showed good league form to finish ninth.

Making the group stage of the Europa League in 2013-14, Swansea beat Valencia 3-0 away, Michu, de Guzmán and new boy Wilfried Bony scoring the goals. Domestic form began to wobble and Laudrup was replaced by former team captain Garry Monk. Bony kept on scoring and Swansea had enough guile to avoid the drop. Monk then steered the Swans to a commendable eighth place in 2014-15, just missing out on Europe.

Swansea City programmes/Bruce Haydon-Jones

After mediocre campaigns in 2015-16 and 2016-17, DC United owner Jason Levien arrived from America to buy a controlling interest in the club. Though the Swansea Supporters’ Trust retained a 21% stake, absentee ownership led to poor judgement in player and manager acquisition.

Consistently struggling in the lower reaches of the Premier, Swansea succumbed to the inevitable following a miserable home defeat to already relegated Stoke in May 2018.

Although the Swans had moneyed Manchester City on the ropes in an FA Cup quarter-final, succumbing to a 3-2 defeat after being 2-0 up, it wasn’t until Steve Cooper arrived in 2019 that they put in a serious challenge to return to the top. For two years running, seasoned Ghanian international André Ayew provided the goals to lift Swansea into the play-offs, and for two years running, Brentford proved too strong. 

With defeat at Wembley in May 2021, both Cooper and Ayew left South Wales, leaving Swansea with little in the tank for the 2021-22 campaign.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Its bright white exterior standing out against the drab outskirts of Landore, north of Swansea near the River Tawe, the Swansea.com Stadium was opened in 2005 as the home ground of Swansea City and local rugby club the Ospreys.

With a capacity of 21,000, it was the smallest in Premier – in fact, the Ospreys were the first to fill it, in 2006. A planning application for expansion is still ongoing.

For the best part of a century, Swansea fans squeezed into the Vetch Field, a former vegetable patch just in from the seafront. Here they witnessed great cup runs of the 1920s and league-topping side of 1981-82. The ground was ransacked, almost literally, after the last match in 2005.

As is the way with these things, after such a definitive farewell, nothing much happened to the site after that – though it has been used to cultivate vegetables again.

Just as the Vetch Field staged several internationals in its day, so the Liberty become the de facto second home ground for Wales after the Cardiff City Stadium, although internationals here are now few and far between.

The arena comprises four stands. The South Stand is the home end, by Brunel Way, with a more raucous support along the sideline East Stand nearest the river. The ticket office and store are at the corner of the main West Stand. The North Stand accommodates visiting fans, allocated the closest half to the West Stand.

getting there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

The stadium is just over two miles immediately north of the train station, on the same side of the river, about a 30min walk away.

Four services run from Swansea bus station to Stadium (15min journey time), all via the train station halfway up. Those arriving by rail should turn immediately right onto the High Street, then cross the road to the stop by the Nisa Local grocery store. Route 4 leaves from Bay M at the bus station (every 15mins Mon-Sat), and the 4A every 30mins Sun. The X6 goes from Bay P every 15mins Mon-Sat, every 2hrs Sun, and the 34 from Bay E every 15mins (Mon-Sat, not Sun) to Landore P&W, and every 30mins to Liberty Stadium 2mins further up right by the ground. All these services run until early evening – buses are infrequent after around 7.30pm. A single ticket is £2.80, return £4.90.

taxi from the train station should cost around £7, the bus station £15.

The sat nav code for the Swansea.com Stadium is SA1 2FA. The club operates a Park & Ride and a Park & Walk site, each at £10/car and opening 2hrs before kick-off. Buses run from the old Felindre steelworks (SA5 7PE), off junction 46 of the M4 motorway, with separate services for away fans. As waiting times for the bus can be frustratingly long after the match, the Landore P&W (SA1 2JT) close to the ground may be a better option. It may also be worth trying the Landore Social Club (SA1 2LE), tucked down a side road off Neath Road, which charges £4 for parking on match days and 50p to use the friendly bar with TV sport.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets go on general sale up to four weeks before each game. Swansea are one of the first clubs to offer In-App ticketing for individual matches as well as season tickets, available from the App Store and Google Play. Note that there there are no charging points at the stadium, so make sure your phone has enough power. 

Currently, the ticket office (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) operates for phone sales only (01792 616400, option 1), with online another option. For all enquiries, email ticketing@swanseacity.com.

Admission is £25 in most areas of the ground, £15 for over-60s and students, £12.50 for under-16s.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Classic white replica tops, black away ones and third-choice bright orange shirts are all available at the Stadium Club Shop (Thur-Sat 9.30am-5.30pm) near the ticket office at the corner of the South and West Stands. 

Other souvenirs include dog coats, dart flights, pin badges and kids’ tattoos, all bearing the swan of Swansea City.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The few bars around the stadium are specifically home fans only.

On Neath Road, past the car park, under the bridge and over the roundabout, the nearby Cooper’s Arms is a red-fronted Brains pub catering to the local Landore community, with TV sport. In similar vein is the Ivorites Arms (4 Dinas Street) while further afield is the Commercial Inn (294 Llangyfelach Road).

Away supporters are best accommodated at the taproom (Fri from 3pm, Sat-Sun from noon) of Boss Brewing (176 Neath Road), just the other side of the roundabout from the stadium, where Let The Dragon Roar pale ale slips down a treat in the courtyard beer garden. The Landore Social Club, just off Neath Road, charges a modest 50p to use the friendly bar on match days, with TV sport and snooker tables.

If you’re with the kids, the Harvester chain restaurant has with Sky Sports TV and BrewDog craft beer, on the south side of the stadium. The best chippie is also close – Rossi’s, sit-down or takeaway on the Siloh Road side of the stadium.

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