It’s a heady time for Swansea City with a change of ownership, ambitious stadium plans and promises of exciting new players…no, it’s not 2016, it is fact twenty years earlier as we look back on the cautionary tale of the Michael Thompson takeover of the Swans…
With a tired Doug Sharpe eager to sell the Swans Blackburn businessman Michael Thompson rode into town to take charge. Tycoon Thompson’s £100,000 downpayment had seemingly sealed the deal to buy a club in freewill on the pitch and disarray off it.
Bobby Smith had been fired leaving veteran goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer in caretaker charge of a side spiralling towards relegation.
Thompson’s arrival was supposed to change all of that. The new supremo’s claim to fame was as a friend of Blackburn benefactor Jack Walker’s son, and to all intents and purposes he appeared to have the financial clout to back up his extravagant promises of bringing in a big name manager, exciting players and funding a new stadium at Morfa.
Nothing could be further from the truth though and Thompson’s brief time at the club is one of the sorriest chapters in our history.
The embarrassment was all still to come though as Thompson took his seat in the Vetch Field Director’s Box for the first time to watch his new club face a Stockport side that had lost four games on the spin.
Cullis in the Crowd
A meagre crowd of just crowd 1,938 joined Thompson in the ground, more in hope than expectation that their side could secure a much needed win to help stave off the drop.
If only the crowd knew that one man amongst them was about to heap shame and ridicule on the club in the days to come. Thompson had talked big managerial names like Mike Walker and it was even suggested Frank Burrows might make a triumphant return to the dug-out. Instead we got…KEVIN CULLIS…Cradley Town’s youth team manager!
Cullis and his proposed assistant, Liverpool’s Midlands scout (!) Paul Molesworth, had paid at the turnstiles to watch their new team in action. Who knows if they even understood how bad a performance they witnessed from the home side!
The Swans started sloppily and were behind within 8 minutes as Jeff Eckhardt made the most of a free header to beat Freestone.
Five minutes later and the deficit was doubled as strapping centre back – and future Swan – Matthew Bound finished off a training ground set piece, applying the final touch after Beaumont flicked on Michael Flynn’s long throw.
An outclassed Swans managed one off target effort from Torpey in the whole half and the team trooped off at the interval for a dressing room roasting from Rimmer.
Whatever Rimmer said in the break it had some effect on his players. The Swans upped their game from woeful to plain bad but Stockport continued to dominate despite the “improvement”.
With the Swans forwards starved of service and the back four in constant disarray it came as no surprise when the visitors extended their lead. The big surprise was that it took until the hour mark.
A flowing four man move was started and finished by Alun Armstrong, the striker reacting first after Freestone had blocked Landon’s initial effort.
The Swans’ only shot on target came soon after. Torpey claimed it but his free kick was nothing but a tame token effort.
Stockport continued to dominate and only poor finishing and a spirited last line of defence from Freestone stopped the margin of defeat getting any bigger.
As it turned out, a three to nil home hiding was the least of Swansea’s problems in the wider scheme of things. Cullis was appointed the following day only to get sacked a week later by a furious Doug Sharpe, who’d flown back from Spain to retake control of the club.
With Thompson unable to find the cash to complete the deal and Sharpe refusing to hand over the Vetch Field keys the whole thing mercifully fell through during the three week “cooling off period” built into the transaction.
Thompson lost the hundred grand he’d already paid over. Sharpe lost the quiet life he had planned in Spain. And the Swans went on to lose the battle to stay up.
The whole sorry episode still hurts Swans fans that were around at the time and it shows the damage that can be inflicted by selling to the wrong sort.
The Michael Thompson takeover of the Swans is one of the most powerful lessons in the club’s tumultuous history but people that should have known better either chose to ignore it or simply defied it.
This is one Vetch Field Memory Messrs Jenkins, Dineen, Morgan et al should have heeded…maybe then we’d have been spared the modern day Cullis in the shape of Bob Bradley and the club wouldn’t have been taken down a division by clueless owners?!