Vetch Field Memories: Swansea City v Leeds United (August 1981) – The Swans Debut in Division 1


Swansea City v Leeds United 1981In what was a sensational start to life in the First Division Swansea City announced their arrival on the big stage with this thumping win over Leeds United. Instant hero Bob Latchford lit up the contest but it was a Curtis cracker that stole the show right at the end as John Toshack’s men served up one of the finest ever Vetch Field Memories…

Saturday August 29th, 1981. It was the day the top flight fantasy became fact as First Division football came to Swansea. Leeds United were the Vetch Field visitors as Tosh’s super Swans announced their arrival on the big stage in scintillating style.

Almost 24,000 fans sat or stood (remember doing that at a football match‽) in the scorching sun to witness Bob Latchford etch his name in Swans folklore with a debut-making hat-trick inside ten second half minutes as Leeds were swept aside in spectacular fashion.

Welsh international keeper Dai Davies and record signing Colin Irwin were also making their first appearances for the Swans having signed in the Summer for £45,000 and £340,000 respectively.

Leeds had a couple of debutants of their own in the shape of England winger Peter Barnes, captured for a cool £930,000 from West Brom, and their former full back Frank Gray who rejoined the Elland Road outfit from Forest for £300,000.

Gallon of Whisky

With kick-off fast approaching the atmosphere in the old ground reached fever pitch as Toshack was presented with a gallon bottle of whisky, his reward for being nominated Manager of the Month for April…obviously the League moved pretty slowly when it came to handing out the awards in those days!

But it wasn’t long before Tosh was toasting his side’s opener – five minutes to be exact.

Leighton James sent Alan Curtis scampering free down the left hand side and his cross was dummied by Latchford, allowing Jeremy Charles to rifle the ball in for the club’s first ever top flight goal.

With confidence soaring the Swans were looking dangerous every time they went forward but Leeds weathered the pressure and struck back just before the half hour mark. Derek Parlane got the goal that silenced the home crowd, launching himself at a cross from the edge of the box to beat Davies in the Swansea goal with a powerful header.

Both sides continued to create chances in what was turning into a pulsating contest but, perhaps surprisingly, the sides went in level at the break.

Swansea City v Leeds 1981

If the Swans had got off to a flyer with that early goal for Charles in the first half then they were pretty much jet propelled at the start of the second as Latchford fired them back in front within just 47 seconds of the restart!

Robbie James strode through the middle and drove in the cross, Curtis back headed and Latchford left Lukic in the Leeds goal flailing as he unleashed an unstoppable shot from 12 yards.

Within just four minutes Latchford had scored his second of the afternoon; Robbie James spectacularly cut out a loose throw by Lukic, sending namesake Leighton free in the process, and when Robinson drove the ball across the face of goal there was Latchford at the near post to slip the ball past the keeper.

Latchford Hat-Trick

The game was effectively over as a contest when, just five minutes later, Latchford punished Leeds once more, steering in a header from Leighton James’s perfectly flighted free kick to score his third and Swansea’s fourth of the afternoon.

Latchford had helped himself to a hat-trick of stunning quality in less than 10 minutes and the Vetch Field crowd had themselves a new hero…but the biggest cheer of the afternoon was still to come as a favourite son scored the best goal of the game, and in the process made his point to the club that had recently rejected him.

When Alan Curtis picked up the ball on the right flank from Rajkovic’s raking long pass there seemed little danger. However, Frank Gray allowed Curt to cut inside and then was left floundering by an outrageous drop of the shoulder that took the Swans Legend into the box and he promptly unleashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

It was all too much for the Leeds fans behind the goal. As the home crowd celebrated a goal of stunning quality the away fans decided to take their frustrations out on their own goalkeeper.  A collection of cans, bottles and coins were lobbed at Lukic before order was restored by police.

The incident did little to take the shine off Swansea’s afternoon for they had announced their arrival among football’s elite in style, posting a result that would make the big boys of British football sit up and take notice. What was even more exciting was the fact the result had been achieved through a performance that was as clinical as it was breathtakingly entertaining.

The sizzling performance, the comprehensive result and the historical significance all combine to make this match one of the greatest of all Vetch Field MemoriesSwansea City v Leeds Vetch Field Memories On this Day

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