Remember When…

...we battled for Britton

by Nigel Davies

With more than a hundred years of often turbulent, sometimes terrific Swansea Town & City history, it’s easy to forget some of the colourful events of the past. Our Remember When… feature helps you to recall the remarkable and the ridiculous through the decades. In this first instalment we look back on the fans’ collective effort to keep Leon Britton after his initial loan spell.

Battle of Britton

Back in the buttock clenching bottom end of the 2002-03 season Brian Flynn had put together a side that would successfully stave off relegation from the Football League.

Flynn and his chief talent spotter Kevin reeves brought in a number of players that were instrumental in reversing the catastrophic fortunes of the squad assembled by Nick Cusack – and arguably the biggest positive influence was little Leon Britton.

As the post-Hull game euphoria subsided thoughts turned to the following season and Flynn was desperate to hold on to Britton, the diminutive midfielder borrowed from top flight West Ham.

Despite Britton’s eagerness to stay the club faced two problems in keeping him; West Ham’s relegation meant that Britton might be kept and the Football League brought in a wage cap for clubs in the Third Division.

The first problem never materialised as Trevor Brooking sanctioned Britton’s release, and the second problem was rendered obsolete…by Swansea City Supporters Trust and the club’s fans.

The idea was for the supporters to pledge money to cover Britton’s wages for the season, thus allowing the club that little bit more freedom to assemble a squad that could fight for promotion rather than against relegation.

The proposal was really a continuation of the previous season’s successful Let’s Stop Moaning and Get a Loan In scheme that brought in £28,000 and allowed Flynn to sign Alan Tate and Marc Richards. IN return the Trust received further shares in the club.

The Battle for Britton took off and fans willingly dug deep to help their club and show their affection for a young player that had given everything to keep the Swans in the Football League, despite belonging to another club at the time.

Britton himself was more than happy to give his backing:

“I’m more than pleased to help the Trust with this campaign and am flattered that they and the fans consider me to be a role model for it.

“The Supporters Trust evidently plays an important part in the club, not only raising funds but also uniting supporters. The supporters at this club are phenomenal and I sincerely hope they sign up for this scheme in droves.” 

There’s no doubt that there is a special bond between Britton and the Jack Army and this is where it was truly forged. Fans listened to Leon and pledged a minimum of £5 per month for a year to cover his modest salary – and every one of them considered it tremendous value for money.

How right we all were as Britton starred for the Swans that season…and many more after it. He was pivotal in our climb through the divisions, critical in capturing Cups, he marched with us into Europe and he was instrumental in us playing in the Premier League for seven years.

And even though he has now retired, he is STILL a major influence at the club in his new dual Ambassador and Football Advisor roles.

For the Supporters Trust the Battle for Britton scheme was just as important. The iconic campaign strengthened the Trust’s position within the club whilst showing fans and football figures alike just what could be achieved when the collective fan resource was properly tapped into.

That influence and popularity the Trust enjoyed in those days has waned, partly due to the success that Britton helped deliver, but remembering the Battle for Britton should provide a modicum of comfort in these uncertain times on and off the field. It shows how much our collective efforts can make a difference when channelled in the right way. And landing Leon was certainly “the right way”.

History will show that Britton was indeed worth battling for. No doubt the near future will too.