With Swansea City bringing Premier League football to the Liberty Stadium it seems entirely appropriate that we dedicate this season’s Vetch Field Memories column to top flight times at our old ground. `Having already featured that amazing First Division debut game against Leeds I’ve decided to open up with a reminder of the time when wee beat the mighty table-topping Manchester United in the League…
The wheels had been coming off Swansea City’s challenge for the First Division title; four defeats in five games had dented the Swans’ hopes of being crowned Champions in their first season in the top flight and had led to manager John Toshack publicly criticising Alan Curtis and Leighton James in an effort to provoke a response.
Toshack’s efforts to get his side back on track also included adding to the Merseyside contingent at the Vetch as Ray Kennedy was snapped up from Liverpool for £160,000, joining ex-Reds Colin Irwin and Max Thompson plus Blues Bob Latchford and Gary Stanley in South Wales.
Kennedy came straight into the side for the game against Ron Atkinson’s table-topping Manchester United side, John Mahoney the man to make way, whilst Leighton James’s inconsistent form saw him taking his place as the side’s substitute.
Both sides were probing without success in the opening exchanges, United looking to exploit gaps in a home defence that had conceded nine times in the previous three games. Conversely the Swans looked to play a patient game, content to pick their moments to go forward rather than forcing the issue.
Ray Wilkins was causing the home side all sorts of problems with his promptings in midfield but his mistake gave the Swans their first real thrust of the afternoon as he lost possession under pressure from Robbie James. The Swans midfielder powered down the flank in typical determined fashion only for Gordon McQueen to stop him by conceding a corner which came to nothing.
Curtis was the next Swan to have a nearly moment as Frank Stapleton’s poor back pass almost let Curt in on goal.
United hit back with Bryan Robson unleashing a thunderous drive just past Dai Davies’s near post and then the keeper was forced to turn Moran’s long range chip round the same upright.
Ten minutes before half time the Swans suffered a blow after a clash between Wilkins and Neil Robinson resulted in the Swansea man being taken off with a badly gashed leg. Leighton James was called into action but the change seemed to destabilise the Swans and they coughed up two chances that United really should have capitalised on.
The first saw an unmarked Birtles shoot over and the second saw Stapleton blast wide after being played in by Wilkins.
Having survived those near misses the Swans applied some pressure of their own just before the break with Leighton James beating two defenders only to see United keeper Bailey snuff out his dangerous cross.
The second period started where the first ended – in untidy fashion. And once again it was United that carved out a clear chance only for Birtles to head wide from inside the six yard box.
That miss seemed to give Swansea confidence and it took a last ditch illegal tackle from Moran to stop Latchford on the edge of the area. Rajkovic took the resulting free kick but drove it straight at Bailey.
The game swung decisively in the Swans’ favour though with two goals in twi minutes and it was the “local boys” that did all the damage.
Curtis got the first the 52nd minute, latching on to a long clearance from Thompson that sailed over the square United defence; ignoring suggestions he was off-side, Curtis chested the ball down before coolly slotting it between Bailey’s legs.
With chants of “we’re gonna win the League” ringing out from the stands it was very quickly 2-0. Leighton James evaded another wild Wilkins challenge and swung in a cross which was spilled by Bailey, the ball rebounding off Latchford and stopped on the line by Albiston…only for Robbie James to fire home.
The Swans were now in complete control and Bailey had to brilliantly turn away an Irwin header. The confidence was suddenly flowing through Tosh’s team’s veins once more and there was no way they were going to surrender their hard won lead.
The game drew to a close and almost 24,000 Jacks went home happy having toppled United from the top of the table.
Let’s hope Brendan’s Boys can repeat the feat this season…
This instalment of Vetch Field Memories appeared in Vol.3 Issue 1 of “A Touch Far Vetched!” – of course, in season 2014/15 we went one better and did the DOUBLE over Manchester United, but we’ll save that for a Liberty Memories column one day in the future 😉