Regular readers of this blog will be aware of a four part article that I’m writing for the ‘Jack Swan’ fanzine, about my quest to join the legendary band of football fans whom have visited all 92 premier and football league grounds in England and Wales.
For those of you who missed ‘The 92 Club – Turning a Dream into Reality (Part One)‘, I strongly suggest you read it before reading part two below – just to get the full effect 🙂
If you’re already read it, then settle back and enjoy Part 2…
Having caught the away day bug in the late 80’s, my thirst for watching the Swans on the road grew ever stronger and after my visit to London Road, things could only get better. Or at least that’s what I’d hoped.
The experience of Ugo’s trip to Peterboroughmust have struck some sort of cord with my Dad, as he decided to drive to the next away game of my choice – a 16th birthday treat – to Molineux, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Back in those days (1986/87 season), this fixture was an integral part of the Today (Did anyone actually ever buy that newspaper?) League Division 4. It’s amazing what a difference 26 years makes in football.
I remember the game well and not just because of the Swans being on the end of a 4 nil drubbing. Incidentally, one of the scorers that day was a certain Robbie Dennison – whom older readers will no doubt remember from his brief loan period with the Swans in 1995, not to mention his numerous goals for Wolves!
As a fresh faced and arguably naïve 16 year old lad, my Molineux experience was a real eye opener. From my Dad exchanging a few choice words with the local constabulary over their insistence on frisking me upon entering the ground to seeing some of the Swans supporters buses having their windows smashed in by various flying objects.
It seems that the ‘English Disease’ was alive and well in the Midlands during the late 1980s.
Unperturbed by the events of that day, we continued to travel the country watching the boys in black and white – whilst being a little more choosey as to our destination!
Consequently, Hereford United’s Edgar Street was our next trip and my Swans away day blues continued with yet another defeat – this time by a 2 nil margin. These away day results were beginning to have a rather familiar feel to them. Funny really as it seems that even to this day, some things never change.
Football hooliganism aside, the 80’s were also synonymous with both ourselves and our dearly beloved brethren from down the M4 frequenting the same lower divisions, so it was only a matter of time before I felt the urge to sample the delights of Ninian Park.
Having tasted the sweetness of victory and despair of defeat at the Vetch Field against our bitter rivals on several occasions already, Ninian Park was up there near the top of my list of grounds I wanted to visit.
The Football League’s fixture computer was kind to me and I didn’t have to wait long. Saturday, 29th August 1987 was to be my first south Wales derby game away from the Vetch. It was also my first away game without my Dad in tow – which meant it was Ugo time again.
Many a tale had been told of previous visits to Ninian Park and warm welcome reserved for the visit of their favourite peg selling, caravan owning cousins from west of J40 on the M4. They hadn’t lied.
The open terraced Grange End really was a dump and if the Vetch could lay claim to having the worst toilets in the football league, then the Grange End was up there vying for an award of some sort too.
A 1 nil defeat that day did little to change my negative opinion of Ninian Park as a “football ground” or indeed my unexplained in-bred dislike for the Bluebirds. That said, my initial visit wasn’t all gloom and doom.
The final whistle heralded a big surge towards the pitch side fences by the Swans fans – which I initially thought was an attempt to invade the pitch. However, moments later the reasons for this sudden movement became clear as wave upon wave of coins (predominately copper I hasten to add) began to shower the entire away end!
As a wannabe student, I certainly wasn’t going to miss such a glorious opportunity to gather some much needed cash and proceeded to collect as many coins as I could before south Wales’ finest ushered us back onto the awaiting coaches. I vaguely recollect making around £2.16 that day!
The buzz of my first away derby trip made me realise that – despite yet another defeat on the road – how much I loved watching the Swans play away from home against whomever, wherever and whenever that may be.
A university degree course and bright rugby playing career saw me move behind enemy lines to Pontypridd in the early 1990s and that is when my quest for the 92 club with the Swans really took flight.
‘Jack Swan’ is available and FREE in all good and not-so-good pubs in and around Swansea – so why not pick up a copy next time your in your local boozer.