Centenary feature: 1931-1939
1st May 2013
Just before the beginning of the new season, manager John Thompson resigned. Unlike previous manager Bradshaw, the resignation was accepted with a realisation by the board and fans alike that the club was treading water in his time at the helm and there wasn't the sense of shock that might have been expected before. In retrospect, Thompson inherited an ageing team with no money available to strengthen, and a board ready to sell any player to balance falling gates. It was here that the board once again took the decision not to replace the manager but to carry on without anyone in charge. One result of Newport County going out of the Football League was the availability of their players on transfers. The Swans took advantage of this by signing Cyril Pearce, and what a signing he turned out to be. 80 years later and he still holds the record of 35 league goals scored in one competitive season. Pearce's goals meant that unlike previous seasons, the club was safe from relegation throughout the campaign. The Swans finished 15th, going out in the first round of the FA Cup once more, this time to Bury. However, it was in the Welsh Cup that the club found success once more. After defeating Merthyr, Newport and Chester in the earlier rounds, the Swans beat Wrexham 2-0 in a replay at the Vetch Field. It was during this season that Wilf Milne made his 400th appearance for the club.
The annual summer sale continued with striker Cyril Pearce leaving to join Charlton Athletic prior to the new season. With Ronnie Williams fit again the board felt that they could afford to sell Pearce to balance the books because of falling gates. This was a constant worry during these years of austerity, and the board's answer to this was to sell its valuable assets - much to the frustration of the fans. Results were encouraging in the part of the season, with both Williams and Tudor Martin finding the net on a regular basis. The turn of the year saw the Swans sitting fifth in the table, only four points behind leaders Bradford City. However, the lack of depth in the squad was exposed in the final run-in and despite a relatively successful season, the club finished 10th. Aside from the league, an FA Cup tie against Sheffield United brought 20,000 people through the gates of the Vetch Field to boost the club coffers.
The whole of the 1933-34 league season was one of desperation for the Swans. The team struggled throughout the whole campaign for results, with the transfer of Ronnie Williams to Newcastle United in November being particularly hard to take. For the first time ever the club played the whole season without winning an away. There was also the comparison from the 1930-31 season with the club having to win the final game to stave off relegation, as stalwart Wilf Milne converted a penalty against Plymouth Argyle that meant the Swans would retain their Second Division status. However, the FA Cup would give the club some relief from the hardships of the league and after wins over Notts County and Bury, the Swans faced First Division Portsmouth at the Vetch Field. This created a new ground record as over 29,000 fans crowded in to watch a tie that Portsmouth won 1-0.
The close season saw the board relenting and finally appointing a new manager. Once more they plumped for a Scotsman as Neil Harris took the reigns, and the new boss immediately signed Walter Bussey from Blackpool, Joe Brain and his own son, John Harris. The season started off brightly with a 5-1 win over Oldham, but by the turn of the year the Swans began falling lower and lower down the league until they once again found themselves among the basement teams in the division. By the end of March the club had only won just nine games and sat in 20th position. But after registering their first win in 18 months at Bury the side put together a decent run of form to stave off relegation once more. The one real regret for all Swans fans that season was the retirement of the legendary Joe Sykes.
Neil Harris' side opened the season with defeat at Southampton, but by September the Swans had occupied fifth position in the league. However, the year ended with the Swans in 18th in what was another season of struggle. The FA Cup saw the side fall at the third round away at Liverpool, while in February an 8-1 win over Bradford equalled the club's highest ever league victory. Walter Bussey claimed the headlines with four goals, but there was only a crowd of just over five thousand to witness this feat. By now the supporters had come to expect the inevitability of people leaving the club and only days after this win, centre half Harry Hanfords moved to First Division side Sheffield Wednesday.
The opening game of the new season saw the Swans host the famous Aston Villa. The Midlands club had been relegated to the Second Division for the first time in its illustrious history and the whole town was excited with the prospect of such illustrious visitors. A crowd of over 25,000 crammed into the Vetch to see Villa edge it 2-1. Another famous club to visit were Blackburn Rovers. The teams had famously met in the FA Cup some years before and the Swans repeated the feat by winning 1-0 as Joe Brain scored the only goal of the game. Despite some heavy defeats away from the Vetch, the team found themselves safely in mid-table throughout much of the season. In mid-March the Swans were required to play two games in just three days in the Midlands. The first of these, at Leicester City, saw long-serving Wilf Milne deputising for injured keeper Moore and keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw. Unfortunately, he couldn't repeat this feat just a couple of days later as Nottingham Forest put six past him in a 6-1 defeat. That was Milne's final game of an outstanding career for the Swans and after 17 years with the club and a record breaking 585 league appearances, the last link in the great team of the 1920s was finally broken.
Before the start of the new season the club celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Swansea Town, with many dignitaries invited such as Billy Ball, Ivor Brown and Amos Lloyd. One notable player who returned to the club in the close season was Cyril Pearce, as he arrived from Charlton Athletic. Pearce made an instant impact with a goal in his first game back in a 3-2 victory over Blackburn at the Vetch Field. Although the team started off in good form, the Swans had slipped to the bottom of the league by Christmas. Not even the FA Cup could bring cheer to the side as they went out in the third round to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
With only two games left to play the team was second bottom and staring relegation in the face. The side won the first of these at the Vetch with a nervy 2-0 win over Newcastle United. Then, only three days before playing its final game of the season at Bradford, the side found itself having to play a Welsh Cup final at Shrewsbury. The team fought out a 2-2 draw and with the agreement of the Welsh FA, the replay was put back to the beginning of the following season. So it all came down to the final game of the season at Bradford where Harry Lewis's goal gave the side a 1-0 win to stave off relegation.
Prior to the start of the new league season Neil Harris broke the club transfer record by paying Newcastle United £1,500 for Bill Imrie, and also securing Tommy Bamford from Manchester United. The season started off poorly, with no win in the first 11 games. On top of this the Welsh Cup final against Shrewsbury saw the Swans crash to a 4-0 defeat in the replay. The FA Cup would not prove any more successful with Blackburn Rovers putting an end to any thoughts of a cup run with a 2-0 victory at Ewood Park in the third round. With games running out once more the side suddenly found the form that had been missing for the previous eight months of the season. In the final five games the Swans won three and drew two to once again escape relegation. One thing that did give the fans a lift was the success of the Swansea Schoolboy's side, as the youngsters won the English Schools Shield by beating Chesterfield 2-0 at the Vetch.