Classic Seasons: 1963-64
In a new website feature, we look back through the history books at a memorable Swans campaign.
Swans manager Trevor Morris, who was just beginning his sixth season at Vetch Field, had overseen many changes to the playing squad during his reign.
A number of more senior players had left the club, with a group of local players who were young and exciting being introduced in their place.
This pattern offered hope for the club’s future.
Unfortunately, the results at the start of the 1963-64 season didn’t reflect that optimism.
The team struggled in the opening 12 league fixtures, winning only three games and finding themselves in the bottom half of the league.
Come the new year, the side were still too close to the relegation places to feel safe, and an FA Cup tie at home to Barrow was a welcome diversion – for players and supporters alike – from the struggles of the league campaign.
The Swans won the game 4-1 and were drawn away at First Division Sheffield United in the next round.
A battling performance and a goal from centre forward Eddie Thomas gave the Swans a replay the following Tuesday at a packed Vetch, and a sparkling performance saw the hosts thrash their top-flight opponents 4-0.
Cup fever was gathering pace in the town, and the supporters could look forward to another trip to a First Division opponent, this time Stanley Matthews’ Stoke City.
Once again the Swans played well above their league form, and with young Keith Todd in sparkling form, another replay in South Wales was secured.
The second encounter was a tense affair, but goals from Todd and Jimmy McLaughlin saw the Swans claim another scalp.
Their reward was a third away tie on a First Division ground, and this time it was the home of the league champions-elect, Liverpool.
With a quarter-final trip to Anfield to look forward to, the cup was the talk of Swansea.
But league form was erratic at best, giving some cause for concern.
Still the supporters travelled in their thousands to cheer on their favourites, perhaps more in hope than expectation in truth.
But the Swans fans who were on Merseyside witnessed one of the greatest games in their club’s history.
Wave after wave of Liverpool attacks asked questions of the Swans defence but, with goalkeeper Noel Dwyer in sensational form, the visitors held firm.
Not only that, but the Swans broke away twice in four minutes towards the end of the first half to snatch a 2-0 lead, with the goals coming from McLaughlin and Eddie Thomas.
At the half-time break, disbelief was evident amongst home supporters.
But when Liverpool winger Thompson reduced the deficit just after the hour, the locals must have felt their side would go on and claim the win their attacking play deserved.
Yet with Dyer continuing to play the game of his life in the Swans goal, the hosts’ struggles continued.
When Liverpool were awarded a penalty nine minutes from time, an equaliser seemed certain.
But the normally reliable full-back Ronnie Moran missed from the spot and the Swans held on for a famous win which put them into the FA Cup semi-finals for only the second time in the club’s history.
The semi-final draw featured two sides from the First Division and two from the second tier.
The Swans got the tie they wanted, against fellow Second Division side Preston North End.
Preston were pushing hard for promotion, and sat third in the table at this point.
But the Swans could take confidence from their two league games against the Lancashire club that season.
There was a draw at Deepdale, while North End were thumped 5-1 at the Vetch.
Sadly, the heavens opened in the days leading up to the semi-final – and on the day of the game itself.
The heavy rain meant the pitch at Villa Park, the neutral ground where the game was to be played, was like a quagmire.
Controlled football on this surface was impossible, with players slipping and sliding all over the place, and the referee let some robust tackles go unpunished.
It was the Swans who went ahead right on half-time, with McLaughlin turning inside the area and scoring with a flashing drive across Preston goalkeeper Kelly.
The muddy conditions meant the Swans players in their orange shirts were unrecognisable by the second half.
Referee Mr Carr changed the game with a controversial penalty decision against Swans centre-half Brian Purcell after he made what appeared to be a perfectly legitimate challenge on Preston forward Dawson.
Dawson converted the penalty, before a hammer blow for the Swans.
Preston centre-half Singleton launched a hopeful 40-yard clearance which sailed through the air and into the Swans net.
The dream was over.
The Swans finished their league campaign with just enough points to avoid relegation, finishing 19th, but with a cup run to look back on with immense pride.
Events of 1963-1964
March 21: Alcatraz Prison closes its doors for good after 31 years.
June 16: Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space.
November 22: American President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas.
February 25: Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) beats Sonny Liston to win the World Heavyweight Boxing crown.
June 15: Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment at Robben Island.
November 9: The House of Commons votes to abolish the death penalty for murder in the UK.