Classic Seasons: 1969-70

8th January 2018
Club

In a regular website feature, we look back through the history books at a memorable Swans campaign.

Here, we go back to 1969-70, a season which saw the club change their name and seal promotion. 

 

Since relegation from the Second Division four years earlier, the Swans had been in turmoil both on and off the pitch.

With gates dramatically falling and the Vetch averaging its lowest attendance in the Swans’ history, Malcolm Struel led a local consortium that would eventually take over the club.

On the pitch, new manager Roy Bentley looked to make a positive impact by bringing fans’ favourite Len Allchurch back to the club after eight seasons away, while also signing Welsh international goalkeeper Tony Millington.

It looked set to be an interesting season, but it began in a very disappointing manner for all involved, with the Swans unable to register their first win until mid-September, and suffering a humiliating 6-0 defeat away at Exeter City the following month.

However, slowly but surely, Bentley was developing a team that had a good blend of youth and experience.

The more senior pros in Allchurch, Millington, Mel Nurse and Herbie Williams were complemented by the younger talents of Dai Gwyther, David Lawrence, Carl Slee and Willie Screen, and the team enjoyed a dramatic upturn in form and confidence as they embarked on a 10-match unbeaten run that took them to just outside the promotion places in the table.

Aside from the league, the Swans began their FA Cup run with back-to-back away wins over Kettering Town and Oxford City, but it was another away tie in the third round that got all supporters talking.

The draw threw up a trip to Elland Road – the home of Don Revie’s Leeds United – and the chance to take on a side packed with internationals and among the most feared in England.

Unsurprisingly, the Swans were huge underdogs but had clearly not read the script, as Gwyther broke through the defence to give them an unlikely lead after 25 minutes.

Unlike the famous win at Anfield six years previously, this was no backs-against-the-wall effort from the Third Division side but a far more measured display.

The Swans had frustrated their opponents and were heading for what would have been a huge upset, but a couple of controversial refereeing decisions turned the tie on its head.

First, a hotly disputed penalty was given against Lawrence with Johnny Giles converting from the spot.

Then Nurse was sent off following a clash with Allan Clarke that saw the Leeds striker leave his studs on the Swans captain’s chest, before theatrically falling to the ground in an act of shameless gamesmanship.

The Swans battled valiantly with 10 men but were finally broken down with 10 minutes remaining, as Mick Jones scored the winner to save the First Division side’s blushes.

Despite the excitement of the cup run, the Swans remained focused on their promotion challenge and continued their momentum with Millington, Nurse and Alan Williams strong at the back, while Gwyther and Herbie Williams were equally as sharp at the other end of the field.

While the 0-0 draw with Exeter on February 24 was quickly forgotten, the day went down in history as the first time that the club played a match under the name of Swansea City.

They may have been playing under a different name, but the Swans resumed their strong and consistent league form – going unbeaten in 13 matches across February and March – and they secured promotion following a 2-1 victory at Newport County in early April.

Bentley’s men went up in third place with 60 points, one behind fellow Welsh side Wrexham and four shy of champions Chesterfield.

The team assembled by Bentley showed consistency and flair over the course of a long, hard and physical season, and became the first Swansea side to gain promotion in over 20 years.

 

EVENTS OF 1969-70

1969

MARCH 2 The first test flight of Anglo-French supersonic jet Concorde takes place.

JULY 21 Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to set foot on the moon.

AUGUST 31 Undefeated heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano is killed when the plane he is travelling in crashes in Iowa.

1970

MAY 4 Four students are shot dead by National Guard in Ohio during a protest against America’s involvement in Vietnam and Cambodia.

JUNE 21 Brazil beat Italy 4-1 to win the World Cup for a third time in Mexico.

NOVEMBER 9 Charles de Gaulle, the former president and prime minister of France, dies.