Classic Seasons: 1977-78
In a new website feature, we look back through the history books at a memorable Swans campaign.
Here, we revisit the 1977-78 season, when John Toshack's glorious reign began but the Swans were stunned by the loss of Harry Griffiths.
Just two seasons before this one, the Swans had suffered the indignity of having to apply for re-election to stay in the Football League.
The financial situation at the club was dire, with new manager Harry Griffiths well aware that the only signings he would be able to make would be free transfers or players who were out of contract.
To this end the manager worked a minor miracle, bringing in experienced campaigner George Smith on a free, alongside promising youngsters Paul Harris from Leyton Orient and Geoff Bray from Oxford United.
Griffiths’ first full season in charge saw the club finish in 11th position, while there was heartbreak in his second campaign.
The Swans needed to win on the final day while hoping the other side vying for promotion, Colchester United, slipped up.
The Swans did their job, but Colchester spoiled the party by winning, and condemning Griffiths’ side to another season of Fourth Division football.
Despite the disappointment, the Swans – who had an exciting young side – began 1977-78 as one of the promotion favourites.
Optimism about their chances seemed justified as the Swans started the season in style, going unbeaten in their opening five fixtures thanks in no small part to six goals from Alan Curtis.
Despite their positive start to the new season, the Swans experienced a disappointing run of games which saw them slip into mid-table.
It appeared that all was not well behind the scenes.
An announcement at the end of October confirmed the whispers around the city, as popular manager Griffiths resigned – although he would carry on in the role until the board found a replacement.
Yet the Swans then embarked on a winning run and, with various potential candidates turning down the opportunity to take up the reins at the Vetch, Griffiths reversed his decision to stand down.
By the time February came around, the Swans were fourth in the league and right at the heart of the promotion mix.
Yet at this point Griffiths resigned once more, this time stating that he wanted to concentrate on training the youth side. Griffiths said he hoped the Swans board could bring in a new man as soon as possible.
The identity of the man they would turn to would prove a shock everyone.
John Toshack, Liverpool and Wales star, was suddenly the youngest manager in the Football League.
The excitement generated by the appointment was apparent as more than 15,000 turned up for Toshack’s first match, against leaders Watford.
The new player-manager did not disappoint, scoring a first goal for the Swans in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
After a relatively quiet start to his managerial life at the Vetch, Toshack’s side went on a six-game winning run, including a record 8-0 league victory over Hartlepool United on April Fool’s day, which pushed them up to fourth in the division.
By now talk of going up was back on everyone’s lips, and with two games left to play, both at home, the team new that maximum points would mean automatic promotion was secure.
The first of these fixtures was on April 25 against Scunthorpe United.
But the game was played in an atmosphere of stunned respect following the shock announcement of the sudden and tragic death of Griffiths, who had passed away that afternoon while working in the treatment room at his beloved Vetch.
The game was won 3-1, which meant the promotion push was still on, and the victory that was dedicated to Griffiths.
A crowd of over 16,000 packed in to the Vetch in anticipation of the win that would guarantee promotion against Halifax Town.
The visitors were set up to frustrate the Swans and, despite the home side controlling the game, the teams went in level at 0-0 at the break.
The one-way traffic continued after the restart.
And with 20 minutes remaining, a Toshack free-kick took a slight deflection off the wall and finished up in the back of the net.
The goal took the pressure off the Swans, and Curtis struck two minutes from the end to seal victory and a place in the Third Division.
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