Classic Seasons: 1998-99

24th March 2018
Club

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

Here, we go back to 1998-99, when the Swans enjoyed a memorable cup run but suffered play-off heartbreak.

 

The season before this one had seen chairman Doug Sharpe finally sell the club, with the Silver Shield Group becoming Swansea City’s new owners.

Although the talk from the new regime was positive, with a new stadium in Morfa potentially on the horizon, the ongoing managerial merry-go-round had continued.

The 1997-98 season began with Jan Molby at the helm but, by the end of another disappointing campaign, Micky Adams had taken charge for a mere two weeks before being succeeded by assistant Alan Cork.

Two new players were added before the 1998-99 season in Martin Thomas and Jason Smith.

The first was a seasoned, combative midfielder from Fulham, while central defender Smith was experiencing the Football League for the first time after arriving for £10,000 from non-league Tiverton Town.

But it was not just new players who arrived at the club as, once again, the board decided to wield the axe on the manager.

With Cork gone, they brought in former Chelsea favourite John Hollins.

Hollins had experienced a very successful career at the elite level, and it was hoped that this would benefit the Swans.

However, despite opening with a 2-0 win over Exeter City, the Swans took just one point from their next five games – although a narrow defeat to Championship side Norwich City in the League Cup gave the supporters some hope.

By the turn of the year, the new manager was beginning to see his influence take effect and steady progress was being made in the league, while victories over Millwall and Stoke City put the Swans in the third round of the FA Cup for the first time in four seasons.

The draw threw up a trip to Premier League side West Ham United, with 3,500 Jacks travelling to East London.

The atmosphere created by the Jack Army at Upton Park was electric, and the team responded by playing well above their league position to pose their top-flight opponents plenty of problems.

Youngster Stuart Roberts was giving veteran full-back Julian Dicks a torrid time and, when Smith scored with a header midway through the second half, a shock was on the cards.

Unfortunately, the Swans were denied by a late Dicks strike, meaning a replay was required 11 days later.

A frosty Vetch Field welcome awaited the Hammers on a freezing night in South Wales, and the noise levels rose high when Thomas put the Swans ahead on the half-hour mark.

The second half saw the Premier League side push for the equaliser, but Roger Freestone pulled off some stunning saves to keep them at bay and secure one of the greatest upsets in FA Cup history.

Once again, the draw was kind to the Swans with another Premier League side in Derby County arriving at the Vetch.

But despite a battling performance, there was to be no fairytale this time around, as a late goal from substitute Kevin Harper proved to be the difference.

Through all this, the team continued to climb up the league table and a 2-0 victory over Hull City on the final day of the season clinched the last remaining play-off place.

The Swans were paired with Scunthorpe United in the semi-finals and Matthew Bound’s header in the first leg at home gave them a slender 1-0 lead to take to Glanford Park.

However, the advantage was cancelled out early in the second leg and extra time was required.

Gareth Sheldon then made it 2-0 on the night, before Tony Bird’s effort put the Swans ahead on the away-goal rule.

Sheldon struck again, however, to break the Swans’ hearts and send the Iron to Wembley.It was a devastating defeat for Hollins’ men, but a memorable first season under his guidance provided plenty of hope and optimism for the future.

And there were better times ahead.

 

 

WORLD EVENTS

1998

MARCH 23 The 70th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles sees Titanic win 11 Oscars, including Best Film.

JULY 12 Two goals from Zinedine Zidane help France to a 3-0 victory over Brazil in the World Cup final in Paris.

AUGUST 7 244 people are killed when the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya are bombed. The attacks are linked to Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda.

 

1999

JANUARY 1 The Euro becomes the official currency of the European Union.

APRIL 20 Two Littletown teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, open fire on their teachers and classmates at Columbine High School in Colorado, killing 13 people before taking their own lives.

MAY 26 The first Welsh Assembly in over 600 years opens in Cardiff after elections were held just three weeks earlier.