Classic Seasons: 2002-03

23rd April

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

Here, we go back to 2002-03, a traumatic season which ended with the most dramatic of victories.


After the upheaval of the Tony Petty era, Swansea City were hoping for stability in Nick Cusack’s first full campaign in charge.

But with a lack of funds to bring in quality signings, Cusack held open trials in the summer before signing 10 players – all of whom were either out of contract or free agents.

Five of the new recruits made their debuts on the opening day of the season against Rushden & Diamonds, who would go on to win the Third Division title that year.

The Swans were on course for all three points at Vetch Field, only to be denied by Paul Underwood’s stoppage-time equaliser in a 2-2 draw.

The Swans took four points from their next three games, but a run of four defeats in five games left them rooted to the bottom of the Football League for the first time in their history.

A 1-0 defeat at Boston United proved to be the final straw for Cusack, who was replaced by experienced manager Brian Flynn.

However, Flynn had to wait until his fifth match in charge to register a victory, doing so courtesy of a 1-0 success over Southend United in mid-October.

The need for new faces was evident and the likes of Alan Tate and Leon Britton were brought in on loan, while the likes of Kieron Durkan, Kevin Nugent, Lenny Johnrose and Roberto Martinez also joined the fight to keep the Swans in the Football League as the campaign wore on.

The Swans improved under Flynn, but a miserable period across Christmas and the New Year brought six straight defeats and left the club firmly anchored at the bottom of the table.

The dreaded drop into the Conference was looking more and more likely and, despite the Swans’ spirits being lifted by three wins and a draw from their next four matches, a run of one win in seven followed to leave them right in the thick of the relegation dogfight as the season approached its final stretch.

Nevertheless, Flynn’s men pulled together to embark on a five-match unbeaten run that would propel them out of the relegation zone going into their penultimate game of the season away at Rochdale.

The Swans controlled proceedings against the Dale and took an 18th-minute lead through Nugent, only to be pegged back as the hosts drew level before the break.

But they edged their noses back in front midway through the second half as Marc Richards, another loan signing, saw his shot trickle over the line.

Despite being put under tremendous pressure in the latter stages of the contest, the Swans held on for a crucial three points.

Another three against Hull City on the final day would guarantee survival, but anything else would leave the Swans relying on results elsewhere.

It was undoubtedly the most important match in the club’s 91-year history.

They made a dream start by taking the lead after just eight minutes when Leon Britton was fouled in the box and James Thomas converted from the spot.

However, the Vetch was stunned as Hull goals from Stuart Elliott and Martin Reeves turned the match on its head.

Back came the Swans, who equalised through another Thomas penalty before the break to leave the contest finely poised at 2-2.

The hosts looked even more determined in the second half and just three minutes had passed when they regained the lead thanks to a close-range finish from Johnrose.

And the celebrations could well and truly begin 10 minutes later when Thomas completed his hat-trick with a delightful chip over the head of Alan Fettis.

With that, the Swans lived to fight another day in the Football League as they secured their survival at the end of another turbulent season in South Wales.






FEBRUARY 9 Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, dies from pneumonia.

JUNE 8 Lennox Lewis retains his WBC World Heavyweight crown after stopping Mike Tyson in the eighth round.

JUNE 16 Tiger Woods wins the US Open for the second time, beating Phil Mickelson by three shots.



FEBRUARY 1 The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members.

MARCH 20 The Iraq War begins when the country is invaded by a United States-led coalition who were intent on overthrowing the government of Saddam Hussein.

JULY 27 Celebrated comedian Bob Hope dies at his home in Toluca Lake, California at the age of 100.