Copper Swans brings history full circle

15th August

There's nothing like the first home game of a new football season to get the blood pumping.

The stadium will invariably have had some work done, even if it's just a lick of paint to the tea stall, the pitch will be pristine, the sun will be shining (well it did in the old days, anyway) and the new home kit will be pulled on in anger for the first time.

Of course, the Swans' new kit will already have a familiar feel having been the subject of a slick summer publicity launch, which owed more to Hollywood than Under Milk Wood.

But I was delighted by the club recognising the city's copper-making heritage in this season's kit.

With football having become such a global and profitable game, there's always a danger that clubs can lose contact with their roots.

In some sports, they lose touch with their heritage completely. "Franchises" as they have become known, are bought, sold and transported from one city to another, totally breaking ties with their origins.

The bigger a club gets, and the more its global profile rises, the more risk there is it will lose its "home" identity as it bids to conquer new territories and markets.

We only have to look what happened to our neighbours up the road in the not too distant past for some sobering warnings.

I can't ever see that happening to the Swans, but the copper coloured trim adorning the traditional pristine white kit is an additional reassuring touch that the club knows exactly where it has risen from.

Now there may be cynics out there who will see it purely as a publicity stunt and simply a ploy to sell more shirts.

Football kit designers have become dedicated followers of fashion in the modern era and many clubs have suddenly adopted all manner of unrelated colours . . . particularly in their away kits.

For all I know - and on the subject of fashion I know very little - copper may well be this year's "on trend" colour, and the design bods at Adidas simply came up with a kit featuring this year's "must wear" shade.

Even if that was the case, which I very much doubt, well done to quick-thinking marketing employee who made the connection with the city's history, and saw the opportunity to make the historical link.

Publicity stunt, fashion coup or genuine bid to ground a modern, forward-looking organisation in its city's proud past, there is no questioning the very real link between Swansea's booming copper heyday and the city's current renaissance.
The subtle nod to the past in the shape of the Adidas stripes and trimmings brings the city's history full circle. 

Swansea first became famous around the world for its copper production.

Now it is famous worldwide for its football club, which boasts a team and stadium, which has literally been built on the old foundations of that world-leading copper industry.

Those of you who know your local history won't need reminding why Swansea was known as Copperopolis.

But there will be plenty of visitors to the Liberty Stadium this afternoon that won't realise that had they been on this site 200 years ago, they would be standing bang in the middle of a massive industrial hotbed.

By 1820, 90% of all the copper-smelting capacity of Britain was based within 20 miles of the city, and it was widely regarded as the world centre for copper-ore smelting and metal manufacturing.

The Copper industry shaped what the city is today. And the values that were so important to the city back then - hard work, innovation and creative flair - can be seen in abundance in the football team today.

For Copperopolis back in the 1800s, you could read Swanselona in the 2000s.

Just as Swansea's industrial fame was forged on copper, the home of today's visitors was fired on its global reputation for shipping coal.
Such was the two communities' industrial success, that they even spawned phrases and sayings which became part of the English language.

The phrase "copper-bottomed", meaning thoroughly reliable and certain not to fail, is derived from the practice of plating ships' hulls with copper - most of  which was produced in Swansea.

And the phrase "carrying coals to Newcastle" became used to describe any attempt to supply something to a place or person that already has an abundance of that particular commodity.

Both industries, which made the cities famous, may have been pretty much consigned to the history books, but the fame of Swansea and Newcastle around the world is being expanded through their football clubs.

From a Swans perspective, I hope the Toon Army's attempts to bring attractive, winning football to Swansea this afternoon will be like carrying coals to Newcastle, while the Swans' prospects of earning their new stripes with a win are thoroughly copper-bottomed.

Come on you Swans!