Hat-trick, heroes and Hull
3rd May 2013
May 3, 2003. A date etched into the memories of the Jack Army and engrained in the history books of Swansea City.
It was the day the Swans avoided relegation from the Football League thanks to a final-day 4-2 win over Hull City at a packed Vetch Field.
A hat-trick from local lad James Thomas and one from Lenny Johnrose was enough to beat the dreaded drop as Exeter were relegated despite winning their last three games.
Each day this week we will be bringing you an interview from a wide range of people involved in that day, from the players and management to supporters singing their hearts out on the North Bank.
Mention Swansea City v Hull, 2003, and one name will instantly spring to mind - James Thomas.
He is synonymous with the Swans' Great Escape thanks to his heroic hat-trick for his hometown club.
Now a driver for the Welsh Ambulance Service, Thomas' goals that day saved the Swans from the dreaded drop into the non-league ranks.
Almost a decade later, that hat-trick would see him inducted into the club's wall of fame alongside the likes of Ivor Allchurch, Mel Nurse, Alan Curtis and Harry Griffiths.
Yet he remains extremely modest of a performance which, to this day, still gets daily gratitude from Swans fans.
Thomas, now 34 and living in Birthgrove, is a season ticket holder at the Liberty.
For many, his hat-trick ten years ago was the starting point for the club's meteoric rise to the top of English football.
Here's his story from the day he helped his hometown club beat the drop. . . .
"It's crazy to think it's ten years ago today. It makes me shiver a little thinking back to that day.
"The night before the game I couldn't sleep. Different scenarios were going through my head, though scoring a hat-trick didn't really cross my mind.
"I'll admit that I was very worried about what could happen. The club I love could have slipped into non-league.
"But come the day of the game I remember heading to the Vetch with my match-head on. I was focused, I was determined to do whatever I could to help keep us up.
"There was carnage after the final whistle, and my shirt and shorts were ripped off me while Kevin Nugent did well to get the match ball for me. I still have that ball signed by all the lads in the changing room.
"We all went to Pitcher and Piano in Wind Street later on. It was meant to be just the players celebrating quietly together, but soon enough we were all singing songs with the fans and letting everything sink in.
"But this was what it all about - everyone together.
"I had been away from home for seven years, so when I was given the opportunity to sign for my hometown team I found it hard to say no.
"When people move it may be for financial reasons or a fresh start, but I just wanted to be playing for the team I have supported all my life - so much so I took an 80 per cent pay cut despite Bradford (who were in Division One) wanting me as well.
"My career was short, but I have memories that no-one can take away. I would not change it for the world.
"Knowing that I played a small part in helping the Swans stay in the Football League makes me feel ten feet tall."
"I always remember the day so clearly, as I'm sure the rest of the players do.
"Being in the huddle after the warm-ups and hearing Curt speak to passionately about what this meant to the people, to himself, to the club, the city - it pumped us all up.
"He poured his heart out, and hearing that from a legend like Curt instantly gives you an extra ten per cent. I felt as though we couldn't and wouldn't let him or anyone else down.
"Little did I know the first opportunity to do that would come so soon in the game.
"I'd taken penalties all season, and I was pretty confident from the spot.
"The first penalty I decided to stick into the corner, and it was strange because I felt no nerves at all.
"But after finding ourselves 2-1 down the thought of relegation was reality. We had to act quick.
"Getting another penalty before half-time really changed everything for us not just the scoreline. Our mindset changed, our hopes raised, the team-talk altered a little.
"Of course, I had to score and this time I could feel the weight of expectation. The pressure was really on, and my first and only thought was to keep it on target.
"Looking back, it was a rubbish penalty, but it just beat the keeper and that's all that mattered.
"The place erupted, and when Lenny put us ahead after half-time I heard one of the loudest roars I've ever experienced at a Swans game.
"I felt at that point that we would go on and win this game. We wouldn't let our lead slip again.
"It was as if we had this extra energy inside of us.
"Then came my chance of a hat-trick, thanks to Jonathan Coates making a great tackle on the halfway line.
"I was full of confidence because of the two earlier goals, so when I looked up and saw Alan Fettis off his line, I just went for it.
"It's funny, because Fettis was an old team-mate of mine at Blackburn, and he hated being chipped. So to be chipped by myself, plus the fact it was my hat-trick, meant he got a lot of stick after the game.
"If we had been 3-2 down or if I hadn't have scored earlier, I probably would have taken Alan Tate's advice and run on and tried to go around Fettis. It shows what confidence can do to a player.
"We knew we were safe then, and it was an unbelievable feeling.
"I know people talk about my hat-trick, but there were ten other guys on that pitch that deserve all the praise. The fans too - what an atmosphere they created. It was phenomenal. I don't think we could have fitted one more person into the Vetch because it seemed a lot more than the 9,500 official attendance."
WALL OF FAME
"The hat-trick against Hull was my defining moment and a memory I'll cherish forever.
"It is nice that people still recognise me even though I've retired through injury and not played for the club for quite a while.
"But being inducted into the club's Wall of Fame was such a shock for me. When I saw my name next to Ivor Allchurch I was stunned because Ivor is a massive Swansea City legend.
"I didn't think I'd ever make into the club's Wall of Fame - to be honest I was honoured to play for my hometown club let alone be included amongst real legends."