MEMORY MATCH: Dai Davies
14th November 2016
In the latest installment of our 'Memory Match' feature, goalkeeper Dai Davies recalls a famous win over Manchester United in 1982.
Manchester United arrived at the Vetch Field on January 30, 1982 top of the old Division One table.
Swansea City were seventh at the time, but were just six points off the summit. John Toshack's men had topped the table themselves for two rounds of fixtures earlier in the campaign and would go on to do so again with just a few months of the season remaining.
A crowd of 24,115 packed into the ground for the visit of United - an occasion that "captured the imagination of Swansea City supporters and players alike" according to goalkeeper Dai Davies.
"It's fantastic for any club to be hosting a match against Manchester United let alone Swansea, who had been playing in the bottom division of league football only five years before that game," says Davies.
In an entertaining first half, a loose back pass from Manchester United's Frank Stapleton looked like presenting Swans striker Alan Curtis with an easy opportunity to score.
Red Devils goalkeeper Gary Bailey reacted quickly to the situation to get to the ball first, though.
At the other end, Bryan Robson fired a long-range effort just wide of Davies' goal, with Garry Birtles and Stapleton also wasting good chances.
Ten minutes into the second half, Curtis found the back of the net, collecting a long ball from Max Thompson before firing it through the legs of Bailey.
"We used to nickname Alan 'Snake-hips' because he was so quick on the turn and so difficult to track down," smiles Davies.
"He was such a strong player and a powerful runner. It really seemed to suit him coming back to Swansea from Leeds and he scored lots of goals for us, going on to become a Swansea legend."
Two minutes after Curtis' opener, Robbie James made it two, finishing from close range.
A Bob Latchford effort was cleared off the line by United's Gordon McQueen, only to fall to the feet of James, who had the easy task of putting the ball into an empty net.
"That was typical Robbie, being in the right place at the right time," reflects Davies.
"Robbie was so fast, and unconventional in many respects, which made him very difficult for opponents to deal with. He was ahead of his time really, in that he was one of the first 'box-to-box' midfielders that you hear talked about in the game today.
"He was a great tackler, a good crosser and he had a great shot. He could do any job that was asked of him really."
Birtles and Steve Coppell had missed chances for United prior to the Swans' quickfire brace.
And it didn't look like being the Red Devils' day, when Davies made a fine save from defender McQueen, who had gone up for a set-piece.
"I can picture that save vividly," adds Davies. "Gordon McQueen got a really good header in which he angled towards the bottom corner. The ball hit the ground and I was able to get down quick enough to turn it around the post."
Towards the end of the match, Colin Irwin nearly made it three when his header was tipped over the bar by Bailey.
United toiled, but their attacks were smothered by Davies and his defence which included Max Thompson, Ante Rajkovic and Colin Irwin. The final whistle confirmed Swansea's eighth home league win at that point in the season.
The Swans would go on to achieve their highest-ever league finish of sixth in the top flight and also qualified for the Uefa Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round by virtue of winning the Welsh Cup.
Manchester United, meanwhile, finished third in the division behind champions Liverpool and Ipswich Town, making it into the Uefa Cup.
"We took some massive scalps that season beating teams like Aston Villa, Tottenham, Arsenal and Leeds United," reflects Davies.
"We had a really good team that season, led by a real goalscorer in Bob Latchford. We were solid at the back and then there were players like Leighton James and Robbie James who could produce a bit of magic. It was a tight pitch at the Vetch, with the supporters right on top of you, and I really think that helped us get the fantastic results we did that season.
"Even though we had topped the league a number of times that season (as late as March 20), I think we still had to be pleased finishing sixth in our first top-flight season. It was great to have been a part of a side turning out top-notch performances each weekend."