MEMORY MATCH: Leighton Phillips
5th September 2016
In the very first edition of our new 'Memory Match' weekly feature, former Swans defender Leighton Phillips talks to Andy Greeves about our 5-3 victory over Hull City on March 2, 1979.
Whenever Swansea City face Hull City, memories of the Swans' history-defining victory over the Tigers on May 3, 2003 that kept the club in the Football League will spring to mind.
Nearly a quarter of a century prior to that famous 4-2 win, there was another encounter with the Humberside outfit packed with nearly as much drama and significance as that May afternoon in 2003.
Hull visited Vetch Field on March 2, 1979 for a fixture in the old Division Three (now League One) with both clubs pushing hard for promotion.
It had been a great season up to that point for the Swans, who had famously beaten top-flight Tottenham Hotspur in a League Cup tie earlier in the campaign, while they were also turning on the style in the league.
"We had a fantastic team at the time, with players like Speedy (Nigel Stevenson), Robbie (James), Charlo (Jeremy Charles), Smudger (Tommy Smith) and Tosh (John Toshack) who was player manager of course," recalls defender Leighton Phillips, who started that afternoon in March 1979.
"That team of 1978-79 was one of the best I ever played in. We had some incredible results during the campaign, beating teams like Colchester and Plymouth 4-1, there was a 4-3 win over Tranmere and a 4-4 draw with Rotherham to name a few.
"We were drawing really good crowds at the Vetch because we were playing well and our games were so entertaining."
Prior to Hull's visit, the Swans had twice been involved in matches that season when eight goals were scored.
Along with the 4-4 draw with Rotherham United on September 12, 1978, there was a 5-3 win at Woking in the FA Cup on December 19, 1978.
Incredibly, Hull's visit to SA1 in March 1979 became eight-goal thriller number three for the Swans that season.
The match got off to a lively start when Micky Horswill gave the visitors the lead after just seven minutes.
"Micky Horswill - now there's a name from the past!" exclaims Phillips.
"He was a real tough competitor in midfield. He was part of that famous Sunderland team that won the FA Cup in 1973."
By the half-time interval, however, Swansea were firmly in control of the match thanks to two goals from Tommy Smith and a further strike from John Toshack.
"My memory isn't the best, so I'll have to take your word for it that Tommy Smith got two goals," laughs Phillips. "Surely he didn't score many more goals for Swansea did he?!"
Phillips is right about Smith, or 'Smudger' as he was affectionately known to his team-mates.
Having signed from the Los Angeles Aztecs, the former Liverpool man played 36 league matches for the Swans, but those two strikes against Hull were his only league goals for the club.
Bruce Bannister got two goals for Hull in the second half but the Swans' first victory of 1979 was confirmed with strikes from Toshack and Jeremy Charles completing a 5-3 win.
"It was fantastic to get results like that," adds Phillips. "That Third Division was a very tough one to play in. You were afforded very little time on the ball before a challenge came flying in on you, so every win was well deserved."
After the Hull game, Swansea's remaining 15 league fixtures of the season saw them win nine matches, draw four and lose two. A third-placed finish for Toshack's men saw them achieve promotion for a second successive campaign, while Hull came eighth.
"It wasn't only the club that was enjoying the success but I found there was a real buzz around the city," smiles Phillips. "The promotion meant a lot to me as I had grown up supporting Swansea City and it was great to be involved in a very successful period in the club's history."
Phillips, who had started his career with Cardiff City and then played for Aston Villa, went on to play a total of 97 league matches for the Swans between 1978 and 1981.
"Many people said of my move from Villa to Swansea that it was a case of one step back to go two steps forward and so it proved," says Phillips.
"After that promotion to the second tier, we went into Division One in 1981 and I had been a part of the first Swansea City team to make it to the top division."
The Neath-born defender would move on shortly after that promotion to the top flight, signing for Charlton Athletic, and he retired from playing with Exeter City in 1983.
During his career he had won 58 caps for Wales between 1971 and 1981.
Memory Match with Leighton Phillips also appeared in Jack Magazine in time for our opening Premier League home fixture against Hull City. Buy your copy HERE.