MEMORY MATCH: Steve Watkin

20th February 2017

In the latest installment of our 'Memory Match' feature, former Swans striker Steve Watkin looks back on the shock FA Cup win over West Ham in 1999.



Swansea City, then of the old Third Division (now League Two), pulled off a succession of FA Cup shocks during the 1998-99 season.
The Swans beat Millwall 3-0 at the Vetch in the first round of the competition in November 1998 and subsequently notched up a 1-0 triumph at home to Stoke City - another club who were then in the division above - in the following round.
The reward for the heroics of John Hollins' team was an away draw at Premier League club West Ham United in round three.
Swansea came close to pulling off a massive upset at Upton Park in early January 1999.
Jason Smith opened the scoring for the Swans early on and they held their lead until the final three minutes of the game.



"We played really well at Upton Park and we probably should have won that match," laments Steve Watkin, who started for the Swans that afternoon.
"We battled hard but Julian Dicks scored an equaliser just before the end of the game, so we had a replay at the Vetch."
Cup fever was very much alive and kicking in Swansea ahead of the replay, with tickets for the game quickly snapped up.
On the night, a crowd of 10,116 packed into the ground and created an atmosphere that few who were fortunate enough to be there will ever forget.
"On the night, the Vetch was absolutely bouncing," says Watkin, who played a total of 227 matches for Swansea City between 1997 and 2003, scoring 48 goals in the process.
"I'd known some good atmospheres for matches there, but I'd have to say that was the best I'd experienced in my time at Swansea.
"It was a special ground that when you had a full house, especially under the lights. There would be an incredible noise."



Martin Thomas gave the visitors a real scare early on as he rattled West Ham's crossbar with a well-struck free-kick.
Then, on 29 minutes, the same player hit a 20-yard volley beyond the despairing dive of Hammers keeper Shaka Hislop to put the Swans one up.
"Thommo loved making runs into the box and getting on the end of things," comments Watkin.
"His finishing was really good and he struck that volley so well. He was a man for the big occasion was Thommo, so it didn't surprise me that he scored on the night."
At the other end of the pitch, the Swans defence was tasked with dealing with the qualities of the Hammers' Swansea-born striker John Hartson.



"The two centre-halves, Smudger (Smith) and Boundy (Matt Bound), were fantastic against John Hartson over the two games," reflects Watkin.
"He was a big, physical presence and a good footballer, but they more that stood up to him and he got very few opportunities."
The two teams went in at half-time with Swansea leading 1-0. The second half saw West Ham dominate possession as the ability of some of their future England internationals came to the fore.
"West Ham had a fantastic team," says Watkin.
"Rio Ferdinand was only a youngster at the time but you could see he had all the attributes to become a top-class player. The same can be said for Frank Lampard, who looked so assured on the ball.
"They also had Trevor Sinclair, who was always a threat when he had the ball. But we more than matched a super West Ham team over the two matches."



West Ham's best opportunity to equalise came late on when defender Neil Ruddock hit a powerful shot which was bound for the top corner of the Swans goal.
Goalkeeper Roger Freestone was equal to the effort, though, beating the ball away at full stretch.
"Roger was in great form that night," beams Watkin. "The save from Neil Ruddock especially was fantastic.
"Roger was a top goalkeeper, the best for me at that level of league football at the time.
"He could have played at a much higher level without any doubt, but he didn't want to leave Swansea and it was great to see that kind of loyalty."
With the efforts of Freestone et al, Swansea held on for a 1-0 victory to become the first bottom-tier league side to knock out a top flight opponent in the FA Cup since the restructuring of the Football League in 1992.
Sadly, the great cup run came to an end in the next round, as another Premier League opponent - Derby County - notched up a 1-0 win at the Vetch.

For more memorable matches, clickHERE