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Swans and Dragons: Roger Freestone

Roger Freestone was just 18 years old when he moved to Chelsea from Newport County for £95,000 in March 1987.

He made his Blues debut in a 1-1 draw at Queens Park Rangers the following month and retained the No. 1 shirt for the five remaining matches of that season as his new club finished 14th in the old First Division.

Freestone found himself in and out of the Chelsea team throughout his time in SW6 but still racked up a total of 53 appearances in all competitions.

The goalkeeper joined the Swans on loan during the 1989-90 season, making his debut in a goalless draw with Notts County at Vetch Field that September.

He made a total of 14 league appearances in before returning to Stamford Bridge.

Freestone made his first and only appearance for Wales Under-21s in May 1990, as the young Dragons beat Poland 2-0 at Penydarren Park.

He would go on to represent Wales B before making his senior international debut in 2000.

Whilst a Chelsea player, Freestone was also loaned to Hereford United in 1990 before the opportunity to join the Swans on a permanent basis arose during the early stages of the 1991-92 season.

After making his second debut for the club in a 3-0 defeat at Fulham, he went on to become a stalwart, featuring in more than 700 matches through until the end of the 2003-04 campaign.

His tally of 573 league appearances puts him second behind Wilfred Milne on the Swans’ all-time list.

Freestone won his first honour with the Swans when they lifted the Football League Trophy at Wembley in 1994 following victory over Huddersfield Town on penalties, when he was the hero.

And during the 1999-2000 season, he set a new club record of 22 clean sheets during a league season as the Swans won the old Third Division title.

The record was surpassed when Dorus de Vries registered 25 in the 2009-10 campaign.

Freestone also gained legendary status with the Jack Army for his antics at the other end of the field.

Overall, he scored three times from the penalty spot during his time in South Wales.

The first of his goals came in a 2-1 victory at Oxford United in the Football League Trophy in January 1995, while he also converted against Shrewsbury Town and Chesterfield during the 1995-96 season.

Freestone was awarded his first and only Welsh senior cap in May 2000, as he played the full 90 minutes of the Dragons’ 3-0 defeat to Brazil.

The Selecao included the likes of Dida, Cafu and Rivaldo in their starting line-up, all of whom went on to win the World Cup two years later.

The Swans stopper was also an unused substitute in Wales’ World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Norway later that year.

Although he experienced plenty of highs during his Swans career, Freestone also endured several lows.

The club were beaten by West Bromwich Albion in the Division Two Play-off semi-finals in 1993, before being relegated to the bottom division of the Football League just three years later.

Freestone then conceded a last-minute goal at Wembley as the Swans were beaten 1-0 by Northampton Town in the 1997 Third Division play-off final.

Freestone spent a brief period as the Swans’ player-manager alongside Nick Cusack in the spring of 2002, before his focus returned solely to playing the following season.

Three days after the Swans’ dramatic 4-2 victory over Hull City which secured their Football League status, he was awarded a testimonial against former club Chelsea at Vetch Field, where he played as both a goalkeeper and striker.

His last appearance for the Swans came in a goalless draw with York City in May 2004 and he briefly played for hometown club Newport County before hanging up his gloves midway through the 2004-05 season.

Article tags:

Swans and Dragons

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