Swans v Bournemouth, who'd have thought it?

22nd November 2015

Swansea versus Bournemouth in the Premier League. Who'd have thought it, eh?
Certainly not me when I set foot into Vetch Field for the first time back on March 25, 1978, when the Cherries were the visitors.
Ok, fair enough, no one would have predicted the clubs meeting in the Premier League back then because it wasn't even a twinkle in the eyes of people like Greg Dyke, Sir Alan Sugar and Rupert Murdoch.
But would anyone at the Vetch that afternoon have predicted a day when the two small seaside clubs would be meeting in the top tier of British football? Playing in a packed state-of-the-art all-seater stadium, in front of mind-bogglingly massive global TV audiences, whose broadcasters are willing to pay eye-wateringly huge sums of money for the privilege?
Back then, the Swans were a struggling Fourth Division side having successfully applied for re-election in the Football League just three years earlier, while Bournemouth weren't much better off.
When I made my first visit to the Vetch aged 11, I wasn't even that interested in league football. Even though I lived just a dozen miles from the ground, the Swans simply weren't on my radar. 
International football was my thing and I was more concerned about Wales' failure to qualify for the upcoming World Cup in Argentina, rather than the fortunes of my local fourth-rate football team.
And fourth rate they certainly were, although there had been a boost to the club's fortunes a few weeks before the game with John Toshack's appointment as player-manager.
But despite the fact he was a big-name signing from Liverpool, nobody could have imagined the impact he would have on the club over the next few seasons.
If anyone had asked me to name a Welsh Football League club before my first visit I would probably have said Wrexham, who were on their way to the Third Division Championship that season, or even - and I hate to admit this - Cardiff City, who at least had international players like Phil Dwyer and Peter Sayer.
But as soon as I caught sight of the massive structure of the old North Bank for the first time - I hadn't even seen the stadium before my first match - a passion for the Swans started to stir inside me, which has been there ever since.
Apart from catching a fleeting glimpse of Carrow Road through a coach window on a family holiday to Norfolk, I'd never seen a professional football ground before that day, let alone ventured into one.
And as I walked through the big right-hand tunnel onto the North Bank for the first time, I already had a tingle of excitement in the pit of my stomach.
The majority of the meagre crowd, sprinkled around the ramshackle old ground, were already in place by the time I took my choice of crush barrier to lean on.
But despite the modest numbers, it was still the biggest crowd I had seen in one place. 
I remember very little of the game, apart from the fact that the Swans won 1-0. Although, I do remember the toilets (who could forget the Vetch toilets), the watery but surprisingly tasty, vegetable soup, and the passionate support of the fans.
Despite that modest introduction, I was impressed. In fact, I wasn't just impressed, I was well and truly sold on the Swans and the lovely old Vetch.
I wonder what youngsters think when they walk into the Liberty Stadium these days for their first Swans match?
Modern facilities, sell-out 20,000-plus crowds - which generate electrifying atmospheres - and a fixture list featuring the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool every other week.
I must have led a sheltered life or been extremely easily pleased back in 1978!
I suppose people's expectations in general are higher these days, and the expectations of Swans and Bournemouth supporters are definitely greater now.
Instead of looking downwards in fear of the dreaded re-election back in the Seventies, both sides have been looking upwards for the past decade or so, not just aiming for the stars but reaching them.
Perhaps recent results haven't gone the way either club would like, but they are both in an immeasurably and unimaginably better position than they were back in March 1978.
Both clubs have the philosophy and staff on board to enable them to start climbing the table again. But what they also need is for their fans to get right behind the teams on the pitch.
I know the Jack Army will be 100 per cent behind the Swans as the team go in search of what will be a vitally important win in their quest to get their season back on track.
I will always have a soft spot for Bournemouth because they were the first team I saw the Swans play, so I wish them well for the rest of the season. 
But not today, or when we visit the south coast later in the season. Today I will be looking for a repeat of that 1978 victory which sparked my support for the Swans, albeit in the old Fourth Division on a cold grey afternoon in a quarter-full dilapidated old stadium.
Come on you Swans!