Swansea City | Black History Month

19th October 2023
Black History Month

Club historian Gwyn Rees takes a look back to some of the notable black players who have worn the Swansea City shirt with distinction as we mark Black History Month.

While the Swans were formed in 1912, it was 72 years before a black player represented the first team.

Steve Mardenborough joined the club in the 1984-85 season after being released by Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Mardenborough was a pacy wide man, who came to the Vetch Field under then manager Colin Appleton. Although he played in a total of 50 first-team games in league and cup in his first season, the severe financial restrictions at the club - coupled with a change of manager - saw the player leave in July 1985, signing for Newport County.

Ten years later after a nomadic career that saw him appear for 10 different clubs, he re-signed at the Vetch Field on a non-contract basis, but played just one game before once again moving to Newport.

His son Jann Mardenborough has enjoyed a career in motorsports, racing around the globe - including in the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour race - having got his break through his ability on sim racing video games.

When manager Terry Yorath was looking to strengthen his squad during the 1990-91 season, he brought in two players from his adopted city of Leeds.

Terry Connor, who had started his career at his hometown club, was an experienced forward and joined the club in a £150,000 deal from Portsmouth. He was strong and aggressive, and was signed as a partner for Jimmy Gilligan to compete in the hurly burly of lower-league football.

Andy Watson, the other close-season signing, was a £40,000 arrival from Halifax Town.

There was no doubt Watson had a lot of ability, but a season interrupted by injuries saw him have a stop-start time at the club, and he only managed a total of 20 appearances in his short time at the Vetch Field.

However, both players won Welsh Cup winners' medals in their first season at the club, playing at the National Stadium in a 2-0 win over Wrexham.

During Frank Burrows time at the club as manager he developed a reputation as a shrewd operator in the transfer market, bringing in players from non-league football, and making the club large profits when the players were sold on.

John Williams Wembley Race

A perfect example of this was John Williams, a £5,000 purchase from Midlands side Cradley Town.

Williams’ first season at the club in 1991-92 was a great success and he seemed to take professional football in his stride. A former postman, after winning the Rumbelows Sprint Challenge Trophy at Wembley in 1992 he was forever known as 'the Flying Postman'.

The end of the season saw Williams make a dream move to Premier League club Coventry City, in a deal that saw the club earn a £250,000 fee. Something of a footballing nomad, during a career that took in over a dozen clubs, he would sign in at the Vetch Field on two further occasions.

Des Lyttle was another player to follow a similar trajectory. The defender joined the Swans from non-league Worcester City, and went on to help the club reach the play-offs at the end of the 1992-93 season.

It would prove to be his only campaign in Swansea colours, as his impressive performances had attracted the interest of Premier League Nottingham Forest, who swooped to seal a deal for a fee of £375,00.

A handful of years later, after playing for Jamaica in the 1998 World Cup in France, Walter Boyd was a surprise signing by then manager John Hollins.

There was no denying his incredible ability on the ball, but Boyd was also a man who had a habit of courting controversy on and off the field.

This was highlighted by the player scoring two goals on his debut against Rotherham United, but then being sent off later that season in a fixture against Darlington having come on as a substitute only to see red before play had restarted.

His first season with the Swans saw him finish as joint topscorer in a side that won the Third Division title. His second and final season was interrupted by injuries, and he left the club at the end of that campaign, returning to play back home in Jamaica.

At 6ft 4in inches tall, and with good ball control, Mamady Sidibe impressed in his short period at the Vetch Field.

Despite a niggling knee injury that would flare up at times during the 2001-02 season, he impressed manager John Hollins with his goals and all-round play.

But, at the season’s end, and with manager Hollins losing his job, Sidibe declined the offer of a new contract, choosing to sign for Gillingham.

A Mali International, his displays at the Kent club saw him secure a move to Premier League side Stoke City where he became a cult hero.

The 2002-03 season was one of the most traumatic in the club’s history, with Nick Cusack losing his job in September, to be replaced by the experienced Brian Flynn.

With the real possibility of the club falling into the Nationwide Conference, Flynn began to rebuild the side, with Lenny Johnrose a key figure among the many new faces through the door in order to help preserve Football League status.

Johnrose was a vastly-experienced midfielder, playing his football for over a decade with various clubs in the North of England. He was a strong player in possession, and in the final game of the season against Hull City, one that would determine the club’s future.

He scored the all-important third goal early in the second half to calm nerves and see the team through to a 4-2 win. The second season was one that was blighted by injuries, though he fought back well, even captaining the side at times.

But with the sacking of manager Flynn, Johnrose made the decision to leave the club, moving back to former side Burnley.

In March 2017 the former midfielder was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, a disease that he faced with the same courage he showed on the football pitch until he sadly passed away in August 2022.

The esteem in which he is still held in Swansea was shown when he received an ovation from the Liberty when introduced to the crowd before a game against Sheffield United early in 2019.

Three players who were instrumental in the club’s promotion out of the Second Division in the final season at the Vetch Field were defenders Izzy Iriekpen and Kevin Austin, along with industrious wide midfielder Adrian Forbes.

Iriekpen was particularly strong in the air, and was a defender who was quick around the park. He was a consistent performer in defence for the side for three seasons until a serious knee injury sustained in February 2006 against Nottingham Forest saw him ruled out for the rest of the season. Unable to break back into the first 11, Iriekpen parted company with the club at the end of the 2006-2007 season after 137 appearances.

Adrian Forbes Vetch

Forbes played nearly every game of the final season at the Vetch Field, scoring seven goals in the process. And, though his all-action style was appreciated by the fans, it was his final two goals of this historic season that will forever mark him down as a Swans hero.

The final league game to be played at the Vetch Field against Shrewsbury Town saw the team win 1-0, with Forbes scoring the only goal of the game. A week later at Bury the player once again scored the only goal of the game - after just 17 seconds - to help the club gain automatic promotion.

He was with the club for its move to the then-Liberty Stadium the following season but, with his time on the pitch limited, he left the club in May 2006, moving to Blackpool.

Austin was known for playing the game in a way that was hard but fair, and was another consistent performer during his time with the club.

He was an experienced defender by the time he arrived at the Vetch Field, and was a Trinidad and Tobago international. He helped the Swans to promotion in his first season at the club, and was a regular when the side won the Football League Trophy in 2006 and the League One title in 2008.

In his four seasons at the club he played 150 first-team games, but in June 2008 he signed for League Two outfit Chesterfield. After two more stints of playing in the Nationwide Conference Austin retired taking, up a coaching position at Scunthorpe United.

In 2017, he was sadly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in November 2018 to the great sadness of everyone connected with Swansea City.

Adebayo Akinfenwa joined the club in July 2005 just in time for the opening of the new stadium.

Nicknamed ‘The Beast’, he played up front where he used his immense strength to his advantage. His and the club’s first game at the new stadium saw Akinfenwa celebrate with the only goal of the game against Tranmere Rovers.

Along with Lee Trundle, he would terrorise League One defences, and both players would score in Football League Trophy victory in Cardiff later in the season.

But there was also heartbreak for the forward, when he became one of two Swansea players to miss their penalties in the League One play-off defeat against Barnsley later that campaign.

The second season saw Akinfenwa continue his good form in front of goal, until disaster struck when he broke his leg in a game against Scunthorpe United, which prematurely ended his season. The campaign’s end saw the player reject a new contract at the club and he moved on to play for Millwall.

When manager Roberto Martinez needed to fill the vacancy left by the transfer of Trundle to Bristol City, he went to St. Johnstone to bring Trinidad and Tobago international Jason Scotland to SA1, were he teamed up with compatriot Denis Lawrence.

He scored on his debut at Oldham Athletic, and would end the season as the division’s top goal scorer, in a side that ran away with the League One title. He was also included in the PFA. team of the season.

The promotion to the Championship didn’t stop the player from scoring on a regular basis, and once again he was chosen by his fellow professionals in the team of the season. When manager Martinez left to take over at Wigan Athletic, his first signing was Scotland for a fee of £2m.

Two players who made fantastic contributions to the rise of Swansea City, and joined the club within months of each other, were Ashley Williams and Nathan Dyer.

Williams joined the club on loan from Stockport County in March 2008, playing three games in the Martinez side that won League One, and signed for a then-club record £400,000 fee in time for the club’s first season in the second tier since it had been rebadged as the Championship.

A born leader, the central defender created a club record, playing 166 consecutive league games, and was rewarded for his consistent displays by being in consecutive PFA teams of the year in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

He captained the Swans at Wembley when they won the League Cup in 2013, and also captained the Welsh International side on their incredible run to the semi-finals at Euro 2016.

Ashley Williams Arsenal

In August 2016, Ashley left for Everton and would retire in 2021.

Dyer joined the club on loan in 2009, playing 17 games. A £400,000 fee saw the deal made permanent, and he was one of the goal scorers when the side knocked out FA Cup holders Portsmouth at Fratton Park in the fourth round.

He had the ability to go past defenders at will, combined with electric pace, and was a nightmare for defenders everywhere.

He was an important part of the squad that won promotion to the Premier League and, in the League Cup final win over Bradford City at Wembley in 2013 scored two goals and claimed the player of the match award.

He spent the 2015-16 season on loan at Leicester City earning a Premier League winners’ medal in the process. He remained with the Swans until 2020 before hanging up his boots.

Scott Sinclair was signed by new manager Brendan Rodgers in time for the beginning of the 2010-11 season, and what an inspired signing it turned out to be.

He scored his first Swansea goal in a League Cup tie against Tranmere Rovers, and at the end of this historic season he had scored 19 league goals, and another eight in various cup matches.

But it would be his performance at Wembley in the Championship play-off final against Reading that would cement his place in Swansea City folklore.

Play-off final Scott Sinclair

A hat-trick, with two coolly taken penalties, helped the Swans win a pulsating game 4-2, and see the club become the first Welsh side to play in the Premier League.

He also scored the first Premier League goal for the club against West Bromwich Albion, and had another good season.

He represented Great Britain’s football team at the 2012 Olympic Games and his play captured the eye of Premier League champions Manchester City, with an £8m transfer seeing the player move to the then-champions in August 2012.

On promotion to the Premier League, and knowing that the squad needed strengthening, manager Rodgers brought in - amongst others - Wayne Routledge and Michel Vorm.

Routledge had played for eight different clubs before signing for the Swans in August 2011. Like Vorm, he made his debut against Manchester City, finally finishing the season with 30 first-team appearances to his name.

Extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet, Routledge was not a great goal scorer, but a scorer of some great goals.

He was a regular on the team sheet for approaching 10 seasons, and won a League Cup winners’ medal in the victory over Bradford City in 2013.

He also played a major part in our Europa League run the following season. He would make over 350 appearances in total for the Swans before a serious knee injury ended his career in 2021.

Routledge 2012-13

Dutch goalkeeper Vorm, meanwhile, was signed from FC Utrecht for a fee worth £1.5 million, and made his debut in the club’s first ever Premier League game at Manchester City.

He was an athletic keeper, and was adept at saving penalties. At the end of this historic first season he had kept 13 clean sheets. So impressive was his maiden season at the Liberty Stadium that, at the end of season awards dinner, he walked away with the Supporters’ Player of the Year Award, Players’ Player of the Year Award and the Away Player of the Year Award.

He continued his impressive form in the following seasons before going to Tottenham Hotspur in July 2014.

The success at Wembley in the League Cup final of 2013 meant that the club would play in the Europa League the following season.

Knowing the extra tournament would require extra bodies to compete, manager Michael Laudrup broke the club’s transfer record in obtaining centre forward Wilfried Bony from Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.

The £12m paid was a significant sum but the signing proved to be a masterstroke.

Wilfried Bony Arsenal 2014

The Ivorian International scored two goals on his debut in the Europa League tie against Malmo, and also scored on his Premier League debut against Manchester United.

He had the ability to win balls in the air against players a lot taller than him, and his strength on the ball was immense.

His first season at the club saw him finish with an incredible 25 goals. A further nine goals at the beginning of the next season alerted champions Manchester City, and a £25m transfer took him to the Etihad.

Bony returned to SA1 in August 2017 in a deal worth £12 million, but injuries had caught up with the player and he struggled to repeat his earlier form for the club.

The summer following Bony’s departure to Manchester City saw the signing of Ghana International Andre Ayew, son of the famous Abedi Pele Ayew.

Ayew scored on his debut for the club away at Chelsea in the opening game of the new season, and his ability to run at defenders with the ball at his feet saw him move to West Ham United after just one season in south Wales, though the club could console itself with a club record sale of £20.5 million.

Sheffield Wednesday Away Andre Ayew

Just a season later, and another Ayew would arrive in Swansea. This time it was Andre’s brother Jordan, who joined from Aston Villa, with Welsh international Neil Taylor going in the other direction.

The winter transfer window of 2018 saw both brothers play together for a short time together in Swans colours following Andre’s return from the Hammers.

Unfortunately, despite their efforts the club lost its Premier League status. Jordan remained in the Premier League signing for Crystal Palace, while Andre remained at the club until 2022 helping the Swans to back-to-back play-off appearances before leaving in the summer of 2021.

Despite his still young age of 23, academy graduate Ben Cabango has become an influential figure at the Swans. He has also won seven international caps for Wales.

The centre-back has surpassed 150 appearances in Swansea colours since his debut in 2018 and – without being a regular name on the scoresheet – has scored some memorable goals for the side.

In the 2022-23 season, Cabango scored two injury time winners with a strike sealing a victory away at Watford and, most notably, sealing three points and a second consecutive league double against Cardiff City with a winner in the ninth minute of injury time.

It was the centre-back's second goal at the Cardiff City Stadium having been one of four goal scorers the previous year.

Ben Cabango celebrates scoring winner against Cardiff City

Off the field, former Real Madrid and Chelsea defensive midfielder Claude Makelele joined the club as assistant coach at the Liberty Stadium under manager Paul Clement, staying at the club for just 10 months, while Paul Williams also held a first-team coaching role for a short period.


Selected players to have represented Swansea City

Reuben Agboola, Ben Cabango, Ijah Anderson, Morgan Gibbs-White, Marcos Bean, Jamal Lowe, Willy Gueret, Leroy Lita, Leon Hylton, Aldo Kalulu, Tivonge Rushesha, Jordon Garrick, Karl Monroe, Andy MacFarlane, Renato Sanches, Nathan Tyson, Kasey Palmer, Rhian Brewster, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Dennis Oli, Luciano Narsingh, Tammy Abraham, Leroy Fer, Terry Phelan, Kwame Ampadu, Christian McClean, Jason Price, Martin Olsson, Dwight Tiendalli, Bafetimbi Gomis, Sylvian Meslien, Leon Knight, Marvin Emnes, Dennis Lawrence, Ray Wallace, John Salako, Matthew Rush, Lee Thorpe, Kevin Amankwaah, Febian Brandy, Modou Barrow, Kenji Gorre, Joel Asoro, Steve Mardenborough, Terry Connor, Andy Watson, John Williams, Walter Boyd, Mamady Sidibe, Lenny Johnrose, Izzy Iriekpen, Adrian Forbes, Kevin Austin, Adebayo Akinfenwa, Jason Scotland, Ashley Williams, Nathan Dyer, Scott Sinclair, Wayne Routledge, Michel Vorm, Wilfried Bony, Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Korey Smith, Jonathan de Guzman, Kyle Naughton, Marc Guehi, Joel Latibeaudiere, Roland Lamah, Steven Caulker, David Ngog, Jazz Richards, Darren Pratley, Courtney Baker-Richardson, Kemy Agustien, Luke Moore, Nathan Wood, Bashir Humphreys, Olivier Ntcham.