From The Vault: Swans v Chelsea
One of the most familiar sights at the Vetch Field during the 1990's was the Swans' number one shirt being worn by Newport-born goalkeeper Roger Freestone.
Freestone started his career with his hometown club in 1986, moving to Chelsea a year later. He made just 42 league starts during his time at Stamford Bridge between 1987 and 1991 and spent his first spell at Swansea City on loan from the Blues in 1989.
"I think I played something like 14 games during my loan spell at Swansea from Chelsea," said Freestone. "I'm a Welsh lad and, at the time, I was keen to come home and play some first team matches. To get the opportunity to do both things with Swansea was ideal. I felt my first spell with the club went pretty well and I know the Swans approached Chelsea about a permanent transfer, but at the time they wouldn't let that happen."
Following a further loan spell at Hereford United in 1990, the Welsh goalkeeper was given the opportunity to rejoin Swansea City in 1991 when then-boss Frank Burrows came calling.
"The permanent move came out of the blue really," he smiles. "Ian Porterfield (Chelsea's manager at the time) pulled me into his office and told me that Swansea were keen to take me on a season-long loan move with a view to a permanent signing, which I was delighted about. I didn't think I'd get that opportunity and I was delighted."
Between 1991 and 2004, Freestone went on to play 549 matches in Swansea colours, scoring a remarkable three goals as a goalkeeper! It's fair to say the 13 year spell at the Vetch Field was a rollercoaster ride and there was certainly no shortage of high points.
"The memories that instantly springs to mind at Swansea are being part of the team that won the old Third Division title in 2000 and also winning the Football League Trophy in 1994, says Freestone. "Perhaps the biggest match I was ever involved with though was the victory over Hull City at the Vetch Field in 2003 that stopped us going out of the Football League and perhaps even out of business. Who would have thought then that by the end of that decade Swansea City would be in the Premier League?!"
Days after that 4-2 victory against Hull City in May 2003, in which James Thomas scored a hat-trick for the Swans, Roger Freestone had a night to remember as his testimonial against Chelsea was staged at The Vetch Field.
"There was a good turnout, which was very much appreciated," he comments. "I always had a good rapport with the Swansea faithful, which meant a lot to me. Not all players get so well received by the fans and I felt very lucky about that."
In 2002, Freestone spent a brief period as player-manager of Swansea City alongside Nick Cusack.
"The time as manager was difficult, in a way myself and Nick Cusack were thrown into that situation, he admits. "To be a manager you have to look after 30 or so individuals and I'd only ever been looking after myself."
Freestone left the Vetch Field in 2004 to return to his home-town club Newport County. Injuries restricted him to just 14 appearances and he retired from playing at the end of that year.
"I started my career with my home town club Newport County in 1986 and finished my playing career with them in 2004, which was special," he says. "I was working as a courier in the latter part of my playing days and was struggling with injuries. Juggling the two jobs was difficult and come December 2004, I decided to hang up the gloves.
"I can't say I massively miss football, only because I am satisfied and happy with everything I did during the twenty odd years of my life. It was great and the only regret I suppose was not establishing myself at the top level of the game. Things move on and life moves on and I'm happy with what I do now and happy with my memories I have of my playing days."