Where are they now? Roger Freestone
5th OctoberWhere Are They Now?
Have you ever wondered what a former Swans player has been up to since hanging up his boots? In what is a new feature on swanseacity.net, we catch up with past players to give you the answers.
This week, Swans legend Roger Freestone takes centre stage. After making a grand total of 563 league appearances for the Swans in two separate spells, he's now enjoying a very different career...
Only Wilfred Milne, who turned out for Swansea Town between 1920 and 1937, has played more league matches for the Swans (586) than goalkeeper Roger Freestone (563), who will forever be a legend in this part of South Wales.
Freestone's professional career began with home-town club Newport County in 1986, where he played just 13 league matches prior to a high profile transfer to Chelsea the following year.
He was in and out of the Blues' starting 11 during his time at Stamford Bridge between 1987 and 1991, twice loaned out to Swansea City in 1989 and Hereford United in 1990.
The 14 league games he started for the Swans during his loan spell in 1989 fuelled a real ambition for the keeper to make his move to the Vetch Field a permanent one.
"I loved my time on loan at Swansea," reflects Freestone. "I was playing regular first-team football for the Swans and living back in Wales... the two things I really wanted at the time.
"Even though I was always looking to move back to Swansea after the loan finished, it took a couple of years for that to actually happen. I wondered if it ever would to be honest. Then, out of the blue one day (in 1991), Ian Porterfield (then-Chelsea manager) said there was another chance for me to join the Swans on loan again with a view to a permanent transfer. I didn't even have to give the move any thought and I agreed to it then and there!"
Freestone's move from Chelsea to Swansea City would indeed become permanent in 1991 and the former Wales U21 player would go on to play some 549 league matches for the Swans through until 2004.
There was national recognition for the player in 2000 as he won his one and only cap for Wales against Brazil. "That was a great night," comments Freestone on representing his country at full international level.
While wearing the Dragons' number one jersey was a big highlight for Freestone, it's his time playing his club football at Swansea that the goalkeeper reflects back on most fondly.
"There were ups and downs at Swansea while I was there, but I loved every minute," he smiles. "Winning the Football League Trophy in 1994 is a very happy memory as was the 1999-2000 season that saw us win the old Division Three title.
"I was very fortunate to get a testimonial, against my old club Chelsea, a few days after the most important match I was ever involved with. That was the game against Hull City at the end of the 2002-03 season of course that kept us in the Football League. I was watching on from the substitutes' bench that day and it was agony!
"Had we failed to win that day, I don't think we'd be sitting here today talking about Swansea City as a Premier League club... we might not even still be in business."
Thankfully a James Thomas hat-trick and a further strike from Lenny Johnrose ensured a 4-2 victory for the Swans against Hull on May 3, 2003 and Football League survival. It drew the line under a turbulent period in the club's history and came just a year on from when Freestone had spent a brief period as player-manager of Swansea City alongside Nick Cusack.
"I think myself and Nick were thrown in the deep end with that," Freestone laughs, reflecting on that managerial spell. "More than anything, we did it because there wasn't anyone else that would have taken the job at the time!"
Freestone left Swansea City in 2004 to return to his first club Newport County, but Injuries restricted him to just 14 appearances and he retired from playing at the end of that year.
"I was playing part-time for Newport County and also working for Tuffnells as a delivery driver," explains Freestone on how he got into his current career back in 2004. "It was a good friend of mine, who is a big Chelsea fan, that offered me the job I've been doing ever since.
"It was always important to me to get a job after playing. My typical day involves collecting my delivery from a depot five minutes from my house and then head up to my delivery patch around Hereford.
"We deliver all sorts, including things like beds, mattresses, trampolines, you name it! There is a lot of lifting involved and some heavy items at times but I get a lot of satisfaction from what I do."