Long before Swansea Town came into being, children had played football on a piece of waste ground on which vetch – a cabbage-like plant used for cow feed – grew wild. Vetch Field, as it became known, was leased by the Swansea Gas Light Company to the Swansea League who laid out clinker pitches.
In 1912, Swansea Town were formed as a professional club and took up residence. This was an ambitious venture given the dominance of rugby union in the area. The new football club adopted the same all white strip as Swansea RUFC and apart from a few seasons when black shorts were introduced, they have worn all-white for most of their career. The club was known as Swansea Town but they changed their name when Swansea was granted City status in 1969.
The Swans were admitted to the Second Division of the Southern League and there they remained until they won promotion immediately before the First World War. As a result, they became founder members of Division Three when the Southern League Division was incorporated in 1920. They were a strong side in those days, winning promotion to the Second Division in 1925 as champions of Division Three (South).
The following season they finished fifth in Division Two and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. During the 1930s the club’s fortunes declined but they staved off relegation until the season immediately after the Second World War. They did not stay down for long, winning the Third Division (South) championship and promotion in 1949. They stayed in the Second Division for another sixteen seasons, reaching the FA Cup semi-final once again in 1964.
The Swans also enjoyed the first of many European campaigns in 1961 by virtue of winning the Welsh FA Cup, a competition they have won ten times to date.
In 1965 Swansea slipped into Division Three and then Division Four in 1967. Hopes were rekindled in 1970 when promotion was won but three years later the Swans were back in the basement and in 1975 they faced the humiliation of having to apply for re-election. There followed a remarkable revival under player-manager John Toshack, with successive promotions in 1978 and 1979 taking the club back into Division Two.
In 1981, Swansea were promoted to the First Division finishing in a remarkable sixth place in 1982. The decline that followed was even more dramatic. Relegated in 1983 and 1984, Swansea City was formally wound up on 20 December 1985. Fortunately a group of directors put together a rescue package and permission was granted for the club to continue its fixtures.
For 12 months the future of the club hung in the balance and, unable to sign or loan new players, Swansea were relegated to Division Four in 1986. However, the High Court finally approved the new board’s rescue plan and Swansea City survived. Not only that, they won promotion to Division Three in 1988 and five years later reached the play-offs.
In 1996, Swansea were relegated to what was now Nationwide Division Three (the old Fourth Division). Promoted as champions in 2000, the Swans lasted only one season at the higher level. During the 2001-02 season the club changed hands several times and was again on the verge of bankruptcy, narrowly avoiding relegation to the Conference in 2003.
By 2005, however, there was a new air of optimism at the club as they prepared to leave the Vetch Field after more than 90 years to move into the new purpose-built Liberty Stadium. The move from the Vetch was completed in style with the club securing promotion to League One. Further progress in 2007/08 saw the club promoted, as Champions, to the Football League – Coca Cola Championship.
The following three seasons saw the Club improve its league position year on year, despite having a new manager each season! In May 2011, 40,000 “Jacks” saw the Swans beat Reading 4-2 in the Championship Play Off Final at Wembley to return to the top flight of the English Pyramid for the first time in 30 years. Finishing a creditable 11th in its first season in the Premier League, the Swans had yet another change of manager with the legendary Dane, Michael Laudrup taking charge of the Club in May 2012, for its second Premier League season. The season proved one of the most successful in the Club’s history with a top ten finish and the Club’s first “major” trophy – the League Cup.
The Club’s third season in the Premier league was another eventful one. On the field it competed in the Europa League, eventually being eliminated in the round of the last 32 by Napoli. Premier League results were mixed and Michael Laudrup left in February 2014 to be replaced, on an interim basis, by Club Captain Garry Monk. The Swans finished 12th in the Premier League and in May 2014 Garry Monk was offered the Manager role on a permanent basis. Garry Monk’s first season as permanent Manager was a spectacular one. The Swans did the double over both Arsenal and Manchester Utd and ended the Season in eighth position, with a record Premier League points total for the Club. Garry’s second full season in charge started well but things quickly dipped and after a poor run of results the Club and Garry parted company in early December. Alan Curtis was appointed caretaker Manager and in January 2016 Francesco Guidolin was appointed Head Coach for the rest of the 2015/16 Season. Alan Curtis was to remain as First Team Coach as the Swans secured a 12th place finish in the Premier League.
People born in the town/city (and by extension the fans of the football club) are known as “Swansea Jacks”. There are two possible origins for this nickname. The first is a reference to the high reputation of local seamen (“Jack Tars”) in the early nineteenth century. There was also a famous black retriever called Swansea Jack who rescued no fewer than 27 people from drowning in the River Tawe and Swansea Docks during the 1930s.
Swansea Sailors (one)
During the early 19th century, sailors from Swansea were extremely well respected and renowned for their hard work and mariner skills.
It was for these reasons that they were seemingly allowed to join any crew based simply on the town’s reputation for great seamen.
Their nickname “Swansea Jacks” was born from their apparel which was jack tarred in order to provide some protection from the harsh elements of the sea.
This is the oldest know account of the term “Swansea Jack” and therefore affords great credence as the source for the modern day reference.
Life Saving Dog (two)
Swansea Jack was a black retriever born in 1930. He lived in the North Dock / River Tawe area of Swansea with his master, William Thomas.
Jack would always respond to cries for help from the water, diving into the water and pulling whoever was in difficulty to safety at the dockside.
His first rescue, in June 1931, when he saved a 12 year old boy, went unreported. But a few weeks later, this time in front of a crowd, Jack rescued a swimmer from the docks. His photograph appeared in the local paper and the local council awarded him a silver collar.
In 1936, he had the prestigious ‘Bravest Dog of the Year’ award bestowed upon him by the ‘Star’ newspaper. He received a silver cup from the Lord Mayor of London and he is still the only dog to have been awarded TWO bronze medals (‘the canine V.C.’) by the National Canine Defence League.
Legend has it that in his lifetime he saved 27 people from the Docks / River Tawe. Sadly, in October 1937, Swansea Jack died after eating rat poison. His burial monument, paid for by public subscription, is located on the Promenade in Swansea near St.Helen’s Rugby Ground.
In 2000, Swansea Jack was named ‘Dog of the Century’ by NewFound Friends of Bristol who train domestic dogs in aquatic rescue techniques.