Life and Death

Sunday, 9 February 2003, 0:01
3 mins read

Instead, my abiding my memory of that Saturday afternoon is the simple statistic Rushden & Diamonds 1 – Swansea City 1, for it marked the day I started to believe that the club I have supported for the last 25 years still has a future.

Don’t get me wrong; the tragic accident that claimed the lives of seven brave astronauts was extremely distressing. However, in these days of almost constant conflict and tragedy, I felt rather detached from an incident that had happened thousands of miles away. However, Swansea City Football Club is close to both my home and my heart which means that the struggles of the last six months have left me close to despair.

So what made the Rushden game that memorable? The answer lies more in the Swans’ performance than in the result, although an away point against the second placed team, who also boast the best home record in the division, is in itself a cause for celebration. Even more so when you consider our abysmal away record! It was a battling display that revealed we finally have a strong spine to our team. The arrivals of Kevin Nugent, Roberto Martinez and Lenny Johnrose, plus the presence of Jason Smith and Roger Freestone have combined to produce the experienced and talented backbone that has been sadly lacking all season.

I’ll admit that immediately after the match I felt a huge sense of disappointment at not winning the game. Foul and abusive language was hurled at the linesman (for a shocking decision), at Paul Hall (for scoring the equaliser) and at Michael Howard (for allowing the telling cross – again). However, once I had calmed down I began to realise how significant the result could prove to be. Instead of the “sacrificial Welsh lambs” that everyone expected, we were strong, brave and committed. And through the presence of the Sky TV cameras the Swans sent a very clear statement of intent to our rivals at the bottom of the table.

I have the feeling that, of all the signings made by Flynn, Roberto Martinez will prove to be the most important. The capture of the experienced 29year old finally brings an end to our search for the midfield general we have lacked since the departure of John Cornforth. A cultured passer by nature, the charismatic Spaniard will prove to be an influential figure in the battle against relegation.

The presence of Martinez and Johnrose has made Leon Britton one very “happy Hammer”. The West Ham loan star has fought a lone battle in the middle of the park since his arrival. But with the combative Johnrose and clever Martinez for company Britton can concentrate on getting forward as often as possible. He terrorised the Rushden defence with his surging runs from midfield, and his ball-carrying skills helped take the pressure off the Swansea defence at vital times during the game.

In transforming the midfield from the weakest in the division into (arguably) the strongest, Flynn has also managed to ease some of his defensive worries. The Swansea City back line has come in for an awful lot of criticism this season and most of it has been justified. However, I do have a certain amount of sympathy due to the fact that opposing teams have been allowed to stream forward in numbers, meeting precious little resistance from our previously non-existent midfield. Hopefully, this has now been addressed by the signing of Johnrose – he’ll just sit in front of the back four and provide some much-needed protection. With the return to form and fitness of Jason Smith in the centre of defence, alongside the cultured Alan Tate, I think we shall see a big improvement in our defensive record. At the very least opponents are going to have to start working for the goals they get!

I must confess I thought Flynn had made a big mistake when he signed Kevin Nugent. It didn’t bother me that he is an ex-Cardiff player (my ideal signing would have been Leo Fortune-West), but I did think he was a spent force. However, against Rushden he was a revelation – the man was kicked from pillar to post but kept coming back for more, and his goal was richly deserved. His strength, movement and ability to bring others into the game make him the focal point of our revival

Whether by accident or design Brian Flynn seems to have stumbled across a group of players that can keep Swansea City in the Football League. We now have a potent blend of youth and experience, fire and finesse and this is backed up by the passion and desire that has been missing from our play for far too long. Saturday 1st February 2003 was the day that seven brave people lost their lives…but a football club came back to life.

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

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