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First Football Brief: Swansea v Liverpool

A brief article highlighting some key facts and matches between Swansea and Liverpool, especially in South Wales, throughout the history of football.

The first Swansea Town squad

The first Swansea Town squad

Swansea first played Liverpool on 11th January 1936, just nine days before the death of King George V.

The match took place at Liverpool’s Anfield ground in a third-round FA Cup tie which Liverpool won 1.0. Swansea played under their original name of Swansea Town from their formation in 1912. They would play as Swansea Town until Swansea – the second largest city in Wales after Cardiff - was given city status in 1969, whereupon the club changed its name to Swansea City.

Swansea’s first home match against Liverpool took place more than 22 years later, on 25th September 1954 in a match played in front of 25,836 in the Second Division of the Football League. They won this encounter 3.2 with goals from Len Allchurch and two from Harry Griffiths. Brother of Ivor Allchurch – the ‘golden boy’ of Welsh football – Len had made his debut for Swansea as a 17-year old in 1950 and made 347 appearances in total, ending his career with the club after spells away at Sheffield United and Stockport County.

 

‘Harry’ Griffiths played even more games for the South Wales team – 421 – and scored 72 goals. He was briefly Swansea’s manager from 1975 and 1978 and served under ex-Liverpool great John Toshack as assistant manager until his death in April 1978 - just before the final two matches of that season which would see Swansea gain promotion to the old Third Division.

That first match in 1954 was played at Swansea’s home ground: Vetch Field. Originally a piece of waste ground where generations of children had played football, it was covered in vetch – a cabbage-like plant used for cow feed which just grew wild. This became known as Vetch Field and was leased by the Swansea Gas Light Company to the Swansea League who laid out clinker pitches. Swansea Town played their first matches here and the club stayed until its move to the purpose-built Liberty Stadium in 2005.

The Vetch Field

The Vetch Field

Face of the Bill Shankly statue at Anfield

Face of the Bill Shankly statue at Anfield

Swansea have never won away at Liverpool in the league. Their first league defeat at Anfield came on 17th March 1956. The match finished 4.1 with two goals from Joe Dickson – who had made his first-team debut that season – one from Eric Anderson and one from legendary Scottish striker Billy Liddell. Liddell would be top league goalscorer for Liverpool in eight out of nine seasons he played for them and is fourth in their all-time league appearances table.

Swansea have won at Anfield in both the FA Cup and League Cup competitions. Their FA Cup win came in the quarter-final stage on 29th February 1964. A Leap Year, it would have taken a giant leap of faith to expect Swansea to get anything from Bill Shankly’s all-star team who were on their way to the First Division title that season. However, goals from Jimmy McLaughlin and Eddie Thomas secured the victory in a 2.1 win in front of a largely disbelieving 52,608 fans.

 

Swansea’s League Cup victory at Liverpool came much more recently – in the fourth round on 31st October 2012. Goals from Chico, Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman secured a 3.1 win with Liverpool scoring a solitary goal through Luis Suarez. Buoyed by this result, Swansea went on to win the trophy that season, beating Bradford City 5.0 in the Final.

Surely one of the most exciting matches between these two teams came on 3rd October 1959 in a Second Division match as home side Swansea Town beat Liverpool 5.4. It is the highest aggregate score in matches between them and the only time that Swansea have scored five against Liverpool. Len Allchurch scored again that day, as did Peter Davies, Colin Webster and two from Brayley Reynolds who made over 151 league appearances for the club after signing from Cardiff City earlier that year.

John Toshack

John Toshack

Ian Rush

Ian Rush

Liverpool first won in Swansea on 5th April 1958, again in the Second Division. Jimmy Melia and Bobby Murdoch scored in a 2.0 victory for The Reds. Melia had also scored in the corresponding match in Liverpool that season – on 12th October 1957 – as Welsh centre-forward Tony Rowley scored two and Don Campbell the other in a 4.0 win.

Swansea’s first match with Liverpool as Swansea City came on 23rd January 1971 in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Anfield in which Liverpool cruised to a 3.0 victory with goals from Chris Lawler, John Toshack and Ian St John. Liverpool would get to the Final that season, only to lose to double-winners Arsenal after extra-time.

Welsh striker John Toshack is very much part of both Liverpool's and Swansea’s history. As player-manager of Swansea, he led them from Fourth Division to First in just four remarkable seasons. They played in the First Division for the first time in the 1981-82 season - in which a Welsh club was part of the top flight for the first time since Cardiff City’s relegation twenty years earlier.

 

Before their first First Division meeting, the sides met at the Vetch Field on 2nd January 1982 in the third round of the FA Cup. It was not a promising start to the new year for Swansea as they went out 4.0 with goals from central defenders, Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen, and then two from another legendary Welsh striker, Ian Rush.

However, in that historic league meeting just over a month later on 16th February 1982 Swansea won 2.0 with second-half goals from Leighton James and Alan Curtis as Swansea went on to finish in a very respectable sixth place in the First Division.

Swansea City first faced Liverpool at their new Liberty Stadium – and for the first time at home in the Premier League - on 13th May 2012, winning 1.0 with a goal from Danny Graham just four minutes from time. It was also the last time they would beat Liverpool in the league until almost exactly four years later on 1st May 2016 when two goals from Andre Ayew and one from Jack Cork gave Swansea a 3.1 win with Christian Benteke replying for Liverpool.

Liverpool got back into the winning groove in South Wales in the 2016-17 season with a 2.1 win on 1st October 2016. James Milner's penalty, six minutes from time, ensured victory for the Reds after Roberto Firmino had equalised for Liverpool in the second half; this after Leroy Fer had put the home team ahead after just eight minutes of the match.

The Liberty Stadium

The Liberty Stadium

Author: Mark Rasdall

Title: Founder, The Football Ground

Date: 1st October 2016

Overall, Liverpool’s record in these encounters throughout football history is superior, with them winning more than twice the number of matches they have lost. Liverpool have scored four goals against Swansea in the league on no fewer than seven different occasions and five on two more – in 1961 and more than fifty years later in 2013.

The biggest victory for either side came in an FA Cup third-round replay on 9th January 1990 at Anfield after the sides had drawn 0.0 in Swansea three days earlier. Liverpool won the replay 8.0 with Ian Rush scoring a hat-trick and two more coming from John Barnes. Liverpool would eventually lose to Crystal Palace in the semi-final of the competition - 4.3 after extra time - but would win the league title that season by nine points from Aston Villa.

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