Swansea back at Anfield 21 years after The Swans to the Slaughter
Premier League new boys Swansea are 10th in the table and loving life back in the big time. Their trip to Anfield is the first since an 8-0 thrashing in an FA Cup third-round replay in 1990. NEIL MOXLEY tracks down three players with painful memories.
LEE BRACEY, GOALKEEPER
Now a constable in the Greater Manchester Police
You can imagine the sense of excitement that surrounded the Vetch when we drew the FA Cup holders out of the hat. We weren’t going particularly well in Division Three, money was tight and, personally, I was unsure of my place and my future.
But the ground was packed for Liverpool’s visit — all except the top tier of the North Stand, which housed the visiting supporters from Anfield in the bottom section.
At the time, Swansea was sponsored by a company that manufactured gym equipment. All I can remember as we kicked off was looking at a row of exercise bikes that had been set out, sideways on, the length of the stand. They were supposed to look like swans!
The game was an obvious highlight for me because after Andy Melville cleared one John Barnes effort off the line, everything that came my way I dealt with. In fact, Keith Walker clipped the crossbar in the dying seconds with a drive. It could have been one of the biggest upsets of all time.
FA CUP 3rd RND REPLAY
Anfield - Jan 9, 1990
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Hysen, Venison, Nicol, Whelan, Hansen, Beardsley, Staunton, Rush, Barnes, McMahon.
Scorers: Barnes 21, 43; Whelan 40, Rush 53, 77, 83; Beardsley 54; Nicol 86.
Swansea City: Bracey; Trick (Hutchison 72min), Coleman, Melville, Walker, Thornber, Harris, Curtis (James 46), Hughes, Chalmers, Legg.
Referee: Allan Gunn.
The only problem was, after I had made a few really good saves — and one from Steve McMahon that particularly pleased me — coming off at the final whistle following the goalless draw I thought to myself: ‘What have I done?’ I was a bit insecure about my place. I thought the money we were about to receive from the replay would enable the club to go out and buy a new keeper!
Still, it was enough for our manager at the time, Ian Evans, to pat me on the back in the dressing room afterwards and say: ‘Well done, you proved a few people wrong today.’
My video recorder was set on Match of the Day and it will always be a particular disappointment to me that I wasn’t given the performance of the round. The producers actually highlighted three goalkeepers. Myself, Peter Fox, who had played for Stoke against Arsenal at the Victoria Ground, and Kevin Miller, who had played for Exeter against Norwich. But they gave it to Peter. Nothing against him but I was absolutely gutted!
My weekend was made when my landlady, a smashing woman called Myra Powell, bought up every single one of the Sunday papers and I was getting lauded to the skies.
I was still on a high a few days later when we went to Anfield for the replay. As I ran out to warm up in front of thousands of Swansea supporters they struck up a chant: ‘Bracey is back, Bracey is back...’
And, after catching an early cross quite comfortably, I started to think it could be my night again. How wrong could you be?
We did quite well for the first half-hour although after about 20 minutes we conceded one. John Barnes finished into the top corner. I’ve still got the picture on the wall in my house actually. Why I’ve kept a picture of me conceding a goal, I do not know, probably because Barnes is in the photo.
As half-time was approaching, I remember thinking we would be all right if we could be one down, which would still give us a glimmer of hope for the second half. Logical thinking, save for the fact that Liverpool rattled in two more before we trooped off for a half-time cuppa.
The floodgates opened after the interval. I actually thought I was to blame for one of the goals. I went down a bit early and Ian Rush slipped one past me. But as that made it six or seven-nil, I didn’t think it mattered too much in the grand scheme of things.
As you would expect, the Kop were great. My saves were greeted with genuine applause but the fact of the matter was that we were being ripped to pieces.
I don’t really know what it was with Liverpool. I’ve faced them twice since then. I was sent off when playing for Hull City and in the Masters, playing this time for Sheffield United, we were beaten by seven.
ANDY LEGG, MIDFIELDER
Now manager of League of Wales side Llanelli
I remember thinking as we left the team coach how hard we’d worked in the first game and how much I was looking forward to playing at a grand stage like Anfield.
Then, I remember thinking after about 30 minutes how I’d had more than enough experience of Anfield. I wanted to get back on the coach and go home!
After they scored the first goal, it settled them down. Don’t forget this side were about to go on and win the title. They really turned it on. Personally, I can’t remember too much about the game, except they were on a different planet.
ALAN CURTIS, STRIKER
Now assistant manager to Brendan Rodgers at Swansea
I knew Ian Rush quite well from our days together playing for Wales. At the end of the first game between the two sides, I went over to him at the final whistle and said: ‘You never looked like scoring.’
It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek because Lee Bracey had one of those games where everything stuck.
Anyway, Ian just shook my hand, winked and replied: ‘I’ll see you at Anfield in a few days, Al.’ I always remember him saying it because Rushie went on to score a hat-trick. In fairness, he could have scored five or six.
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