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Swansea City Do It Yourself - The era of imagination and creativity !
Saturday, 17th Jul 2021 12:00 by Keith Haynes

I would say the DIY ethic of fanzines was the catalyst for me to get in to football writing back in the mid to late eighties. “When Saturday Comes” was my first introduction to having a personal opinion and being able to convey that opinion for, well, thousands to read about. You would see these home produced zines being sold on street corners across the country, every club had a few, some sold thousands, some only a handful. The eighties though was the spearhead for the creativity we see today on the World Wide Web.

Getting your letters printed in the fanzines of the day was a real buzz, discussing the enormity of the responsibility on Mark Harris’s shoulders, or the benefits of having a great goalkeeper like Mike Hughes. Talk of away trips where it all got a bit hairy in an off licence in Leicester, or rolling around on the floor in Sunderland being bitten by a Makem. Yes, the world of football fan experience was wide open. Recounting tales of our FA cup journeys to illustrious places like Bognor and Hayes, and the strange cold feeling you get in Nuneaton talking to Steven Torpey’s sister before informing her her brother is bloody awful. But not as bad as Martin Hayes.

The collective mindset of football fans from many clubs sort of undertook an industry wide approach to fulfilling what they saw as their right to comment on their team. I’m as much to blame for not considering my words too carefully back then, I made mistakes. Most of my writing was from experience, and with experience comes a raw harsh reality and mindset that is cathartic. Words could have been chosen far better, but we were all newbies at this, after all it was thirty five years ago.

Being able to say you were there, and not only that you could smell and taste the occasion, feel the emotion, and actually put that in to words - that’s what did it for me. If you can describe happiness you can describe fear, or exhilarating times, pure joy and pure hate can be seen and felt, let alone heard, and leave you with the option to write about it. Obviously in amongst all that Eddie May’s wife would always be called into question. Nathan Blake caught on the roof of the Ninian Park stadium in the middle of the night after an FA Cup tie was always fair game ! ( Was that ever true ? ) And of course his ability to win the jackpot almost seamlessly on fruit machines.

It’s okay reporting a little bit of unfriendliness as per the article from the Independent above, that’s one thing. However being in amongst the hail of glasses and stale beer at Lords with drunken fists flying all over the place - and the smell of blood as bodies clash continually, whilst the Met Police scratch their heads mystified. That’s another experience, and not from afar. You were the experience, not the witness.

The more funnier instances will always stay with me, Scarborough away, it’s a Tuesday night, freezing cold and one old boy, long coat,flat cap is seated in the stand to our left. Probably a hundred jacks tops in the away end. A few minutes in to the game and up he gets with a whippet on a lead, much to our amusement. Yes,the game as ever wasn’t that gripping. The loudest cheer of the night is heard as he jogs up and down the small stand with the dog running alongside him. Scarborough played in all black that night, they were sponsored by Black Death vodka at the time, and had “ Black Death” emblazoned on their shirts, the football league actually stopped them continuing with that message on their shirts, and it wasn’t for any political or racial Implication. It was just too aggressive.

Anyone remember the donkey in the away end at Wigan, must have been around 1990 ish, I can’t remember for certain the year, but the swans won 4-2, Gilligan and Conner were all over the latics. That poor old donkey used to get covered in the away teams scarves every Wigan home game, I even looked out for him when the played Man City in the FA Cup, I was genuinely concerned. It’s hard to imagine that nowadays at any level of the game.

None of those fanzine editors and producers of the time knew much about what they were doing, their creativity couldn’t be questioned though. Stick together as much as you can, try and make it funny and get writing. Panathinaikos away, that was well documented at the time, the fans though, those that were there had their voice in Jackmail and Jackanory, The London Swan, Nobody will ever know, and loads more. Some of these guys I knew, some only to nod at, and some were mates. Later on Jackplug would come along, the brainchild of a good friend, but recently and sadly departed Tony Jenkins of Uxbridge, a genuinely passionate Swansea City fan. We still have SOS fanzine today, and in its paper form long may it continue.

These issues of DIY Swansea fandom are precise and opinionated, and very funny at times. They come from an era of little anonymity, unlike today you really had to stand by your opinions, and be brave enough to back them up. As an editor back then you were always happy to receive something from someone on pretty much any Swansea topic. They are now historical documents of the time, much as this website is and will continue to be. In fact I know the reason why Phil over at Planet Swans carries on with his website and it’s exactly the same here. It isn’t for clicks, that’s just for the bitter and stupid to shout about, it’s because we both know the importance of recording and publishing this part of Swansea City history. We have that opportunity, both of us have done it with early fanzine writing, in eight Swansea City books and now our websites. It’s not as if we have jumped on the gravy train, because there seriously isn’t one. And fanzines started that. The fans history, not Fleet Street’s version.

These zines carried all sorts of interesting and mad absurdity, along with clear and precise articles. The London Swan again featured their player of the year, tongue in cheek to an extent and from 32 years ago as well. Again with reference to Phil when we ran Roger Freestone’s testimonial year, we ensured the DIY ethics continued but in a glossy and well manufactured way with his testimonial brochure. Getting Chelsea to play in his testimonial game was possibly the hardest thing we both did that year, one particular unhelpful person at Chelsea was very lucky we weren’t writing for fanzines then, he would have been crucified.

Fanzines were the lifeblood for many supporters, more important for some than the Matchday programme, they came with a depth of feeling and opinion that not everyone wanted to read, but it was an honest one, even if you disagreed. That’s what fanzines did for Swansea City and nearly everyone other club in the land. They spoke of the time and of the people involved. And that made them very special indeed.

Photographs©️CultJam Publishing

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