Swansea v Cardiff : A history of real hate !
Tuesday, 12th Oct 2021 11:00 by Keith Haynes
It’s fierce, it’s passionate, it’s heated and it comes with a history unrivalled by many other derby games in English football. The South Wales derby is still to see a winning double by either side in any one league season dating back to the first fixture in 1929. The game on Sunday once again see’s an opportunity for at least one of the clubs to give some hope that ‘this season’ will see that change. And the fans are the key to this huge game.
No club has won more than two fixtures on the bounce, crossing seasons or meeting in a cup competition. Regardless of the clubs league positions or status the two city’s just cannot be parted over the years. Many exciting games have been more ‘endured’ than ‘enjoyed’ and both sets of fans will agree, it’s only enjoyable after the game, when your side has won. That’s the resonating feeling you get from across the country.
Nowadays both sets of fans are kept apart by a huge police operation, access to the game for the away following is limited to a special ticket for club operated transport which can take hours of inconvenience. The reason for anyone locked away under the stairs for fifty years is a simple one. The fans just cannot get along. They cannot be trusted to travel independently to the game, and it seems for the immediate future that will not change. The incidents of violence throughout the history of the fixture, and not only on game day is proof enough any change would require some brave decision making. The daily mail reported on Swansea fans travelling to a fixture two seasons ago as “So filled with bile and hatred, so coloured by the blood spilled on either side during its acrimonious history is this fixture that no longer is anything left to chance”
Swansea City fans at the derby in Cardiff ( Picture Daily Mail )
Across the divide in towns like Port Talbot, Bridgend and in the valley areas both sides have support. In the sixties and seventies Cardiff City held the numbers in these areas. Nowadays since Swansea City’s incredible Premier League, major trophy and European success those numbers, especially amongst a younger generation has tipped the balance. Swansea City jerseys are seen across the valleys in once Cardiff dominated areas, and it adds to the tension. Cardiff fans reluctant to accept this find it hard to find equality these days so the derby games gives them the opportunity of some respite.
Both sets of supporters throw stats, facts and figures at each other in an attempt to find the higher ground. Swansea City’s successes this century leave Cardiff with little or no place to go. Reliant upon an FA Cup win in 1927 and a monumental European Cup Winners Cup win over Real Madrid in 1971 it’s the older days they rely upon. In any event it’s further proof that this derby game matters even more.
I can genuinely reference one incident more than any other that I and several others personally witnessed in and outside the Builders in Swansea on the night of the 1-0 League Cup win in 2008. There was extreme tension in the air, you could seriously feel it. Once again away fans were to be bussed in to the game, so any chance of supporters clashing was extremely minimal. Something happened within the pub, I'm unsure what but the police attended and barged their way in to the bar pushing fans away as they did so. Shouting and jostling ensued as is normal in these situations, a few glasses were thrown and the atmosphere turned ugly. One officer pushed a swans fan and was heard to say “ Move you Jack idiot” The officer behind shouted “Oi” reaching out to his colleague and pulling him back by the shoulder. Both were big lads, and they were a part of what is referred to as a ‘serial’ of specially trained officers deployed in crowd control situations.
The issues within the pub died down and as both officers left the bar the one who abused the swans fan was cornered by his colleague “ You pr***s are not the law in Swansea clever boy, or when we get back me and you have a proper straightener, nice and quiet like” Yes, that happened, I saw it and witnessed it with my own eyes. That’s the degree of animosity set against the derby day back drop. The two were pulled apart by colleagues whilst grabbing each others lapels. The fury in both their eyes evident.
That’s the south Wales divide for you. Never doubt it.
In 2013 two groups from both cities at Newbury races clashed so violently a number of serious injuries resulted. A group from Cardiff abused some of the Swansea group and the fight involving some estimated fifty race goers went of for at least fifteen minutes. The Cardiff group were backed off by such a violent response it was impossible for stewards to handle it, all they could do was watch. It ended up in court. Evidence was heard and the court was told that according to one witness, the incident was a pre-arranged fight between fierce South Wales rivals Swansea and Cardiff, which had previously been "rained off." One witness a police officer, Pc Harris, who knew four defendants from a stag party through a Swansea rugby club, added: "A large part of the crowd began to jump and were bouncing on the spot. They were chanting 'Soul Crew'." He confirmed that fighting broke out between two particular groups of Welsh football fans - separate from the defendants by a rugby club stag party when they got caught up in the cross-fire.
That’s the South Wales divide. Never doubt it.
The bad old days of fans roaming the streets in both city’s has long gone. That was brought to an end in December 1993 when hundreds of Swansea fans turned up at Ninian Park late and brawled their way from the train station to the ground. In the end the turnstiles were abandoned and hundreds gained free entry. The game was held up continuously that night. It was described by the police as the worst violence they had seen at a Cardiff City game in living memory. Leading up to that in 1989 the city of Swansea had also endured mass fighting when groups of Cardiff fans had arrived in such large numbers to confront their enemy they actually attacked each other on Swansea’s Kingsway. Estimates of around a thousand Cardiff fans there for trouble that day is not an over estimation.
Swansea supporters in Cardiff in 1993
Swans fans have arrived in Cardiff when banned from independent travelling in a fleet of limousines. It’s enough for them to have made it through and make a point in a Cardiff pub to score a victory. The internationals are not so bad for both sets of fans, there was a time when Cardiff fans made a point of searching out Swansea supporters to deal out retribution. Nowadays, with Wales international football success and a younger generation of swans fans following Wales these instances are rare. But they still occur. It’s best described as a very uneasy truce. A truce that stood the test in France in 2016, there were incidents, but nowhere near as bad as the internationals of yesteryear.
That’s the South Wales divide. Never doubt it.
These days both sets of fans seem happy to jeer and shout obscenities at each other watched by a huge police presence. Clashes are few, however, the football league still keep the clubs apart by ensuring that most of the time when Cardiff are at home, Swansea are away. Even today under police advice the football league follows this direction as best as they can. South Wales Police do not need the branch line towns and villages of the south full of returning football fans from each club gathering on station platforms and in public houses. It’s a recipe for disaster. It has happened too many times.
This week the rest of the football world once again focuses on the South Wales derby. Many friends of mine who support other teams have said they wished they had that type of football rivalry at their club. They view the fixture with envy, many have attended games with me in the past just to experience the atmosphere and say they’ve ‘ done the big Welsh derby’ For football atmosphere, for passion and tension they will all tell you they’ve experienced little like it.
Cardiff fans in Swansea
Thankfully a well trained police service and more thoughtful placement of stewards and better trained club staff has enabled a safer and more pleasant football environment. But the tension and that word ‘hatred’ is never far away. Some revel in it, some despise it, and nearly all of us just want the ninety minutes to pass quickly settling for a draw before a ball is even kicked. And this coming Sunday is no different. Let’s leave the last comment for now to ex Swansea City keeper Roger Freestone, “You go to the Liverpool-Everton game and the Celtic-Rangers game and there is hatred but not really trouble,’ Freestone played in this derby a record 19 times - ‘While this game has had a fair bit of trouble. Occasionally it’s funny, sometimes it’s disturbing, this rivalry has real history”
And the players on Sunday had better believe it too.
Because that’s the South Wales derby, and please, never doubt it.
Photographs licensed from Reuters
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