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Ipswich Town 3 v 2 Swansea City
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 11th November 2023 Kick-off 15:00
1981/82 : Swansea City nearly win the league : Ipswich Town away
Monday, 6th Nov 2023 12:40 by Keith Haynes

It is so far back now that many people around at the time will have faded memories of that season when the Swans swept all before them in the old first division. So much so that even though those names that roll off the tongue - for some it’s a time entrenched in black and white pictures from a very black and white recollection.

But it was a time when Swansea City nearly won the league.

The date is 7th November 1981 and the Swans are right at the top of things in the top flight. Fighting for top spot with the likes of Liverpool this game really did launch the club in to the minds of the football watching public of the time.

It was an end to end game and the Swans went ahead through a wonderful Alan Curtis curling effort, not dissimilar to the goal he scored against Leeds United in that 5-1 season opener. Ipswich equalised and then the Swans went ahead again. When the home side pulled it back to 2-2 it seemed as if the points would be shared. Then up popped Gary Stanley running on to a through ball to slot the ball away in front of over a thousand travelling Swans.

The name synonymous with those times is Alan Curtis, still seen around the club even today. "We had a fantastic season and I remember we beat a lot of the top teams at home. We beat Liverpool, the league champions, we beat Aston Villa, the European champions, we beat Ipswich, the Uefa Cup holders, Spurs, the FA Cup holders, we did the double over Arsenal and we beat Manchester United as well. It was incredible and almost like fantasy football. We were always in the top six, but we were also heavily involved in the Welsh Cup which had its importance in those days, so for the last couple of league games we rested some key players. The reality is we should have finished in the top two or three. But, in fact, with 10 games to go, we were top of the table and, in many ways, I have always looked back and thought it was the one chance and a golden opportunity for the club to have won the league. I remember not long after I joined Southampton a few years later, I was speaking to Ipswich's Mick Mills. He said they felt in their dressing room that we had enough to go and pinch the league that year because of the way we played the game. Liverpool came back strongly and eventually won it. It might have been a dream but there was definitely an opportunity for us to win the league. It's probably the closest we will ever get."

Where are they now ?

1. Dai Davies : The Wales goalkeeper worked as a commentator. He also owns and ran a natural healing centre in Llangollen. He died from pancreatic cancer in February 2021.

2. Neil Robinson : The Liverpool-born full-back left Swansea and returned home. After retiring, he ran a fitness centre. He died from a sudden cardiac arrest on 24 November 2022, at the age of 65

3. Dzemal Hadziabdic : played 105 games for the Swans and stayed in on the city for many years. Was manager of Iraq in 2015 for around three hours by all accounts. Scored one goal for the Swans an absolute screamer against Chelsea. A Yugoslav international he became a coach in his homeland, but his career was interrupted by the civil war. He retains a home in Swansea.

4. Ante Rajkovic : The bruising sweeper returned to Sarajevo and became a manager in the lower leagues.

5. Colin Irwin : (below) Swansea's captain in 1981 was a distribution manager for a wine and spirits wholesaler in Perth, Western Australia. Still lives and works in the country.

6. John Mahoney : The cousin of manager John Toshack had a spell working in the club's commercial department before becoming a manager at various Welsh clubs.

7. Alan Curtis : Curtis never really severed his links to the club, makes an exceptional cup of tea and these days albeit retired is the only person in west Glamorgan who knows where the Swansea City AFC kettle is.

8. Robbie James : He became player-manager of Llanelli but the Wales midfielder collapsed and died of a heart attack, aged 40, during a match against Porthcawl in 1998.

9. Leighton James : A stunning footballer, deceptively quick as a touchline hugger.Wrote the foreword to Keith Haynes book ‘ Come on Cymru’ (2) He was dropped by BBC Wales after the Swansea City fan revealed in a newspaper column that he wanted Cardiff City to lose to Barnsley in the 2008 FA Cup semi-final. Now a part time pundit happily living in Swansea.

10. Jeremy Charles : Coached at Oxford United before becoming a football development officer at Swansea and Southampton. He now coaches at schools in Oxford.

11. Bob Latchford : The ex-England international is happily residing in Germany.

Watch the goals here. The away end is on the left hand side of the picture, not as it is today in the far corner of the ground.

Nearly forty two years to the day the Swans take on Ipswich Town at Portman Road this Saturday. Kick off is 3pm.

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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