Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Iceland was 32nd and last in the European club ranking, but there was one more country recognized by UEFA, which was not in the ranking table at all: Wales. The reason was that Wales had no official championship, but only a Cup tournament. And a strange one at that: not only the strongest Welsh clubs played in the English leagues, but English clubs traditionally participated in the Welsh Cup, often winning it too. This complicated participation in the Cup Winners Cup – if the winner was English team, it was not allowed to play, replaced by the losing finalist. If it was a Welsh club... Professional teams were almost always stronger than the genuine Welsh teams and this year was no exception: Swansea City (Welsh, playing in the Second English Division) versus Hereford United (English, 4th Division). It was weird final to the continental eye, but not so on the British Isles: the final was competitive and tough. Swansea won the first leg 1-0 and managed a 1-1 tie in the second leg.
Hereford United came very close to winning the Welsh Cup – which was a great achievement, considering who they played against. In a sense, too bad they lost, although they had no chance for playing in the Cup Winners Cup.
'The Swans' were no strangers to Cup winning, but this year was special: the club was rapidly climbing up the leagues and under John Toshack as playing manager, they won promotion to First Division for the first time in their history. Although winning the Cup proved to be difficult, they still won it, thus completing their best season to date. Looking back, it was arguably the best period in the club's history and not finished yet, largely due to the Liverpool connection: Toshack at the helm and also playing, Phil Boersma coaching, and Ian Callaghan. A few good players were already making the team dangerous – Leighton James, Leighton Phillips, and Tommy Craig. And very soon reinforcements were added: Jimmy Rimer, just winning the European Champions Cup with Aston Villa, two Yugoslavian national team players – Dzemal Hadziabdic and Ante Rajkovic, and Bob Latchford from Everton. But those were still to come and play the next season. For the moment, Swansea City was gloriously swimming ahead.