Best Ever Swansea Born XI

Having just written an article looking at the best ever Cardiff-born XI, I thought it would be rude of me not to do one for the city of Swansea. This team is based on my own opinion and I welcome any variations you may have. I have gone for a 3-4-3 formation as I believe that it allows me to include many of Swansea’s best talents.

GK – Jack Kelsey – Who played for Arsenal throughout his career, making over 350 appearances for the club, before his career was cut short playing for Wales against Brazil in 1962. By this time, he had made 41 appearances for his country and is considered one of Arsenal’s and Wales’ greatest ever goalkeepers

DF – Mel Charles – The younger brother of John Charles, who made close to 250 appearances for his hometown club. His performances at the 1958 World Cup with Wales gained the attention of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea but he signed for Arsenal in 1959 for a then-record transfer between two British clubs. He was unfortunate in that Tottenham Hotspur became a force in the 1960’s and Charles would move on to Cardiff by 1962. He would win over 30 appearances for Wales.

DF – Mel Nurse – Who was born on the same street as Mel and John Charles on Alice Street. Began his career with Swansea City, making over 250 appearances for the club in two spells. During his first spell at the club, he saw a potential move to Manchester United, soon after the Munich Air Disaster, worth £35,000 rejected by the club but moved two years later to Middlesbrough for £10,000 less. He only made 12 appearances for his country and would have had more were it not for Wales having quality in that position.

DF – Ray Daniel – Another that came from the conveyor belt in Swansea in the 1940’s, played for them during the Second World War and showed such potential that Arsenal signed him whilst he was still an amateur. He was a vital part of the side which won the First Division Title in 1952-53 but moved soon after to Sunderland, who paid £27,500 for his services, a record fee for a defender at the time. He was made captain and stayed there for four seasons. He was able to accumulate 21 appearances for his country during a golden period for Wales in the 1950’s.

MF – Ivor Allchurch – The golden boy of Welsh football, who made such an impact for his hometown club that they have built a statue in his honour at the stadium. He made over 500 appearances for the Swans in two spells, staying at the club for 10 seasons in his first spell and was club captain for several of those seasons. He would also score over 150 goals for the club and almost 300 in his club career, which included spells at Newcastle United and Cardiff City. When he retired from international duty in 1966 he was Wales’ highest appearance maker on 68 (until this was broken by Joey Jones) and was the joint highest scorer with Trevor Ford on 23.

MF – Robbie James – Made over 500 appearances for the Swans in two spells for the club, contributing with over 100 goals. He was a vital member of the team which gained promotion from the Fourth Division to the First Division in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Such was the impact he had on the club, they decided to have a bust of James outside the stadium in 2007 and in 2012 the club unveiled the first inductees to the Robbie James Wall of Fame, honouring the club’s legends. James, unfortunately, passed away at the young age of 40, playing for Llanelli. He won 47 caps for his country.

MF – Cliff Jones – At his peak was the world’s greatest winger and another world class talent that the city has produced. He played over 150 times for the Swans before Tottenham Hotspur came chasing for his services. He was a vital contributor to Spurs’ success in 1960, winning League titles, FA Cups and European Cup Winners Cups in his spell at the club. He made 59 appearances for his country, scoring 16 goals and was a part of the Wales team that made it to the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

MF – Terry Medwin – Another great winger that the city has produced. He set the path that was followed by Jones. He began his career with his hometown club, making over 150 appearances before London and Tottenham Hotspur came for his services. Making over 200 appearances for them. He was also a member of the squad that made it to the World Cup and was the last Welshman to score in an international tournament until Gareth Bale in 2016. He made 30 appearances for Wales, chipping in with 6 goals.

FW – Dean Saunders – Began his career with the Swans but did not have the best of times at the Vetch, as his time there was littered with relegations and he left the club on a free transfer to join Brighton & Hove Albion. He would play for 9 other clubs after this, among them Liverpool, Aston Villa, Galatasaray and Benfica. He would score over 200 goals in his club career. He would become one of Wales’ highest goal scorers with 22 from 74 appearances.

FW – John Charles – Wales’ greatest ever player never played for his hometown club due to manager Billy McCandless’ resistance to playing youngsters in his team. Charles was soon snapped up by Leeds United, where he would make such an impact that they have named a stand after him. He is their 2nd highest goal scorer of all time and made over 300 appearances for the club. Then came his move to Juventus for a then British record fee, where his legend grew as he helped The Old Lady to three Scudetto’s (League titles) and two Italian Cup in his five years there. Such was his impact at the club that when the club celebrated its centenary in 1997, he was voted their best-ever foreign player. He was dubbed Il Gigante Buono (The Gentle Giant) because of not only his size but fair play, as he was never booked or received a red card in his entire career. Despite all these accolades, Charles was only able to make 38 appearances for his country as his clubs would often refuse to give him permission to play for Wales.

FW – Trevor Ford – A centre-forward of considerable quality, who began his career with Swansea Town and would end with him scoring over 200 goals in over 401 league matches. He played for other esteemed clubs such as Aston Villa and Sunderland, scoring freely as he gained a reputation as a fearsomely physical forward. His career was marred by controversy as he was banned in 1956 for his writing in his autobiography that under-the-table payments were made during his time at Sunderland. This caused him to ply his trade abroad with PSV Eindhoven in Holland. His British ban was not lifted until 1960, which meant that he missed the opportunity to play for his country at the 1958 World Cup. His record for Wales was exceptional as he scored 23 times in 38 games.

Notable exceptions:

Here is a list of those that although did not make my first XI, I feel that they need to be recognised for the careers that they have had and many would your first XI’s

Andy Melville – A central defender who made 65 appearances for his country in a career that began with the Swans but would later take in Oxford, Sunderland and Fulham amongst others. Was rather unfortunate not to make the starting line-up but I felt that those chosen were better options.

Len Allchurch – The younger brother of Ivor. He too would play for Swansea in a career that was not as successful as his brother’s as after 300 appearances for the Swans he would move to Sheffield United and then on to Stockport County before retiring with his hometown club. He too was another player that never received a booking or a sending off in his entire career. He would make 11 appearances for his country, often being overlooked for other players such as Cliff Jones and Terry Medwin.

Barrie Hole – Had the unusual distinction of beginning his career with Cardiff City even though his older brothers played for Swansea, he went on to make over 200 appearances for the club. He would eventually play for the Swans towards the end of his career, retiring with them in 1972. Sandwiched in between this was a spell with Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa. He would win 30 appearances for Wales.

Barrie Jones – Another in the long line of wingers that this city has produced, he began his career with Swansea Town making over 150 appearances before leaving for Plymouth for £45,000 in 1964, which was a British record for a winger then. He would stay there for three years before moving to Cardiff, winning 3 Welsh Cups in his time there. He would gain 15 appearances for Wales.

Gary Sprake – The goalkeeper during Leeds United successful period under Don Revie in the 60’s and 70’s who gained a reputation as a brilliant goalkeeper who was prone to making mistakes, thus earning him the nickname of “Careless Hands”. He never played for his hometown club, as he was snapped up as an apprentice by Leeds. He, unfortunately, had to retire at the age of 29 due to a back problem. He made over 500 appearances for Leeds and won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup twice, the League Cup and the First Division Title. He would go on to make 37 appearances for his country.

John Hartson – Another player who never played for his hometown club, as he began his career with Luton Town. When he was 19 he was signed by Arsenal for £2.5 million, which was a British record transfer fee for a teenager at the time. He would go on to play for West Ham United, Wimbledon and Coventry City before finding success with Celtic. He scored over 100 goals for the club in over 200 appearances, winning three League titles, two Scottish Cups and a solitary Scottish League cup. He would win 51 caps for Wales, scoring 14 times.

Leighton James – Who began his career in the North West of England with Burnley, for whom he played for in 3 spells, making over 300 appearances. He would play for 6 other clubs in his career, among them Swansea for whom he helped them go from the Third Division to the First in his three-year spell at the club. He helped continue the tradition of high-quality wingers that the city of Swansea has produced. He made over 50 appearances for Wales, scoring on 10 occasions.

Chris Coleman – Who also began his career in the North West of England but this time with Manchester City, although he did not stay for long as he was homesick and soon after joined Swansea. He would go on to make almost 200 appearances during his time there before a move to Crystal Palace and would later play for Blackburn and Fulham. Coleman earned 32 appearances for his country. Although he does not make my starting XI, he would most certainly be my manager for this lineup.

Let me know what you think of this XI and if you can think of others you feel that should have been mentioned, please let me know.

Feature picture credit: http://www.gowerkiteriders.com

Neil Jones

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