Swansea Town v Newcastle, FA Cup 5th Round (1952)

Swansea Town 0, Newcastle United 1

Vetch Field, 23rd February 1952

Attendance: 27,081

The F.A Cup fifth round clash between Swansea Town and Newcastle United saw the cup holders beat the Swans 1-0. The Swans were on a high after beating Rotherham United 3-0 earlier on in the cup giving them hopes of Wembley. Newcastle United on the other hand, had already won the cup four times, making them obvious contenders to be in the final.  Swans fans were allocated tickets through application, and were given 21,000. Newcastle were allocated 6,000 tickets, although it was claimed they could have filled the whole of The Vetch if they were allocated the tickets. Around 3,250 Newcastle Fans arrived by Rail, with 168 coming on the first Sleeping Car-Train used for an English cup-tie.

The Swans suffered some serious setbacks in their preparation for the game. Swansea’s right back, Elwell sustained a knee injury against Birmingham City the previous week. He had been receiving treatment daily at the Vetch, however it was decided three days before the cup-tie that he was unfit and unable to play due to his knee been considerably swollen. His place at right back was taken by Keane who had been in training with the cup team and was thoroughly fit.

Another anxiety for the club was the delegation of tickets to Swansea Town supporters,  as vast numbers of fans had applied for tickets to the match through the advance allocation system – the only way of getting a ticket. The club has had a hard decision in distinguishing regular supporters from new visitors meaning many thousands of applications had been rejected. Since it was an all ticket match it was useless for non-holders to attend at the ground. Police barricades were set up in the streets leading up to The Vetch, meaning only people with tickets could  pass through, in a controlled manner.

The problem was not only the arbitrary decisions over who should receive tickets; it was also the selling of tickets by Newcastle fans before the match which angered Swans fans. Instead of the 6,000 allocated tickets  being used by Newcastle fans, many were sold to the disheartened Swansea fans who had been unable to get them through application. Geordie touts appeared with bundles of tickets in their hands on the approach to The Vetch 2 hours before kick-off, selling tickets for 10s and 15s, well over the 2s 6d which was originally paid for them. One supporter told the Evening Post he had seen practically every game at The Vetch this season but had been unable to obtain a ticket. He went to Victoria station to meet the first train bringing supporters, hoping to get a ticket from a Newcastle fan. “I was offered one at £1 each.” he said, “It is a disgusting state of affairs that we had to stand around and then be insulted like this.”

When the gates were opened at 1pm there was a small crowd of fans waiting for admission, in the next hour there was a continual stream of people making their way to The Vetch. Swansea police officers were on duty at the barricades across roads approaching the entrances and demanded to see a ticket from each person. A few ardent Swansea fans, evidently determined to see the Newcastle fans did not have things all their own way until the big trek to The Vetch really began, were to be seen sporting rosettes before 9 o’clock. They were varied in nature some had a miniature cup in the centre with the words “Up the Swans”, while others had a touch of green with a small leek on a big white ground obviously alluding to the fact that Swansea was representing Wales in the FA cup.

In the match itself, Newcastle United always seemed a yard faster than the Swans, but even their outstanding speed was not a great asset when dealt with by quick tackling. The Swans had their moments when they were overwhelmingly superior and one had the impression that had they scored when at the height of their successful attacks Newcastle might well have fallen to pieces. What did make the difference was that for sixty percent of the game the Swans’ two lines were not linking up with the same smooth efficiency as their opponents.  During the game,  rather than the cool calculated skill which seemed set to carry the Swans to great heights, the players seemed to share the wild fever of an over excited crowd , and the feverish anxiety was reflected in the inability to finish with a win. The goal which won Newcastle the cup-tie was a disappointing affair and came at a moment when the one man not covered was Mitchell. His shot beat King when no other shot had looked like it would do so in the game.

Director- Manager of Newcastle United Stan Seymour expressed surprise that his side had achieved more than a draw, but the bulk of the opinion among the big gathering of visiting officials was that the Swans should have won and that Newcastle United owed it to their superb defence that they were still in the cup. Overall, Newcastle’s defence took them into the sixth round but in many respects they were a fortunate team and Swansea Town should have had a place in the sixth round.

by Felicity Edwards-Wright

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