Noel Draper reports on a hate-filled fued that has simmered for nearly a century between two clubs whose rivalry makes all others look like handbags at dawn.
I have a confession to make and it is this. I hate football hooligans. There, I said it. I don’t get it and I probably never will. Of course you can pull out all manner of facts and supporting figures about why people, mainly men, feel they have to resort to punching each other over a game of football but I still don’t get it.
Fighting at football games is not a modern phenomenon born in the early 70’s as most commonly thought, as it goes back much further. Much, much further. The origins of Liverpool fans not liking Manchester United fans are from the industrial revolution when both cities were fighting against each other for trade and power. Most London club rivalries stem from either north of the river versus south of the river or the fact that they are very close to each other like Arsenal and Tottenham. This is all well and good and common knowledge but what of the lesser known rivalries? There are some that make no sense at all seeing as they are neither geographical nor political. What follows next is the story of one of these “lesser” rivalries.
On March the 17th a game will take place in the Premiership that has all the hallmarks of being a classic. Not because of the football on offer but due to the intense rivalry between the two sets of fans. The local police have for weeks been in talks with both sets of fans to calm the situation but locals fear that it won’t be enough.
Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Fulham versus Swansea City. One of the greatest rivalries in world football, greater than Boca Juniors versus River Plate and even bigger than A.C Milan and Inter Milan.
It all started way back in 1921 which was the year Swansea City joined the football league. The rules of the time stated that a new team had to have a sponsor, another team that would guide them in the ways of all things football, and Fulham were chosen for this role. By all accounts they weren’t happy with this and made a formal complaint, in triplicate, to the football governing body but were told to get on with it. Swansea City had their sponsor. The fact that they were English didn’t bother them and they set about trying to copy everything Fulham did.
A gentleman in a top hat was seen knocking on the main door to Swansea Castle and then running away.
At that time, Swansea played in a sort of red, black and yellow outfit which is why they were nicknamed “The Jacks”. After watching a game one Saturday as a guest of Fulham’s owner, Sir Charles “Fluffy” Fortescue DSO, OBE, Swansea’s owner Mr Griff Davies noticed that they played in white. He vowed to copy the exact kit when he returned to Wales. Obviously with a new kit a new nickname was also needed. As Mr Davis clutched his pint of mild and looked out over the Thames he saw a lot of swans majestically attacking anything that moved near the bank and had a eureka moment.
From that day Swansea changed their nickname to The Swans and played in white. This obviously annoyed Fulham football club and their legions of fans. Something had to be done. Luckily a few weeks later both teams played each other in Wales and Fulham’s travelling support went to town. Literally. Reports came in from all over Swansea. The Dylan Thomas centre had some leaflets messed around a bit. Someone shouted in a posh London accent that the indoor market was a bit “rubbish”. A gentleman in a top hat was seen knocking on the main door to Swansea Castle and then running away. The list was endless.
Over the following years violence nearly broke out at every meeting between the two clubs which is why the London police will be out in full force come March. Local shops have been told to only let one “Swan” in at a time. The bars on the Chelsea road have been warned of excessive milling around outside and dirty Welsh faces pressed against the glass before muttering about “London prices” and “What in the hell is a Pinot Grigio?”
So there we go, the oldest and most violent rivalry in football and no mention of burning Craven Cottage down at all. Oh bugger…