THE BIG INTERVIEW: Alan Curtis
16th January 2016
Alan Curtis has steered the Swansea City ship before, but his appointment as manager until the end of the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League campaign sees the club legend sail into uncharted waters.
Among other roles, Mr Swansea City has been caretaker-manager for a four-game run in March 2004 following the departure of Brian Flynn, as well as a brief pre-season spell between the reigns of Paulo Sousa and Brendan Rodgers.
But his tenure-to-be as interim Swans boss will be a new experience for 'The Legend', who has experienced close to everything there is to experience with the club - and it will perhaps be his most important role yet.
Curtis is synonymous with the Swans. Not only did he play for the club over three different spells, but he has also held virtually every footballing position possible off the field, from Football in the Community officer to youth team coach, first-team coach and now first-team manager.
"Because I've been at the club for a while, I guess I'm going to be the one that the club turns to, especially with the amount of changes that were made," responds the humble Curtis when asked why he is the man the club have entrusted with the task of guiding the Swans following the departure of Garry Monk in December.
"It's certainly the biggest role I will ever have at this club. I've been given the task of looking after the ship, so to speak, and it's gone really well so far. You take it as a compliment, but it can only be a compliment if you get some sort of response from the players."
Despite just one victory from Curtis' first five league fixtures at the helm - at the time of writing and ahead of last Wednesday's night's clash with Sunderland - performances have improved under his stewardship, while the Swans have kept three clean sheets from the five opening league fixtures of Curtis' time in charge.
They could consider themselves desperately unlucky to suffer a last-gasp defeat at Manchester City in the Rhondda-born coach's first game as caretaker manager, while the Swans followed that positive display up with a victory over West Brom, sandwiched between goalless draws with West Ham and Crystal Palace, as well as a narrow defeat at Manchester United.
"I think the Manchester City performance was important," reflects Curtis on his first game in charge. "We were desperately unlucky to lose the game, but the performance showed the players again that we can compete at this level, we can play the way that we have always played and we can get results. We have carried the confidence gained from that performance into the following games.
"We needed to get back to a performance level that people expect of us. It's about making small steps and we can then build on that and make bigger strides between now and the end of the season.
"League results have improved and, perhaps more importantly, the performances have improved - they have needed to. The players are aware that we have underperformed, so it's about trying to rediscover the form that they are capable of. The players have responded, but we need to continue that way.
"We fought so hard to get into the Premier League, so we are so determined to make sure we are here again next season and the seasons after."
Curtis' appointment until the end of the season has been greeted by an overwhelmingly positive response from his players, with the likes of Angel Rangel and Leon Britton publicly acknowledging the experienced Welshman's impact.
Rangel spoke of the "respect" Curtis commands within the dressing room, while Britton echoed his team-mate's sentiments, adding that he was delighted to continue playing under "Mr Swansea City".
"Maybe I've just provided a little bit of stability," adds Curtis in typically modest fashion. "I think I'm more of a calming influence more than anything else.
"Garry did a fantastic job in the period that he was manager, but maybe we had lost our way a little bit.
"When I first took over, it was more about trying to get back to our style of play, which has helped us get from the fourth tier to the Premier League. For whatever reason, we had lost that a little bit.
"For me, it's all about communication. I try to talk to the players and involve them, even sometimes in team selection by asking them: 'this is what we are thinking of doing, what do you think?'
"Communication is key and it's how I've always tried to operate because it's the way that I liked to be treated when I was a player. I try to explain to the players why they have been left out and even why they have been brought into the side.
"As long as you explain to the players your reasons for your decisions, they will accept them. They may not agree with them, but they will accept them."
Despite his seamless transition to the Swans hot seat, Curtis has discovered that his new role has proved an eye opener into the around-the-clock world of a modern-day manager working in the Premier League.
"I have really enjoyed it," beams Curtis. "But I don't think you realise how many aspects there are to the manager's job.
"It's not just dealing with players; it's dealing with the media and the constant attention too. Even the travel arrangements for away games - from what time you want to leave to what time you want to eat and what type of meeting room you want.
"You also realise just how difficult it is to win games in this league. We could have won all five of the games we've had so far, but equally we could have lost them all. It's about finding that something extra - that edge - which makes a huge difference to whether you come away with the three points or not.
"All I can do is look after the club and the team to the best I possibly can. It's vital that we stay in this league, not just for the club but also for the area itself. It's hugely important. But whilst it's a responsibility, it's a responsibility I'm really enjoying."
And despite the 24/7 commitment that the job requires and the strains that come with it, Curtis' relaxed and dry sense of humour is as present as ever as he admits his new role has done wonders for his marriage.
"We get on really well these days," says Curt, referring to his wife with a broad smile across his face. "She doesn't see me, and I don't see her, which makes it a perfect marriage!"