FPA Committee - Honorary President Profile Esme Allchurch
Esme Allchurch is the widow of Ivor Allchurch, the ‘Golden Boy of Welsh Football’ who enjoyed two spells with Swansea between 1949 and 1968. He scored 186 goals in 502 appearances and is arguably the club’s greatest ever player. He died in 1997 aged just 67.
Esme has continued to enjoy a long association with the club and is the honorary president of the Former Players’ Association.
She says the FPA at Swansea will be as much of a bonus for the fans as it will for the ex-players themselves.
“I’ve seen utter joy on supporters’ faces when they can have a chat with an old player and reminisce about the old days.
“Years ago players played for no wages, with a heavy ball and for the fans the opportunity to speak to them about those times is absolutely priceless. The memories are still there and I think that will enhance the club in terms of giving something back to the supporters.
“When a footballer stops playing it can be a very lonely place. You might have a really supportive family and you are fortunate enough to perhaps have an extended family but if you moved away when you were playing and you don’t live close to them in older age it can be really challenging.
“I think all footballers include their team-mates as an extended family and also the fans, they are a huge part of their lives when they are playing and when all that stops the adjustment can be so difficult, especially for players who are on their own.”
She says older players from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s often missed out on vital support because clubs didn’t have the structures in place to give it to them.
“It got better over time and fortunately, these days players are well advised and given a lot of support before they finish in terms of insurance and investments and the like.
“It wasn’t like that years ago they were thrown on the scrapheap at 35 or 36 when they finished playing, if they were lucky enough to play that long.
“All the promises that were made to players years ago were rarely delivered on once they stopped playing, you really had to fend for yourself and making sure you looked after yourself for the future wasn’t always a priority.
“What I have found, the worse thing, was so many of them not having private health insurance and lots of players suffered for years and years with knee and hip problems when they could have had help from the Professional Footballers’ Association.
“It’s important that more awareness is raised about what support is out there because some players can fall on really hard times after they finish, which is just so sad.”
Esme has been able to maintain strong relationships with many of the former players who were part of her life when Ivor was still playing and she says the friendship and sense of community they formed has been invaluable.
“I’ve been fortunate because I’ve had a lot of friends from those days. When Ivor was playing, they were mostly Swansea-based players when they retired. They didn’t move away the same as they do now. The ones who are still alive I still keep in touch with and up until six or eight years ago we used to all meet up in Mel Nurse’s hotel.
“I had the phone numbers of everybody and I’d organise a get together. We’d wait until Cliffy Jones and Joan were coming down from London and we’d all get together. We used to have a lovely evening and Mel would do us really proud.
“And the fans would also come in and see the players and they would love it too.
“It was a real Swansea friendship club because most people who come to Swansea don’t want to leave. Those get togethers were immensely important for the players and their wives.
“I think that could be a forerunner of what the FPA could do in getting people together in a social environment, which is so important.”