'I've never forgotten what Tatey did for me'

4th August

There are five Premier League winners’ medals and one from the Champions League in the cabinet.

There is an FA Cup medal, too, plus two from the League Cup and one from the 2008 Club World Cup.

Darren Fletcher enjoyed a stellar career full of glorious moments at Manchester United.

But he has not forgotten his early days in Manchester, when Alan Tate took the Scot under his wing.

“I was 15 when I moved down to go full-time at United,” Fletcher remembers.

“Tatey was already there because he was the year above me.

“He was the captain of the youth team and he recognised that I was a young lad finding my way in a new city. Not only that, but I went to Manchester six months earlier than I should have done, so I was a lot younger than everyone else.

“Whenever the lads went out for a meal or went to the Trafford Centre to play pool, Tatey got me involved.

“He welcomed me into the group and that is something I have never forgotten.

“He didn’t have to do it. The fact that he did speaks volumes about the type of lad he is.”

He may have been senior to Fletcher, but Tate was a wet-behind-the-ears teenager himself.

Even then, however, the man who would go on to captain the Swans in their first Premier League game was showing his leadership skills.

“That was the biggest thing that stood out to me with Tatey,” Fletcher adds.

“He wears his heart on his sleeve. He wants the best for his team and his club.

“He thinks of the team rather than himself and I think at times that has cost him because he has been a bit too honest.

“If something needs to be said, Tatey will say it.

“He probably said things at times in his career that managers didn’t want to hear, but he was thinking of the team rather than himself.

“As a player, it’s fantastic to have someone like that alongside you.”

He may not have made the first-team breakthrough at United, but Tate showed considerable promise during his days in the club’s youth ranks.

Sir Alex Ferguson and company gave the defender a fine education which stood him in good stead when he first moved to Swansea City on loan as a 20-year-old in 2002.

“Tatey had a great understanding of the game. He read it so well – he was always anticipating things,” says Fletcher.

“He was always on the front foot because he could read what was going to happen.

“He was composed on the ball and had a good range of passing, while he was also tough and brave.”

With the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Laurent Blanc and Mikael Silvestre around, plus the Neville brothers, John O’Shea and Wes Brown, there was a long queue ahead of the young Tate for chances in United’s first team.

Hence he took the chance to play for the Swans, initially on loan and later on a permanent deal.

“It is so difficult to break through at a club like United,” adds Scotland international Fletcher, who is now at Stoke City.

“But the biggest surprise for me was how far Tatey dropped down when he left.

“He could easily have gone and played in the Championship, no doubt about it.

“But after that first loan spell, he had an affinity with Swansea and he ended up moving there permanently. It proved to be a very good decision.

“He was part of a great story, with Swansea going from the bottom division to the Premier League.

“The only disappointment was the broken leg he suffered not long after Swansea had gone up, because I think he would have held his own in the Premier League if he’d stayed fit at that time.”

Fletcher will be reunited with his old mate on Wednesday night (7pm), when Tate’s Swans Legends side take on a United Legends XI.

“I have played in a number of testimonial games, but it’s extra special when it’s for a player who is a close friend,” Fletcher says.

“I am looking forward to it and I hope the fans come out to support Tatey. It should be a great night.”


Tickets for Tate’s testimonial are priced £12 for adults and £6 for children.

They are available through the Liberty Stadium website here https://www.eticketing.co.uk/ssmc/Events/Index the ticket office in person or by phone on 0844 815 6665.

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