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Jack the Lad: Curt is Swansea City's heart and soul

Alan Curtis once joked that the only reason he had lasted so long at Swansea City was that he was the only one who knew where the kettle was.

The real truth behind his longevity at the club is that he is the person - more than any other - who knows where the club's heart is.

In my opinion, Curtis embodies the heart and soul of the club. For me, he is the embodiment of what I would call 'the Swansea Way'.

Monday's match against Ipswich and Saturday's forthcoming clash with Hull City have brought some hugely contrasting Curtis memories flooding back to me.

When I first started supporting the Swans, Curtis was my boyhood hero.

I first saw him play in a low-key fourth-tier match against Bournemouth in the 1977-78 season – his most prolific goal-scoring campaign when he netted 32 times in 39 league matches, which helped fire the Swans to promotion.

But it wasn’t just the number of goals that made him a favourite, but the style and flair with which he played.

He had wonderful close control which allowed him to dribble past players, but he also used his body to feint and swerve past opponents – a drop of a shoulder here, a side-step there, and he was gone.

During the Swans' first season in the top flight back in 1981-82, he scored a particularly memorable goal at Portman Road, where he watched from the bench as part of the coaching staff last Monday.

All those years ago, Curtis the player produced a perfectly placed curling shot past Ipswich’s Paul Cooper from the edge of the area as the Swans ran out 3-2 winners.

It was the perfect illustration of Curtis' skill and just one of a string of stunning goals he scored that season, which was of course kicked off with that unforgettable final strike of the 5-1 win over Leeds on the opening day.

Having listened to the away fans taunt him with chants of “Leeds reject” throughout the match, Curtis ran at former England full-back Trevor Cherry.

As he cut in towards goal, Curtis produced a devastating side-step, opening a gap for him to lash a perfectly-placed shot into the top corner.

It really was one of those moments where you wanted to pinch yourself to make sure you weren’t dreaming. It was Swansea 5 Leeds United 1 in the First Division, and Alan Curtis had scored a dream goal against the team who had lured him away a couple of seasons earlier. Life really doesn’t get much better.

He was already a hero, but his recollection of the goal afterwards brought him legendary status in my eyes.

“If the gates had been opened they would not have caught me. I would have been halfway down Mumbles Road,” said Curtis.

It was exactly how I wanted him to feel about scoring one of the greatest goals in the club’s history ‑ sheer joy at scoring such a memorable goal for the club he had joined nine years earlier.

But Curtis' playing days were just the opening chapter of a remarkable story which has seen him fill just about every role available at the club.

Which brings me to Hull City's visit on Saturday.

Probably his most influential moment after hanging up his boots came as the Swans prepared for that fateful match against the Tigers at the Vetch back in 2003.

James Thomas will always be feted for scoring the all-important hat-trick in the 4-2 win to preserve our league status, but passionate clubman Curtis’s inspirational speech before the game has been praised by several players who took the field that day.

Curtis left them in no doubt about the importance of the game to the club, the fans and the city.

Had it not been for that victory, the Swans' seven-year stay in the Premier League, the League Cup triumph and subsequent European campaign would literally have been the stuff of dreams. They would never have happened.

Of course, there have been many other magnificent Curtis moments since then, when he has stepped into the breach during other Swans' hours of need - notably his three stints as caretaker manager.

More than 400 appearances, 123 goals, 35 Welsh caps, over 40 years service for the Swans . . . I could go on.

No matter how impressive the statistics, they still don't tell the full story of Curtis' contribution to the Swans' success.

And they don't begin to tell you how respected he is not just in Swansea, but throughout Wales and beyond.

One of my favourite facts about Curtis comes from his time at the Swans closest neighbours and fiercest rivals Cardiff City.

During the 1986-87 season, he was voted supporters’ player of the year by the Bluebirds faithful ‑ a remarkable achievement for a player synonymous with Swansea.

And one of my favourite Curtis stories, summing up his modesty and humour, comes from his association with the two clubs: “I remember being booed by both ends of the ground in one derby game,” recalled Curtis with a smile.

We may be sad that he is retiring from his role as a coach at the club but I can't think of anyone more fitting to take over his latest role as Honorary Club President, or anyone more deserving of the title.

C'mon you Swans!

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Jack the Lad

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