Jack the Lad: The Swans' super sevens

22nd November 2017

Seven is said to be the world’s favourite number. A poll of 30,000 people a few years ago confirmed it is overwhelmingly our number one digit.

Stop any person in the street and ask them to choose an odd number between one and 10. More often not, they will say the number seven.

Nobody really seems to know why.

Well, I can't explain its popularity in the rest of the world, but I think I know why seven would be a favourite number amongst Swansea City fans.

Think about it, when things get tough at the Swans, who is it that generally steps up to the plate? That’s right, our Supermen Sevens – Alan Curtis and Leon Britton.

With Claude Makelele having left the club to take up a manager’s post in Belgium, it’s no surprise that the man the club has chosen to step into the breach is Britton.

Announcing the appointment, manager Paul Clement said: “I feel he is the perfect person for the role at this time.

“He is still very much in my plans as a player, but now we can tap into his knowledge as a coach too. He has a lot to give in that respect.”

Just as Curtis has done in the past, Britton has graduated from being a fans’ favourite in the No. 7 shirt on the pitch to a coaching position off it.

I know both have pulled on different numbers for the Swans, but when I picture Curtis at his best in my mind’s eye, it is always with that No. 7 shirt on his back during the Swans' magical debut season in the First Division.

And while, Britton has starred in various numbers over the years, including 35 and 37, it is while wearing the number No. 7 that he has really blossomed and shone.

Many sports teams have an iconic number whose incumbents are expected to do great things – Welsh rugby’s No. 10 jersey and Newcastle United’s No. 9 shirt, for example.

Well, I think the Swans No. 7 shirt can be put up there alongside or even above those iconic jerseys.

Apart from Curtis and Britton, among those to wear seven on the pitch were other long-serving Swans legends Len Allchurch and Harry Griffiths, the man who Curtis called his “football father” and literally gave his life serving the Swans cause.

As a player, Griffiths made almost 500 appearances for the club, before becoming manager and laying the foundations for the John Toshack years.

Having stepped aside to become Toshack’s assistant, he collapsed at the Vetch before a match against Scunthorpe United and later sadly died.

Like Griffiths, Curtis and Britton's influence on the Swans has gone beyond their feats on the pitch.

As magical as Curtis was when he was banging in wonderful goals against Leeds, Liverpool, Southampton and Ipswich in the old First Division, or hat-tricks during the Swans' rise from Fourth to First Divisions, arguably his greatest contributions have come off the field.

The Churchillian-type speech before the Hull game, the numerous times he has stepped in as caretaker manager, his sterling work now managing the Swans' loan signings – the man is a rock, and one with the words Swansea City written through its core.

And Britton is following in his statesmanlike steps – rallying the troops off the field and setting a brilliant example on it during last season's relegation battle.

Now that off-field leadership role has become more formal as he takes on the role of player-assistant coach under Clement.

Such is the influence the Swans' super sevens have had on the club, perhaps when Britton calls it a day on the pitch the No. 7 shirt should retire with him.

Can you imagine having to try to live up to the legacy established by the likes of Allchurch, Griffiths, Curtis and now Britton?

The expectation would surely weigh heavily on the shoulders of any player pulling on the sacred seven shirt in the Swans' first-team squad.

But then again, perhaps the No. 7 shirt has magical properties which will inspire the next wearer to do great things when Britton finally hangs up his playing boots.

Curtis may not be part of the first-team coaching set-up any more and Britton may not be an automatic starter in the first 11 every week, but let’s be happy in the knowledge that our Supermen Sevens are still having a massive influence on the club – as one, the other or both have been doing for more than 40 years.

C’mon you Swans!