Jack The Lad: We all dream of . . .

16th August 2017
Club

In our new website feature, supporter-turned-blogger Jack The Lad continues his weekly instalment by revealing why he dreams of a team of Alan Tates.

The Swans once went 44 years without hosting a Manchester United side in South Wales . . . now they have welcomed them twice in the space of a fortnight!

The contrasting fortunes of the two clubs during the 20th century meant meetings were few and far between.

Having been regular opponents in the old Second Division throughout the 1930s, the two teams went their separate ways during the next four decades.

After drawing 2-2 at Vetch Field on April 16 1938, the two sides didn’t meet again competitively until June 30 1982, when the Swans won 2-0 having been promoted to the old First Division.

I know last week’s testimonial match couldn’t be classed as a competitive fixture, but seeing a Manchester United XI line up at the Liberty twice in as many weeks is certainly an indication of the Swans’ changing fortunes over the past decade or so.

 

And who better to symbolise that upturn than the man who was the subject of that testimonial . . . Alan Tate.

When the big centre-half first arrived at Vetch Field 15 years ago, it would be fair to say the Swans weren’t in the best of health.

But having a former Manchester United player, albeit one who never played for the first team at Old Trafford, seemed like a step in the right direction.

And there was even more encouragement for me personally the first time I saw Tate running out at the Vetch.

The slightly awkward looking, long-necked figure who ran out onto the pitch reminded me of one of the plastic figures in a football game I had when I was a child.

Everyone will be familiar with the name Subbuteo, but I had the considerably less well known, but more realistic footballing game Striker.

The little plastic figures used to actually kick the ball when you pressed down on their heads. One of players in my set had a slightly longer neck than the others, which meant when you pressed down on his head, he kicked the ball considerably harder than any of the others.

If you had “Lofty” in your side, then you were in with a fair chance of winning. Such was the advantage, my friends and I had to introduce a coin toss before matches to determine who got to play with the red team, which included "Lofty".

As a result, “Lofty” was afforded cult status within my circle of friends, something his real-life doppelganger achieved with the Swans.

Now I’m not sure Tate could kick the ball any harder than other players in the Swans squad, but you got the impression few would try harder than the adopted Jack from County Durham.

He may not have been blessed with the natural talent and razzle dazzle of a Trundle, but his sheer will to win, ability to read the game and effort eclipsed some far more skilful players.

In footballing terms, Tate wasn’t perhaps the most beautiful Swan on the pitch, but few Swans ever stood so tall and so proud.

Despite not making the grade at United, he certainly did so at the Swans. My fondest memory of our time in the Premier League so far was watching him lead the team out at Manchester City for our first match in the Premier League.

Tate being captain seemed to embody everything the Swans had been through. He was one of the three players who had appeared in every division during the Swans flight from the bottom of English football to the top.

For him to make his Premier League debut in the city where his hopes of becoming a top-flight player had apparently been dashed with his move from United to the then struggling Swans, just goes to show that anything can happen in football when you have talent, belief and a burning desire to succeed.

No wonder us Swans fans dream of a team of Alan Tates!

C’mon you Swans!