My Favourite Game: Alan Curtis
We continue to celebrate our 4,000th game in league football* by catching up with former players to relive their favourite games from the years gone by.
Today, we sit down with the legend that is Alan Curtis to reminisce about that game against Leeds United in 1981.
Over 20,000 fans crammed into Vetch Field to witness the Swans’ first-ever game in the English top flight.
Just three years earlier, they were plying their trade in the bottom tier.
However, player-manager John Toshack had masterminded three promotions in the space of four seasons and it was a very exciting time for all involved at the club.
Leeds United were the first visitors to South Wales in the top division – adding a degree of sentiment to the fixture for Curtis – and, as he remembers, nobody wanted to miss out on the action.
“As soon as the fixtures came out, I looked for when we were playing Leeds at home,” he reflects.
“It was a special game for me for two reasons. The first was for everyone involved with Swansea because of it been our first game in the top flight.
“The other was because I knew a lot of the Leeds players having played there and only coming back to the Swans the previous November.”
He continues: “The night before the game, we actually stayed in a hotel in Porthcawl and travelled to the game by coach on the Saturday.
“Anybody who has ever driven down Fabian Way will know what a nightmare it can be. Instead of getting to the ground early and relaxed, we ended up getting stuck in traffic.
“Funnily enough, the majority of it was the supporters who were travelling from Leeds, but we did eventually get there with room to spare.
“We were aware of how big an occasion it was so, when we saw thousands of fans coming from Leeds, we knew it was a huge game. It made us realise we were very much in the big time.”
The Swans came flying out of the blocks with Jeremy Charles putting them in front after just five minutes, but Leeds responded with Derek Parlane levelling things up at half-time.
However, it was all one-way traffic after the break with new signing Bob Latchford scoring a hat-trick in the space of nine minutes.
“We knew we were a good side but, in those few minutes, we demonstrated just how quickly we could get away from teams,” Curtis smiles.
It was then time for ‘Curt’ to take centre stage in the 70th minute. Picking the ball up on the right wing, he turned Trevor Cherry inside out before firing into the top corner past a helpless John Lukic.
That put the icing on the cake of a memorable afternoon for the Swans, who built on that momentum throughout the campaign before eventually securing a sixth-place finish in the First Division – although it could have been much more.
“Winning 5-1 wasn’t completely against our expectations because we knew what we were capable of,” he explains.
“However, beating a team like Leeds by that margin gave us momentum that we carried forward for the rest of the season.
“We topped the table about three times that year – the last of these came with about 10 games to go.
“Finishing sixth was a tremendous achievement and something people look back on with fond memories but, in hindsight, it’s probably the best chance the club has ever had of winning the league title.”
*The total does not include games played in the Southern League or play-off fixtures.