'Passionate, loyal and committed to our cause'
Passion, loyalty and commitment to the Swansea City cause. They are the qualities which spring to mind when Huw Jenkins looks back across Alan Tate’s playing career.
And they are the qualities he sees from Tate now as one of the Jack Army’s most-loved players attempts to shape the next generation of Swans stars on the training ground.
Jenkins has overseen many a signing since taking a place in the Swans boardroom more than 15 years ago.
There have been plenty of success stories along the way, from Roberto Martinez to Leon Britton to Michu and Wilfried Bony.
And right up towards the summit on the list of shrewdest acquisitions in the Jenkins era must be the name of Alan Tate.
Because alongside the likes of Martinez, Britton and Garry Monk, Tate was one of the key figures in the Swans’ spectacular journey from the League Two doldrums to the bright lights of the Premier League.
Managers came and went during that rise through the divisions.
So too did numerous players.
But Tate was at the core of the various squads which were moulded by various bosses as the Swans made their way from bottom tier to top inside six years.
And considering that he arrived in Wales on a free transfer from Manchester United – on the back of two highly successful loan spells at the Vetch – the Tate deal must go down as one of the Swans’ finer pieces of transfer business.
“The biggest thing with Alan is that when he joined us, like all young players from big clubs at that stage, he took a risk,” says Jenkins.
“But that risk paid off because he ended up playing a big part in the club’s climb from League Two onwards.
“Not only the field, but off the field he has always showed his loyalty and commitment to the football club.
“To me, that has always shone through over many years.”
To suggest that Tate was all about heart and desire would be doing him a disservice.
This is a player, after all, who spent his formative years at Manchester United having been picked up by the Red Devils purely as a result of his footballing talent.
Tate was a footballing defender who could play anywhere across the back four.
He also did a few stints in midfield over the years, while there were even occasions when he ended up in goal.
Such was Tate’s ability in between the sticks, in fact, that the Swans did not bother putting a reserve keeper on the substitutes’ bench for a spell because they knew he could fill in.
On the rare occasions when he was required for emergency goalkeeping duty, Tate stepped up with confidence and determination to succeed.
And he tended to do okay.
Swans fans loved Tate’s willingness to do a turn in football’s most specialist position, for this was typical of his wholehearted approach to wearing their club’s shirt.
There have been hundreds of gifted footballers on the Swans’ books down the decades, but few can have been blessed with Tate’s passion for the job.
Hence the club’s fans sang that song about a wanting ‘Team of Alan Tates’.
“From day one, the commitment and passion was always there with Alan,” Jenkins adds.
“To be fair to him, in all the positions he played, he always played football the right way and in a way which suited our club.
“Alan was a good footballer and that was a big part of his game along with the passion he always showed. That’s a big part of him as a person.
“You don’t always get that, but that’s what he was as a player. He carried that through in everything he did as a player and it’s the same now in his role as a coach in the academy.
“I think a big part of our growth in the academy is to make sure a lot of our ex-professionals stay with the club and work with our young players.
“Obviously we are pleased that he stayed with us for as long as he did as a player. Now he is building his career as a coach and hopefully he will stay with our club for a long time.”
Tate’s first-team opportunities became less frequent after the Swans reached the Premier League in 2011.
The man himself has suggested he lacked the physical attributes to be a top-flight regular, but Jenkins disagrees.
The Swans chairman believes the broken leg Tate suffered in the early weeks of the club’s first Premier League campaign cost him the chance to shine at the highest level.
“I think Alan would have played many more games in the Premier League had he not got injured at a very unfortunate time,” Jenkins says.
“I think he would have carried on and played a lot more if he had been fit and well at that time and able to give it a go.
“That wasn’t the case and he lost that opportunity, but his commitment is there.
“He has got himself involved in the academy and is looking to go forward in that role, and we are glad to have him.”