She was the one who closed the giant gates at the Vetch for the last time and once sprinted up the stairs at the Liberty to ensure a transfer went through on time. But today, Jackie Rockey spends her last day as Swansea City’s long-serving secretary.
After 19 years of service, Jackie is retiring from her role at the club.
Her time started in a small office overlooking the Vetch car park and the nearby prison and ends at a 20,000-plus capacity new stadium across the city with a catalogue of stories and experiences.
From being a shoulder to lean on during the Tony Petty era where players were sacked on the spot, to getting a player’s signature on the boot of a car and sharing regular football chats with Michael Laudrup – Jackie has done it all.
Her contribution and service to the club was recognised in the club’s end-of-season function last month, with Jackie awarded the Lifetime Achievement accolade.
But now, she says, is the right time to call it a day.
“When I closed the gates at the Vetch for the last time it was emotional, but this is different because my time at the club has come to an end,” says Jackie.
“I said 18 months ago I was finishing on May 31 this year. Ben Greenwood is taking over from me, so he has been with me for the past 18 months learning everything there is to know.
“It has been a very emotional past few months as the date of retirement approached.
“Receiving the lifetime achievement award at the end-of-season event was very special and unexpected. There was a special video played on the screen with past managers and players sending on their messages – that meant the world to me.
“Over the years I have been fortunate to not only meet but work with some fantastic people. It’s not just a good footballer or manager that you get to know, it’s a good person.”
She has worked with 19 managers in her 19 years with the club.
Including caretaker-managers, the full list includes: John Hollins, Colin Addison, Roger Freestone and Nick Cusack, Brian Flynn, Alan Curtis, Kenny Jackett, Kevin Nugent, Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk, Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley, Paul Clement, Leon Britton, Carlos Carvalhal and Graham Potter.
After taking up the job offer from the then chief executive, Mike Lewis, Jackie began work on April 6, 2000.
“It’s so different now to what it was,” she added. “It was so basic. We only had a kettle in the tiniest kitchen you can imagine. We went out and bought a microwave and a toaster – the only problem was we couldn’t use them all at once because it blew the fuses. Jason Smith would come in and reset the fuse box that was based in my office.
“They were the things that made the Vetch the place it was. We all loved the Vetch – it was a special place full of character.
“At the Liberty we have plush hospitality lounges and boxes – it’s really nice. At the Vetch we had Sylvia and Doris in the kitchen. On a match day, Doris would make a giant pot of curry for the board room – it was always curry!
“But spending time with the chairmen, managers, supporters, turnstile operators and stewards in the Harry Griffiths bar was special. We were all in one place.”
From ensuring transfers and contracts are finalised to organising team travel and setting up pre-season friendlies, her knowledge and experience have been vital in the past two decades.
Of course, there have been the odd obstacle to overcome.
“When I started, I used to do everything,” she laughs. “On top of the signings and travel for the first team, I also had to do the same for the academy.
“Initially, I had to sort the contracts and transfer agreements. They used to be on one page. It’s a lot different these days.
“Being a Welsh club, we are classed as an international club. So, unless we sign a player from Wrexham, Newport or Cardiff, we have to put it through as an international transfer or loan.
“Both clubs have to put matching information for a transfer via a system called TMS – Transfer Matching System. If it matches, then the move will get the green light and we can release the news.
“There was only one time that it went wrong. David Edgar was due to rejoin us, but the secretary at the other club put the decimal point in the wrong place so it didn’t match.
“It was transfer deadline day and the window had shut. Fifa didn’t care that Burnley had put it through incorrectly, so the move didn’t go ahead.
“Transfer deadline day is my least favourite day in the job. I know fans love it, but it’s chaos for secretaries as you are dealing with players coming in, and then, all of a sudden, there are a few players going out.
“The second time Wilfried Bony joined the club it came down to seconds to spare.
“Ashley Williams almost didn’t join the club! The deadline was at 5pm, and Roberto Martinez said Ash was on his way.
“It was 4.45pm and there was no sign of Ash. The same at 4.50pm.
“At 4.55pm I took the paperwork downstairs to reception and Ash pulls into the car park.
“I said ‘Ash, sign this because the deadline is almost up.’ He said he needed to speak to his agent, but I explained there was no time and he wasn’t joining unless he did it there and then.
“He signed it on the bonnet of his car, and, in Roberto’s words I was ‘running up the stairs like Linford Christie’ in order to fax the documents over to the Football League in time. It just went through in time. I’m glad I ran up those stairs! I was called Rockey the Rocket for years after that.”
From hotstepping it up the Liberty stairs to flying up the divisions with the Swans, Jackie has experienced the job at both ends of the spectrum - from the financial dark days in League Two to life in the Premier League and a Europa League adventure.
“The day the players were sacked by Tony Petty was an awful day,” recalls Jackie. “It was probably the worst day in my time here.
“Then there was the best - I think when we were all celebrating at Wembley after beating Reading, we appreciated the effort everyone had put in just to get us there.
“Nothing will ever touch the celebrations on the pitch after the play-off final.
“Hugging Brendan, the staff and the players – it was pure elation. I remember thinking little old Swansea City are in the Premier League. I was at the club when it almost went bust and disappeared from the footballing world, but at that point we were firmly on the football map.”
For the first time, Swansea City were a Premier League club. And with it, came a new experience for Jackie and co.
“Fixture release day I have fond memories of. We have really made it an occasion within the club,” she recalls.
“The fixtures drop into my inbox at around 7am - it’s only myself that gets them as it’s easier to manage.
“The first time the Premier League fixtures came through it really hit home.
“Manchester City away in the first game. Liverpool at home in the final match. It was everything the club had worked so hard for over the previous ten or so years.”
A seven-year spell in the top-flight and a first major piece of silverware in the club’s history via the League Cup was complimented by a Europa League adventure.
The club’s relegation from the Premier League failed to take the shine off Jackie’s time with the club as she spends her final day at the Liberty.
Not that she won’t be back next season.
“I have been working here for a third of my life, so the club obviously means a lot to me, as do the wonderful people I’ve worked with over the years,” she adds.
“I may be leaving the club as secretary, but Swansea City will always remain a part of me.
“It’s a special club with special people, and I’ll definitely be back at the Liberty next season watching us play.
“I’m just looking forward to fixture release day and transfer deadline day, as I can put my feet up and watch the chaos unfold from the comfort of my front room!”
John Hollins was the first manager I worked under. He was great and had such a quirky mentality.
On a match day he would give the players their team-talk and would run up into the East Stand and do exactly the same with the match sponsors. It would be 2.30pm and he’d still be talking about his tactics and selection with the sponsors!
We were lucky to have Colin here during the Petty era. He was a great motivator.
He even got all the staff together at the Vetch and gave one of his inspirational talks. He raised our spirits.
That tells you a lot about Colin’s attitude. It wasn’t just about the players, it was about everyone in the club. We were all in it together.
What can you say about him that hasn’t been said already? He loves the club and has done absolutely everything asked of him with a smile on his face. Curt is known as ‘legend’ around the club, and everyone will tell you how respected he is. A top, top bloke who loves the club.
My favourite manager of all time. As a player we struck up a really good relationship. We also got to know Beth, who is now his wife, very well. Then he became manager and he pointed the club in the right direction. He is a brilliant manager and a brilliant person. When he left, he came into the office with a bottle of champagne – Roberto doesn’t drink, so we knew something was up.
He said he was off to Wigan, and the tears flowed from everyone in the room, including himself. He took his backroom staff with him, and we were like a family, so it was a big loss. It was one of the worst moments for me on a personal level.
I remember the time he was invited to an event at the end of the season, it was a Grand Prix event. The company hosting the event wanted his measurements for a suit. We didn’t have a clue what they were, so myself and Hannah Eames, who was in the marketing department at the time, had to measure him and his inside leg for a suit. It was quite bizarre!
He was a people’s person, especially with the players. He was like a father figure to them.
We knew he would go on to a bigger club because he was so good.
But he took the club on to another level. He was fantastic to work with, and really made the effort with all the staff.
Michael Laudrup was the only person I was star struck by in my whole time here.
He used to do his press conferences in the stadium every Thursday. One week he popped by to ask something, and from then on he always called in and we spoke football for as long as he wanted. I would think to myself ‘Michael Laudrup is coming to your office to talk football’. It was just surreal.
He wanted to get into Europe, and he saw the quickest way was to win the League Cup. So he did that.
Then we had the Europa League adventure.
I went out to Geneva to the Uefa offices, while I also went to Monaco for the draw. All the big hitters were there, and the draw was televised live.
The cameras are in your face to get your reaction, and when they pulled out Valencia in our group I couldn’t believe it. We’ll never forget our day at the Mestalla!
One of my favourite players and a fantastic captain. I connected with him from day one, and we were very close.
He led us to our highest Premier League finish and points, and he worked so hard for the football club. I don’t think enough people are aware of the amount of hours Garry put in to make us successful. He cared dearly for the club and gave everything he had.