Words: Ben Lang
Images: Offside Sports Photography
Summer, 1981. It’s baking hot. The whole of Swansea is in a dream state for more than one reason. It’s finally stopped pissing it down, and the Swans are 4–1 up against Leeds on their First Division debut.
Alan Curtis has the ball on the right wing, and he’s running hard at Leeds. He reaches the box and performs a sidestep to send defender Trevor Cherry off down the Mumbles. Alan Curtis has Leeds on strings. He gives John Lukic the eyes and whacks it top bins. The North Bank is bouncing. From this point on, Alan Curtis is legend.
I wasn’t there that day. I wasn’t born until 16 years later. But I’ve heard the stories.
It feels like every person in Swansea has a story about Alan Curtis; that famous strike is the most widely chronicled, but I’ve heard others. He delivered a heartfelt team talk before the Swans’ final day survival in 2003, used to play football with inmates at Swansea prison on a Wednesday, and even helped fold up shirts for customers at the club shop once. That’s what the stories said.
And they date all the way back to when he first arrived in 1972, the year Bowie conceived Ziggy Stardust. But Swansea had a starman of their own; a lightning prophet from the cosmos of Rhondda Cynon Taf delivering dreams to South Walians.
⏪ #ThrowbackThursday to 1⃣9⃣8⃣2⃣...— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) April 18, 2019
Dedicated to a legend and this strike against @ManUtd at the Vetch Field. 🙌👏
✍️ My favourite Alan Curtis goal was __________________________ pic.twitter.com/HcOKm5wgaQ
Curt was handed his debut by Roy Bentley in a Third Division game at Southend. That’s how Ziggy’s life on Earth started too. Anyway, Curt took his place on the Roots Hall turf, and was causing havoc like he always did. The flicks, the tricks, the goals. One hundred and ten of them.
He went on to play over 400 times for the Swans in three spells across four divisions, before another 28 years on the staff as community officer, youth coach, first-team coach, assistant manager, caretaker manager, even loan player-manager. They literally started making up jobs for him because he’d already done everything else.
I went to my first Swans game in 2006, and I remember Curt being there, warming them up. I didn’t know a lot about the club, but I knew about Curt. Everyone knew about Curt, he was everywhere; in the newspaper, down the beach, his name on the lips of those who watched his body swerve at the beautiful, broken Vetch. They speak of his quality, humility, loyalty. My most recent Swans game was on Saturday. There he was, Curt, still warming them up.
The Swans have had a really weird few years—decent this season, shite before that—but Curt’s presence has been reassuring. As long as he’s about, we’ll be alright. A sagacious grandfather who knows the place back to front, an outlet for the warm nostalgia of that Leeds match, the PVA glue holding things in place. The more things have changed, the more they’ve stayed the same.
His influence permeates the club, and I think it always will, to a point. My grandad loved him, my dad loves him, I love him. The end is nigh; he’s about to become Honorary Club President, one final job for the man who’s done them all. But he’ll be eternally woven into the black and white fabric. I’ve heard he did the stitching. That’s what the stories said.