The next player looked at in the series is the ultra-talented winger from Pentre, Rhondda. That man is Alan Curtis, a glorious player throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s and also was not too bad a player at the beginning of the 1990’s as well!
Alan Thomas Curtis was born on 16th April 1954 in Rhondda. Football was very much in the family bloodline, Alan’s uncle was Roy Paul, a fantastic Welsh international footballer in his own right. Alan’s footballing ability was clear to see from a very young age. At the age of 13, in 1967, he had a trial for Manchester United, which was unsuccessful. Curtis kept playing and improving and whilst playing for Rhondda schools representative team he was spotted by Swansea City and was invited for a trial in 1972. Curtis decided to remain in school and concentrate on his education first, he passed his A-Levels (as were), and also gained a Wales under 18 cap, before going for the trial at Swansea City and the rest is history.
In August 1972 the same year, as Curtis had his trial at The Swans, he made his League debut in the Third Division against Southend United at Roots Hall. The Swansea City manager at the time was Roy Bentley. Curtis made 14 appearances in all competitions in his first year, which is not a bad tally for an 18-year-old. The season ended in relegation for the club and halfway through the season, Bentley was replaced as manager with Manchester United goalkeeper legend, Harry Gregg which could not stop the dreaded drop to the Fourth Division.
The following season Curtis continued to play most often as an outside left for the club, making 40 league appearances that season. The summer prior to his second year as a professional footballer, Curtis took a job as builder’s apprentice to support his low income, unheard of at any level of professional football nowadays. Swansea City continued to struggle for the next 2 years under Gregg’s tutelage. Finally, a change was made and Harry Griffiths was brought in as manager of the club, the style of play changed from a physical robust style under Gregg to a more pure pass and move style with Griffiths, which suited Alan Curtis style of play perfectly.
In the 1975-76 season, Curtis was moved to a centre-forward position, which he continued to play at regular intervals throughout his career. That season he scored 9 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions. For the next 2 years, Swansea became a strong side in the Fourth Division, with Curtis regularly getting on the score sheet, however, after a disappoint start to the 1977-78 season, the Swansea City board decided to replace Harry Griffiths with John Toshack, and I think it’s fair to say the move worked out well for the club.
That same season with Toshack at the helm, Swansea City won promotion to the Third Division with Curtis finishing top goal scorer in the League, with 34 goals in 46 games, a prolific number. The following season, Swansea City won promotion yet again to the Second Division, with Curtis again playing a starring role. In 1979, Curtis was to move to the English club, a historic footballing giant, Leeds United, who were looking to get back to the glory days. Curtis would only be at the club for one year, making 35 appearances scoring 6 goals before returning to his beloved Swans.
In 1981, Curtis helped Swansea City to win promotion to the First Division, a remarkable achievement gaining successive promotions from the Fourth to the First Division. In their first year in the First Division, Swansea City finished in sixth place, a commendable achievement, even topping the League for a period of time before Christmas. Unfortunately, being in the top division could not be maintained and Swansea suffered relegations in consecutive seasons back to the Third Division.
Curtis in 1983 would be on the move again, this time to the South Coast and 3 seasons with Southampton scoring 7 goals in 67 appearances. In 1986, Curtis moved to Stoke City in the Second Division on loan playing 3 times. The same year, Curtis made the move from to arch-rivals of his beloved Swansea City, that being Cardiff City. Curtis played four seasons for The Bluebirds, helping them gain promotion and also winning the Welsh Cup where Curtis scored one of the goals.
I watched Curtis a lot during his period at Ninian Park from the terraces and you could see just how good a player he was. He was in his early thirties at the time, so a yard of pace that he had previously may have gone, but his ability on the ball, his awareness of where his teammates were had not diminished. He was equally adept with his left or right foot. For those who have not seen it, watch his goal against Wrexham in the Welsh Cup Final which gives you a small snippet of his ability. He made things look effortless, always a sign of a top quality player.
Alan Curtis returned to Swansea City for a third spell in 1989 retiring from professional football in 1990. This was not the end of his playing career though, he went on to play for Barry Town for another 4 years, again, winning a Welsh Cup with the seaside club when Curtis was aged 40.
His international career with Wales began in 1976 and was the substitute in the infamous quarter-final clash in the European Championships against Yugoslavia. Curtis starred in many games for Wales and in total won 35 caps scoring 6 goals, he played for his country for 11 years making his final appearance in 1987. With players such as Mickey Thomas and Leighton James playing in similar positions to Curtis, he did not always start for his country, but when he did he never let his country down.
After he retired from playing amassing total appearance record of 733 games with 143 goals, Curtis moved into coaching and has filled many different roles. Curtis has been assistant manager to Brian Flynn for the Welsh under 21 side, has been the first-team coach at Swansea City a number of times, and also has been manager of the club in a caretaker capacity twice, whilst the club was going through turbulent times looking to bring in new managers to replace the outgoing ones. Curtis has been a steady presence throughout for the club, and he currently is in the role of Loan Player Manager, which monitors players from the club who are currently out on loan to various clubs. Curtis is highly respected throughout football and is a legend at Swansea City. A fabulous player, a great gentleman of old-style values and a great footballing man.
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Feature picture credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk