It seems that some things in life never change, for example the End of Season Player Awards Ceremony.
I remember back in the day when my sons played for Mumbles Rangers, at the end of every season we would all meet together for the annual player awards.
Back then we used to gather at the Royal British Legion on Newton Road. Well that’s all changed because the Legion was bulldozed years ago and it’s now the home to the new Mumbles ‘Marks and Spencer’ and a block of luxury flats. Back then we would have a couple of speeches and the dads would have a few drinks to help pass the time. Nowadays for a proper end of season awards dinner you need video and edited highlights.
But back then hopefully Alan Curtis would turn up to give out the trophies and that hasn’t changed at all. Last Tuesday I was honoured of be part of the presentation team at the Swansea City ‘End of Season Awards’ and just like in the old days Alan Curtis was there to help present the Awards.
Mal Pope, Lee Trundle, Sioned Dafydd, Kev Johns, Alan Curtis
The main presenter was Kev Johns, known and loved by all, the man who has represented the team on and off the pitch for decades. As so many people had wanted to attend the ceremony the Club had decided to use the 1912 lounge which has 2 large lounges connected by a relatively small connecting room. Kev Johns was on the main stage in the middle section. Sioned Dafydd, the long-time presenter of Swans TV who has now moved on to be a permanent sporting host on S4C had stage right, and I was stage left.
Even at my great age I can’t really describe to you the excitement and pleasure I get from being involved with Swansea City Football Club on a night like this.
It goes back decades. From the first Swansea game I saw, when Frank Large the Northampton Centre Forward was sent off for punching a Swansea Fan, to seeing the Swans beat Manchester City in the Premier League, I have always been a fan first.
Swansea Schoolboys Under 11’s including Jeremy Charles, Russell Coughlin and Clint Davies (and Maldwyn Pope)
Of course in the early 1970’s I dreamed of actually playing for the Swans. I wasn’t as fortunate or to be honest as good as my team mates Jeremy Charles, Russell Coughlan or Anthony James to fulfil that dream but watching them play for the Swans from the North Bank helped to cement my relationship with the club.
Having supported that team through the 1970’s, through the various tiers of the football league, I actually missed most of the Toshack glory days of the old First Division through working away. By the time I was back home, living in Swansea I had 4 kids, including 2 sons and the Swans had returned to their usual seesaw battle between divisions 3 and 4.
I have to say that the division we played in never really mattered to us. We were just happy to park the car at the Guildhall and walk to the Vetch with 5 minutes to spare. We would buy our tickets and take our seats in the brand new East Stand which by then was probably nearly 20 years old.
It was on those cold, dark, fantastic nights that my sons also fell in love with their club. We had highlights and heroes. Julian Alsop the giant centre forward and beating West Ham in the FA Cup come to mind. Somewhere in the background, occasionally in the foreground was Alan Curtis. Coach, Assistant Manager, Temporary stand in manager, Youth team coach… Alan Curtis was there all season for the Swans and the guest of honour at our kids end of seasons awards as well.
Years later, when the kids left home I bought a season ticket to watch the team with friends and slowly but surely the dream to reach the Premier League became a reality.
Working on the film ‘Jack to a King – The Swansea Story’ introduced me to the club’s hierarchy and gave me an insight to what the club meant to the fans. It wasn’t exactly like playing for the club, but I thought it was probably as close as I was going to get.
Then, last year I was asked to join the club’s team of Match Day hosts. For years the club has used old players to host the various lounges on Match day including Lee Trundle, Vic Gomersall, Nigel Stephenson, Andy Robinson and Roger Freestone. With so much demand for hospitality on Match Day they needed another set of hands and I jumped at the chance to join the team.
Over the last 12 months it has meant that I’ve had the chance to represent the team in a completely different way to the way I dreamed of many years ago, but I have to say although it’s not quite the same, it will do.
This week’s End of Season Awards was very special. I know Kev Johns would have been more than capable of hosting the whole event if the room had been a slightly different shape but the demand for tickets meant the room had to be extended. Being there to support Kev and to chat to some of the players was still the stuff of dreams for a kid from Brynhyfryd who remembers the Swansea.com Stadium when it looked like the surface of Mars.
Leon Britton presents
Swansea City Ladies Top Goalscorer (sponsored by Peter Lynn & Partners)
On the night I was hosting the stage with co-presenter Leon Britton. Now, although I try to play it cool Leon is one of my heroes. That night when he scored the first goal against Nottingham Forest in the Championship Play Off finals was one of the best moments of my life. That was the night when the new Stadium felt like home. Over the next few years I watched this little Londoner boss Premier league games as his roots into my town grew stronger and stronger. When he sees me now he says, ‘Hi Mal’ and it makes me feel very special.
On the other stage Sioned was co-presenting with Lee Trundle. The thing about Lee is he talks as well as he played and still plays. There’s always a glint in his eye and he has dedicated his post full time football career to be the very best representative for Swansea City. It is odd that whilst some players have made their mark for the club in the Premier League for a year or so and then been forgotten Lee is still one of the most famous faces at Swansea City.
Academy Player of the Season (sponsored by Swansea.com)
And so to the night itself. I remember looking at the First team players on their special table and thinking to myself they look like boys. It was then I had to remind myself that most of them are in their early 20’s…they are boys. Cameron Congreve has been with the club since under nine level and recently moved from the Under 23 side into the first team. It was Leon and my job to present him with Academy Player of the Year. As well as being given a special trophy each winner was presented with a bottle of AU Vodka. I felt like the checkout guy at Tesco asking him for ID. When he confessed he was 18 years old I had to make him promise he would give the Vodka to a responsible adult!
Alan Curtis Award (sponsored by Budget Carpets)
Leon Britton & Lee Trundle
When we came to the final award of the night it was Lee Trundle and Leon Britton that were honoured for their work for the Swansea City Former Players Association and for their commitment to the club over so many years. The Alan Curtis Award was presented by the man himself. As I said right at the beginning, some things in life never change. If there’s a football Awards night in Swansea Alan Curtis will probably still be there.